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The Key to a Stronger Mental Performance – Get Reps to Reset

Do you feel like what you’ve trained your body to do somehow doesn’t get fully shown during performance? Well, understanding that doing specific mental exercises done consistently – essentially getting “reps” with our minds - is the key to breaking through. Let's break it down.

I often hear people talk about sport psychology like it's a quick fix phrase or just a matter of willpower. But the truth is more complex. With every client that I work with I teach the science behind why we experience the stress we do when performing within a sport that we deeply care about but yet comes with no guarantee of getting the outcome we want.

Our central nervous system (CNS) is like our body's defense and warning system. Its main job is survival. One of the ways it does is this is by scanning for potential dangers. It's great at catching true threats, like a speeding reckless driver approaching us or a growling dog staring us down. However, it's also not perfect. The CNS can be overly cautious, triggering stress responses even when there's no real danger. If not managed correctly, this constant stress can negatively affect our mental performance (and health).

To improve and perform at our best, we need to rise above the automatic responses of our body. The challenge is that our brains often fall back on old mental habits, replaying past thoughts and bodily sensations, whether they're accurate or not. These habits become a kind of mental autopilot, dragging the past into our future experiences. These routined reactions include all the high relevance moments of life and definitely our sports.

How do we break free from this cycle? The key is awareness. We need to recognize that the stories our minds tell us are just that – stories, not necessarily facts. By finding the sweet spot between our old stories from the past and the new ones we INACCURATELY believe we can predict, we enter what's known as the Present Moment. This is where the past loses its grip, and we can shape our future without being bound by outdated, illogical, and ineffective fears. In this mental space we can open our thoughts to what is possible.

Staying present can be challenging. Our minds might resist it, urging us to stick with what's familiar. Yet, returning to the present is like taming a beast. At WellPerformance, we encourage athletes to practice this exercise for a minimum of 10 minutes daily. In those moments of presence, stress and anxiety fade, if only for quick bursts. These moments are “wins”, and are seeds planted to prove it's possible to be present more often and for longer durations.

As we become more skilled at staying present, our creativity, willingness to take (good) risks, and openness to feedback increase. We start seeing possibilities instead of fearing what's around the corner. Gradually, our bodies simply adjust itself. The CNS remains vigilant for dangers but becomes more selective and precise. We gain a greater confidence in our potential as our doubts and fears weaken.

A crucial point to understand is that our entire nervous system begins to relax just enough to accept the uncertainty of the future. We may not know exactly what will work perfectly for us and what won't, but we learn to tolerate this uncertainty. This lowers our fear of the unknown. This is when we’re more likely to “go for it” because we’re not as concerned about what may happen.

With consistent and intentional training, we've reset what “scares” us. We've reset what challenges we can handle. Some things that triggered our self-doubt in the past may no longer bother us at all!

Once we’ve developed a daily routine to get our “reps” in, we're no longer stuck deeply in protection mode. We become open to change, intentionally focusing on new opportunities and optimal performance. By getting rep after rep of present moment focus, and practicing seeing better experiences and outcomes we’re mellowing out our CNS. This process is often referred to as visualization, where we actively reshape our brains and break free from old patterns by intentional creating new focuses for our attention. Excitement for what's possible becomes a conditioned response, having replaced a reactive and fearful mindset.

So, begin your daily “reset” and elevate your performance using intentional practices! It's like upgrading your brain’s software, ready to tackle the demands of high-performance experiences.

_________________________________________________________________ Stuart Singer, M.Ed., PsyD (ABD) is the Director of WellPerformance, a Mental Performance Coaching and Consulting practice, and the creator of the DoSo app . For more information regarding this topic he can be contacted at or follow him on twitter @wellperformance, or instagram: @wellperformance

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