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Seven Mental Skills of Champion Shooters: Motivation Part 2

By Jeffrey Hodges B.Sc. M.Sc.(Hons) B.Ed.

Importance of Decision Making in Shooting
Sport is a game of decisions - all throughout a match a person is making decisions which affect the outcome of the game. Some of these decisions are made consciously; for example :
Do I serve the ball to his backhand or forehand?;
Do I pass the ball or shoot for a goal myself?;
Do I go for a winner or play it safe?

However, many of the most important and significant decisions are not made consciously at all, and many sportspeople are totally unaware of the pre-programmed patterns of decision making that are limiting their performance.

In this article I take a look at some of the conscious and unconscious decisions that affect shooters, and make some suggestions for improving both conscious and unconscious decision making to improve YOUR performance.

Three Important Decisions
Firstly, it's crucial to understand that both as shooters, and as ordinary human beings, we all are making decisions about three things which affect us enormously : decisions about focus; decisions about what things mean; and decisions about what to do right now.

At every instant you're making a decision about what to focus your attention upon, then once your attention is focused on a particular event or set of circumstances the next decision you make is "What does this mean? Is it good, bad or unimportant either way?" This is then followed by the decision about "What do I do now?".

Let's consider an example. The first decision, "What do I focus on?", most people readily understand and appreciate it's importance on the surface.

At each moment, what you decide to pay attention to, and what you decide to focus your thinking on, affects how you feel, and what you do. A person who is focused on the target and their own successful shooting routine and rhythm is obviously going to perform more consistently than another performer thinking about someone watching them from the audience, or who's mind is on their hot date after the shoot!

The best players in any sport have learned how to manage this crucial triple decision making process to get the best out of themselves.

However let's probe a little deeper into this process. Consider an example from the game of golf. You tee up your ball on the first hole, (a par 5), and hit a glorious drive straight down the middle of the fairway - the best drive you've done for ages! Feeling good, you walk down to the ball and take out your 3 wood, again striking the ball sweetly and watch with pleasure as it comes to rest just an easy pitch from the green! You walk up confidently, take out your wedge, and with a smooth flowing swing, connect solidly with the ball, and watch in bliss as it sails in a perfect arc directly for the pin.

Suddenly, a freak gust of wind drifts your ball into the steep right hand side bunker!

Now ...... what you decide to focus your attention on at that moment determines how you feel and how you perform!

What do many people choose to focus on in such an instance? The misfortune of going into the bunker, perhaps thinking things like: "There goes my birdie chance now"; or "I hate that bunker; I never play it well. Last time I was in that bunker, it took me three shots to get out, and I ended up with a triple bogey"; or "I always manage to mess up a good drive"; or even "There goes my round today"!

Or perhaps their attention gets captured by thoughts of "I should have ........ I should have aimed further to the left", or "I should have used a different club" ..... etc. etc.

In order to do better at something, it's useful to ask the question, "What do the top people focus on at any point in time, and in particular circumstances?". In this instance, invariably champion golfers focus on their strongly desired goal, and committed standard of performance. They choose to focus their attention on the excellent drives they just did, and on previous good bunker shots, and imagine successfully getting up and down in two, to still make birdie, rather than dwelling on the misfortune of landing in the bunker.

Relate this to your own shooting - what decisions do you make in similar situations? How might you direct your decisions about focus that would lead to more consistent performance?

Your Consistent Focus is What is Important
I like to suggest that we human beings are a lot like guided missiles - we move toward whatever we regularly and consistently focus on and picture in our imagination and thoughts, with feeling.

It's not what you think about occasionally that's important, but what you're consistently and regularly focusing your attention upon that influences your life, and performance.

Think for a minute about when you were a younger person - didn't you imagine yourself there as you watched your heroes at the Olympics on TV, and think to yourself, "I want to perform like that!" Likewise, we first imagine ourselves into every new job, relationship, activity and performance, before we do it in reality.

So realise that your decisions about what you focus your attention upon are directing your life. Ask your self, right now, "What have I been thinking about most today, and this week? What has my focus been upon? What have I spent most of my time thinking about?"

It's interesting to note that for many people, their focus is often on what other people are doing : the latest office gossip; which celebrities have been sleeping with whom; the racing form; or details of the recent performances of their favourite sports stars.

Champions tend to be much more concerned with themselves and their life to focus for too long on other people.
Every thought has one of only two consequences - it either moves you closer to your dreams, or it takes you further away. There are no other choices, and no 'idle' thoughts! What you decide to focus upon and think about moves you in that direction.

However, many people allow their focus to be distracted and controlled by other people and events, rather than being directed by their own dreams and desires.

For many people, life is like a river, and they're just floating along with the current - current fashions and fads, current events and current problems. The trouble is that sometimes that current can smash you into the rocks or over the waterfall - so it's a good idea to have a direction in mind for where you want to go, and regularly and consistently focus your thinking on that.

Directing Your Focus
What this means in practice is to develop the discipline to consistently focus your attention and thinking on what you want.

For many people, thoughts are things that happen to them - I hear it all the time! "I can't help it; I always do it" they say, as if someone else was actually putting the thoughts in their head! That's garbage!

No-one is in charge of your thinking but you; no-one but you directs your thoughts, so quit whinging and bitching or making excuses - and learn to discipline your mind!

All mental training MUST begin with the discipline of training your focus, and realising that YOU control and direct your thoughts. Thinking positively doesn't always guarantee success, but when has thinking negatively ever done you any good?

In the next issue I will discuss the other two, less conscious, decision making processes that influence your confidence, self belief and performance consistency.

About Jeffrey Hodges B.Sc.(AES) M.Sc.(Hons)
Jeffrey Hodges is a performance consultant to elite athletes, sporting teams and corporate clients. He is the author of the widely acclaimed "Sportsmind - An Athlete's Guide to Superperformance Through Mental & Emotional Training" and "Champion Thoughts, Champion Feelings"; creator of the Sportsmind performance enhancement workshops and audio tapes; and Director of the Sportsmind Institute for Human Performance Research.

He is a NLP Master Practitioner and Associate Trainer, and his Sportsmind programs have been endorsed by the NSW Dept Sport & Recreation, and recommended by top sportsclubs and successful athletes. Jeffrey has competed in many sports, notably Volleyball, Squash, Soccer and Golf, and currently trains in Aikido, holding a black belt.

Some of his clients to date include :
Australian Rugby Union
St. Joseph's College
Woodlands Golf Club
Financial Institutions Remuneration Group (FIRG)
Societe Generale
Qld. Swimming
Network for Fitness Professionals
North Sydney and Penrith Rugby League Clubs
Qld. Athletics Assn
NSW Netball Assn
Northern Inland Academy of Sport
Victorian Soaring Assn
Orange Agricultural College Equestrian School
Qld and NSW Departments of Sport and Recreation
Qld Academy of Sport
and the RAAF.

For more information, contact :
SPORTSMIND , 77 FLAXTON MILL ROAD
FLAXTON Qld. Australia. 4560.
PHONE 61 7 5445 7994
email : jh@sportsmind.com.au
website : www.sportsmind.com.au

By Jeffrey Hodges B.Sc. M.Sc.(Hons) B.Ed.

This is the fifth article in a series of articles on mental training for improved shooting performance.

Previously I have mentioned that there are seven essential mental skills for shooting success, all of which are learnable and teachable :

  • Precision Visualisation Skills
  • Positive Self Motivation
  • Powerful Goal Achievement Strategies
  • Strong Concentration & Focusing Abilities
  • Emotional State Mastery
  • Positive Mental Attitude
  • Positive Self Image & Unshakeable Self Confidence

All these skills of the SPORTS MIND can be learned and improved with some simple mental training techniques.

I have already covered the first skill of Visualisation, noting that it is the most important mental skill for shooters, and that to direct your shooting performance effectively you want to use clear visual images with feeling, not words, and that visualisation works because it has a measurable, physiological effect on our body. I also noted the importance of getting into the right mental state to visualise, outlined six specific applications for visualisation for shooters, and gave some simple tips for getting the best out of your visualisation sessions.

In the last issue I introduced the important topic of motivation and said that motivation is an energy - an energy which is influenced by how you communicate with yourself. I noted that there are basically two simple motivation strategies : positive motivation and negative motivation.

Negative motivation moves you away something you don't want to happen, while positive motivation moves you towards something you do want to happen.

Negative motivation is characterised by the use of self talk with "should's", "have to's", "ought's", and "must's", while positive motivation uses "want to's", "like to's", "love to's" and "will's" as self talk. It is this self communication which results in either resistance and apathy, or enthusiasm and positive action - from yourself and in those you coach.

I want to continue by talking about the importance of turning motivation into positive momentum.

BUILDING CHAMPION MOMENTUM
The key to your achieving success in shooting, or any endeavour for that matter, will not be as a result of a different diet, or through a new cross training regimen, or with the latest technologically advanced pistol, or software package, or gee-whiz laptop computer - it will be a result of your ability to establish and maintain physical, emotional and mental momentum toward the realisation of your personal sporting vision.

Understanding, and employing, the principles of making things happen allows you to turn a vision from an attractive dream into a fulfilling reality - by chunking it down into achievable goals and action plans. In this article I will show you how to generate irresistible personal momentum to turn your dreams into a reality.

TURNING DREAMS INTO REALITY
Once you have identified a personal vision which you have committed yourself to - the next step is to go about achieving it! Having a dream is important - but lot's of people have dreams, yet they never achieve them. So how do you turn dreams into reality?

One of the keys is to understand how you got to be where you are now - because where you are, now, was at one time just a dream wasn't it? There was a time, for instance, when you hadn't even started playing or competing in your chosen sport, or working in your current career - and to reach the level or position you're currently at now was just a dream. Isn't it so?

So what was it that brought that dream into reality? What is it that precedes all your actions, all of your behaviours, and all of your performances in every area of your life?

It's your decisions, isn't it.

Your decisions precede all your actions and therefore determine who you become. Everything in you life, including your current sports performances and your current level of financial and career success, is determined by the decisions you have made, and are making right now. Your decisions determine what you think, how you feel, what you do, and who you become.

THE POWER OF DECISIONS
If you're wondering why someone is currently achieving a greater level of success than you - in any area - then the answer is simply that they have made different decisions than you.

Different decisions about how they spend their time; different decisions about how they respond to setbacks or 'defeats'; different decisions about who they hang around with; different decisions about their approach to training or work. But most importantly, different decisions about what they expect of themselves, and about what they want to achieve in their sport, career, and personal life.

Yet, unfortunately, most people don't make these kinds of decisions consciously - they just hope to do well, and then wish they had done better! However, hopes and wishes are not good enough for champions - nor are they good enough for you!

Recognise that if you don't consciously make these kinds of decisions - about what level of performance you expect of yourself, and what you want in your life - then you've really made a decision by default anyway. You've decided to let other people, or the whims of the environment, direct your destiny.

No one likes to think they're being controlled by other people, yet I hear time and again excuses why people haven't achieved more in their sport : "I don't have the right build"; "I'm too old"; "I haven't had the opportunity"; "I haven't got the experience"; "I don't have enough time"; and so on.

I'm sure you've heard similar excuses, and perhaps you've used some of them yourself - I know I used to, and I still occasionally fall into this trap. Yet I quickly realise, as I hope you do, that all these things are conditions - and it's not the conditions in your life that hold you back, but rather the decisions you make!

What you decide to do, given whatever conditions you currently have in your life, makes the difference in your performances, and in your life.

Of course you can argue that some people are born with certain advantages - a fantastic sports physique, financial resources, a supportive family, or an opportune environment. However, lots of those people, even given these advantages don't achieve their potential, do they? They're not as successful as they could be.

Then there are other people, coming from the poorest conditions and with physical, environmental and social limitations who shuck off the bonds of those conditions to achieve sporting, political, financial or career performances way beyond expectations.

How do they do it? Simply by making committed decisions. The power of a committed decision cannot be underestimated in its ability to positive affect your performance.

TRUE DECISIONS
However, for your decisions to make a real difference in your life, they have to be true decisions. Many people don't understand what a true decision is - they use the word loosely, and so decisions for them have become just preferences, things they'd like to have happen, rather than real decisions.

In contrast, a true decision evokes a firm commitment to make it happen, leaving no choice for any other option.

For instance, if you make such a committed decision to give up smoking, then that's it, you'll do it, and you no longer even consider the possibility of your smoking again. If you truly decide to improve your fitness, or lose weight, or increase your monthly income, then you'll find a way to make it happen.

However, most people state preferences rather than make committed decisions: "I'd like to give up smoking"; "I wish I could improve my shooting performances in competition"; "I hope I get the promotion"; "I'd like to earn more money this year"; or "I hope I'm selected for the team - all of which are just wish lists, and have no power to positively change your life or enhance your sporting performances.

MAKING YOUR GOALS DECISIONS
Here's a little exercise for you to do. Think right now about a true decision you've made recently - something you definitely decided on, and followed through with. A decision about buying a new car, or house, taking up a new job, or maybe even the decision to read this article! Notice how you thought about it, and identify the exact moment when you actually decided - when you said "Yes, I'll do it".

Now think about something you've been 'considering', but haven't made a definite decision about yet. Again notice how you think about that, and compare the differences in what you see, hear, and feel to the time you made a definite decision.

You'll notice that you think about the two experiences very differently.

Now consider: HOW have you been thinking about the dreams you've identified for yourself? Is it more similar to the first way, or to the second? Are you thinking about your sports goals and dreams like a true decision, or just something you're 'considering', that you'd like, or hope, to achieve 'one day' but haven't really committed yourself to yet?

You want to think about achieving your dreams in the same way that you think about getting a loaf of bread from the shop, or picking up that pen over there ...... simple, easy, no questions - I'll just do it.

COMMITMENT TO ACTION
Think about your dreams as true decisions, not just preferences ............ but how do I know if I've made a committed decision?

True decisions are always followed by actions.

For instance, if you truly decide to buy a new car, you'll go and see a car dealer, or place an add in the paper to sell your old one. If you truly decide to end a relationship, you'll confront your partner and talk about it, or you'll pack your bags! And if you make a true decision to play to a higher standard in your sport, or reach a cherished sports goal, then you'll do something about it - you'll take some action. Until the point of action, it's just been something you've been 'considering' - action makes it a true decision.

The interesting thing is that when you make a definite commitment to a particular decision, it unlocks the energy within you to achieve it.

I'm sure you've had the experience of agonising over a decision about something for weeks or perhaps even months - you know how such indecision can totally sap your drive, because you have no clear direction. However, as soon as you've hopped off the fence and decided one way or the other, you're able to start moving again.

In the next moment, right now, you could use this power of a true decision to change your life. The motivation, the power, the energy to succeed comes from making committed decisions.

Why not make some for yourself, right now?

In the next issue we'll move onto the third mental skill and I'll share some ideas on some powerful goal achievement strategies and principles to help you actually get what you want - once you've committed yourself to it!

About Jeffrey Hodges B.Sc.(AES) M.Sc.(Hons)
Jeffrey Hodges is a performance consultant to elite athletes, sporting teams and corporate clients. He is the author of the widely acclaimed "Sportsmind - An Athlete's Guide to Superperformance Through Mental & Emotional Training" and "Champion Thoughts, Champion Feelings"; creator of the Sportsmind performance enhancement workshops and audio tapes; and Director of the Sportsmind Institute for Human Performance Research.

He is a NLP Master Practitioner and Associate Trainer, and his Sportsmind programs have been endorsed by the NSW Dept Sport & Recreation, and recommended by top sportsclubs and successful athletes. Jeffrey has competed in many sports, notably Volleyball, Squash, Soccer and Golf, and currently trains in Aikido, holding a black belt.

Some of his clients to date include :
Australian Rugby Union
St. Joseph's College
Woodlands Golf Club
Financial Institutions Remuneration Group (FIRG)
Societe Generale
Qld. Swimming
Network for Fitness Professionals
North Sydney and Penrith Rugby League Clubs
Qld. Athletics Assn
NSW Netball Assn
Northern Inland Academy of Sport
Victorian Soaring Assn
Orange Agricultural College Equestrian School
Qld and NSW Departments of Sport and Recreation
Qld Academy of Sport
and the RAAF.

For more information, contact :
SPORTSMIND , 77 FLAXTON MILL ROAD
FLAXTON Qld. Australia. 4560.
PHONE 61 7 5445 7994
email : jh@sportsmind.com.au
website : www.sportsmind.com.au

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