Do it like an athlete!

All of us at some point in our lives face challenges. Wouldn’t it be great if you could overcome life’s challenges like an athlete? The athlete who trains so hard and uses both physical and mental prowess is the one who wins the medal. That is because he/she has managed to optimally utilize resources. Using  mental strength gives an edge over competitors. Supported by research evidence, these techniques will give you an edge when facing challenges or facing your competitors.

 Whether or not you will be able to overcome a situation is largely dependent on how you perceive it to be. Research suggests that the heart’s activity is variable to how a situation is perceived, as a challenge or a threat. That is, the attitude about the situation predicts the performance. Bodily changes wouldn’t allow a person to perform as well as they can if they think of the situation as a threat rather than as a challenge. When challenged, the body increases focus by supplying more blood to brain and heart. We can reduce anxiety by thinking of the things that are in our control thereby making it easier to perceive a situation as a challenge rather than a threat. This is what the 40-year-old rowing champion of 1992, Greg Searle did when he participated in London Olympics.  He chose to focus on the first 10 strokes and he won.

 In case, due to anxiety, we are unable to perceive the situation as anything but a threat, what can help us at this point is posing. Research has shown that just before an important event, adopting power poses helps in lowering our stress and making us feel more confident and thereby enhances our performance.

Something that people do quite often is, talking to themselves. I’ve seen people referring to themselves as I or You. According to the findings of this research, advising oneself using the pronoun ”you”increases the intention of actually doing the task and leads to better performance.This happens because using “you” has positive associations in the past of getting support and encouragement from people. While advising oneself, focusing on the positives of a situation has an elevating impact on performance. Along with self-talk, mental imagery also helps in improving performance.

Mental imagery is an unalienable part of thinking. We can think of it as a movie running in our head at all times. Depending upon what kind of movie is screening in your mind, results in the real world that mimic the movie to a certain extent can be seen. As shown in the research on mental imagery and self-talk, visualizing yourself in the most advantageous position has an immediate effect of improving performance. The same research was evidence for the fact that use of visual imagery along with positive self-talk during training can be used to have long-term effects. Imagery works by directing one’s focus and by preparing the brain for optimal performance.

What we can learn from these researches is that, we can find our way out of a problem by thinking of it as a challenge and then work toward it. We can fake it with power poses till we make it. Talking to yourself is a good thing and this combined with visual imagery can make you perform much better than you would have, otherwise.

Jayanthi Iyengar