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Get your mind right

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I’ve offered quite a bit of technical information over the last year playing with this blog. Hopefully some of it helped you. But I’m continuing to learn new things myself, both about my own approach to challenges and about coaching. One thing I’ve discovered is how important mind set is. I guess I’ve known it all along, but lately that fact seems to be pushed at me in new ways.

Looking back over the instructional articles I’ve written, I see that I refer fairly often to the mental aspect of meeting challenges. I’ve kind of glossed over it and left just enough of a trail to connect the dots yourself. But I think I should address it straight on: Mind set and/or intention can have a huge influence on performance.

For example, the other day I was teaching someone to surf, and they were having a lot of trouble committing to the act of standing up once they caught the wave. So I told them they looked like they were standing up to go clean a toilet (meaning not very motivated). I want you to stand up like you are going to get a double dip of coffee Haagen Dazs. As soon as I said that I could see their whole attitude change from “maybe I can” to “you bet I will”.

Just a tiny swing in intention can give a significant chance of success. Sure enough that’s just what happened. I know they were ready to quit–to paddle in disgusted with surfing. Instead they stayed out another hour, had some real success, and most likely will be a surfer for life. Besides helping them it also reminded me how significant mind set is, not only for myself, but for instruction as well.

Anyone is far more likely to succeed in executing a challenging task if they are motivated to believe they can do it. In my experience the best way to make them believe is to give them a mental connection to something they can already do. That’s why I usually ask lots of question at the beginning of a coaching session to find things that I will be able to relate my explanations to. If I can explain something to a person in terms that already make sense to them then I can most likely get them to do what I’m trying to teach them.

I think people build a mental picture that helps them aim for a goal. If they can imagine achieving what ever goal they have set for themselves they can get there quicker. I think the connection to things people already can do helps them break the goals into manageable pieces, They can imagine achieving something much closer to their current ability, and when they get there they can appreciate the success. If the only mental picture you have is of pulling off a driving cutback when you haven’t successfully popped up on a board yet, you aren’t connected to a goal that’s going to improve your current performance. If your mental picture is something like “I’m going to pop up on this board like I’m excited to get there”, then you will, and you’ll taste success.

Mood is also just as important. So if you can relate the current task to a past pleasurable experience then most likely the mind will be more engaged in the specific goal or task, thus the mention of coffee ice cream (hey, I know it works for me). Involuntarily you get an internal smile because that thought makes you happy. That’s the perfect mind set to being physically and mentally open, to learning new movements and balances. If you can create that good mood prior to learning or for that matter racing, performing, or competition, you give yourself the best chance of success. That’s not to say you put your head in the clouds and walk around in la la land. You’ve got to be focused on the task at hand. But if you do it with a positive confident attitude, it can make all the difference in the world.

I hope this gives you one more tool to use, in your building of a successful mind set. One other thing that always helps me get my mind right is, just being in the moment and having fun at whatever it is I’m doing right then.