Tonight and over the next couple of weeks, many of us will turn our attentions from our computers to our televisions, to tune in the XX Winter Olympic games. We’ll cheer on the world’s top-notch athletes as they skate, ski, and glide their way to glory.
Much will be said about the physical stamina and endurance that these competitions require. But the performances we watch will be as much about the mental conditioning the athletes undergo, as part of their training for Turin. In fact, say the experts, all other things being equal, the victor’s laurels often go to the athlete with the superior emotional skills.
Sports psychologists say these emotional skills are transferable, that they’re equally helpful to others – like writers – who must work at peak performance in high-stress situations. Jim Bauman, sports psychologist for the US Olympic Committee, suggests that you can coach yourself to go into “the zone,” that emotional place where you prepare yourself for personal victory.
Here’s what I learned from sports psychologists about setting the stage for my success as a writer:
Self-talk is important (keep it positive). Studies show that giving yourself positive messages influences your perceptions of your job – and improves the quality of the work you’re doing. So I’m going to concentrate on giving myself verbal pats on the back for each page that I write, each outline I complete, and each turn of a phrase that makes me smile.
Imagine the best, if you want to be the best. Research shows that this axiom’s true: “If your mind can believe it, you can achieve it.” So I’m going to visualize myself turning in a top-quality performance every time I sit down to write.
It’s important to learn how to recover from errors. All of us make mistakes, but champions know how to recover from those errors. So I’m going to practice writing enough that I experience failure of all types – and learn how to revise my approach and outlook accordingly.
Be here now. While some people keep their eyes on the scoreboard, real winners focus on the game itself. So I’m going to stay in the present with my writing and researching, enjoying and getting the most out of each moment.
I’m back at the keyboard this morning, these new strategies in mind. Let the games begin!