Getting Your Confidence Back

When Confidence Deserts You

How many different ways have you heard it said?

  • “I can’t get my golf swing (free throw; tennis serve; pitching) back on track”
  • “All these hours of practice are only making things worse”
  • “I wonder why I ever thought I could be an athlete”
  • “Others might succeed, but I guess I’ll never make it.”

Ever been there?

I have. And so have most people … if they’ll tell you the truth.

When you get into one of those “it’s hopeless” phases, it doesn’t matter what you try. Everything looks grim. And you feel permanently separated from the enthusiasm and excitement that fuelled your progress just weeks earlier.

Whatever techniques you use — whether visualization, affirmations, meditations, self-hypnosis, or performing the tea ceremony — there comes a time when your best efforts seem powerless to lift your spirit.

Your ideal performance has never seemed further away, your present has grown darker and more hopeless by the day, and your enthusiasm remains tangled tightly around your ankles.

What Do You Do Then?

Many teachers tell us to “keep on practicing the fundamentals;” “keep on affirming your own excellence;” and “keep on reviewing your goals” and things will improve.

But keeping on with our routine feels as rewarding as pushing a dead elephant across the desert. And about as promising.

It begins to feel like the routine is our main problem; it’s mocking us, rubbing our noses in the fact that we’ll never, never, ever reach a more satisfying state than the condition we’re in right now.

years ago, when this would happen to me, I would finally step back for a while; I’d just quit pushing hard and would mark time instead. Well, that’s one way to take the pressure off and it works — sort of — but the effect on my confidence was devastating.

Others, when faced with the same difficulties, might redouble their efforts and push forward even harder, but with similar results.

But Why?

Why does our progress keep stalling out on us? The reason is, in a word, “mental”. Every successful coach says the same thing: “winning is ninety percent mental.” And yes, that’s the answer.

The trouble with just knowing the “answer” is that we often aren’t sure what to do with it once we’ve got it.

Certainly we continue drilling on our fundamentals. And of course we don’t stop reviewing our goals. But still …

If winning is nine-tenths mental, but we’re still losing, there must be something going on (or not going on) in our mental process, right?

Unless we can find a way to resolve our inner conflicts, we might experience long, ongoing periods of inner anguish — sometimes continuing for years — too stubborn to quit, too caught up in the struggle to find the way past.

But not everyone keeps fighting forward in a straight line. There are others who drop the technique or system that is “failing” them and jump to some other method for achieving growth. These people sidestep some of the struggle, but may never get beyond a restless seeking for ever-newer methods … a sort of “technique-ology” that collects new routines and theories like charms on a bracelet.

The good news, however, is that any of these athletes may eventually break through, swinging back into a “winning streak.” Or … they may remain locked in their struggle for decades. But even if they do revert to winning, in their mind, it’s still a “streak,” a temporary thing that could end again at any time.

In contrast, there are a few people who seem to slip easily past any downbeat periods. They spend very little time in struggle. It’s somehow easier for them to maintain their forward progress. It’s almost like they’ve been blessed with an easier path than the rest of us have to walk.

Well, I was never one of those “easy path” guys; just the opposite. But over the years, I’ve learned one little trick involving viewpoint that has helped get me through some of my hardest struggles.

Anytime it begins to look like I’ll never get where I’m intending to go, it turns out always — always — that my attention has become mis-directed, and I’ve lost my focus. My concentration.

To explain this, let’s back up a bit and review a couple of the basics.

Your Performance Is a Printout

Now, I could go all metaphysical and “woo-woo” on you, with a discussion about how our “solid” world is less solid than we think. And how this 3-dimensional reality of ours is born in and controlled by the realm of thoughts and intentions.

But you can relax — we don’t need to go there. We’re going to keep this real and practical, with one simple thing you can actually use in your own sports performance. Just one thing.

Ever heard the phrase “you get what you think about”? This is what your coach is talking about any time he talks about concentration or focus. In a very real sense, your golf swing or your baseball swing, your field goal kick or your karate kick, everything you’re doing  is an exact printout of what’s currently strongest in your mind.

In a low-production period (yeah, okay, a “slump”), your thinking has become accidentally centered on something other than winning; something other than good form. And when you try to think of yourself making the perfect pass, the perfect kick, the perfect slam-dunk, you may have difficulty connecting it with your image of you.

So here’s an easy little sidestep that’ll sneak you past most of that stress-packed struggle.

Just think of some rising star in your own sport (someone you admire) and spend some time thinking about their form. Imagine their pass, their kick, their slam-dunk. Just that. Don’t try to do anything with it. Just enjoy it the way you’d enjoy a good game on TV. The funny thing is, doing this simple little thing will gradually fill your mind with thoughts and feelings of winning, but without any feelings of self criticism.

Then after a time, without any conscious effort on your part, small bits of your role model’s winning form and of their confidence will start appearing in your own practices and in your games. Just like a printout changes when you edit what’s in the original document.

So try this for a week or two and watch the easy, nearly automatic changes.

Simple, right?