Building Athletic Confidence

Recently, a friend shared: “One thing about your writing is that you seem sure of yourself in the moment. Do you ever feel uncertain in your pursuit of excellence and sense of control?”

I suspect that many former elites miss the simplicity that comes from a single-minded focus on a goal of athletic excellence. I consider myself very fortunate to have had a few years to completely devote myself to sport.

Elite athletics taught me that finishing times are the least important results I received from athletics. What truly mattered was clarity, physical power, a sense of freedom and self-confidence. At some stage, I’ll need to let go of those. For now, I’m hangin’ on!

Today, I’ll share ideas on creating athletic confidence. If you apply my tips then you will improve your athletic confidence and find that it flows to all areas of your life. However, if you choose peers, coaches and approaches that beat you down then you are missing a huge opportunity for self-discovery and personal development.

My friend captured the essence of self-confidence — a clear understanding of what’s required, right now. I often ask myself, “What’s important now?” Having the presence of mind to ask that question requires two things that are scarce in our society: simplicity and space.

So you need a simple plan and the time to complete it properly.

That first step is simple — just hire somebody experienced to tell you what to do and remember to choose wisely! All of us are conditioned from birth to put faith in other people. We start with our parents, then shift to teachers and beautiful peers, then shift to celebrities and sporting heros. What’s tougher, but far more useful, is creating a record of personal success that makes us our own heroes.

Clarity in the moment is nothing more than a clear plan and faith in our ability to execute the plan. We attain this through practice. Decide on the one thing that needs to get done each day. Do that first.

With a simple plan and resolve to do-the-plan, you will create a habit of getting things done. That’s the foundation. Remember, if you can’t do the plan then it is the wrong plan.

From a strong foundation — about 15 weeks of hitting your plan — consider how to tweak things to achieve your goals (our site is packed with fairly extreme tweaks!). Be aware that once you’re doing something daily, you’ve already captured much of the benefit. In my own highly-flexible life, there’s a rapid reduction in benefit once I’m training 14 hours per week.

Within our sport, we glorify athletes that train at double the levels that most of us need to lead fulfilling lives.Consider your peers and role models.

Here in Boulder, I surround myself with elite athletes. This year, I brought new people into my life that had a perspective and values that were independent of race results. They kept me grounded and let me see that my (compulsive) drive to train is coming from my own spirit. I get a lot of satisfaction from more exercise than most people find attractive.

Also, remember that insecurity can be our heart’s way of telling us to consider alternatives. The joy of training falls away when I’m not meeting my commitments within my larger life. Race results fade. Our families will be with us for life.

One final tip is to learn to forgive yourself, then others — many athletes are fueled by fear and anger; consider your childhood and adolescence. These are powerful sources of energy, but unpredictable. I’ve always found fear and anger clutter my mind and deprive me of the serenity that drives my passion for sport.

Bringing it together:

  • A simple, clear plan that you can get done
  • Focus on showing up, not results
  • Learn from your mistakes
  • Annually, consider your return on investment

As for my own confidence, it’s a personal style that’s been created by decades of positive reinforcement. One of the greatest gifts we can give another is the opportunity to do something well. I’ve been fortunate to have good teachers from an early age.

Categories: Mind

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