By being aware of our thoughts, we can interrupt negative patterns and create a higher state of performance in our daily lives.
How can we use consciousness to better our lives and performance?
In an interview, Liz Waddick, the varsity volleyball coach at Summit High School, was asked: “If you were to give advice to your athletes on how to play their game more consciously, what would you tell them?” Liz answered, “We talk about what our goal is, in each drill or situation at practice. Players should know what they are working on at any time during a drill. This awareness or consciousness is key to improvement. We often talk about using our time well, be mindful, and practice with purpose.”
So how are we able to play the game, the game of life or the game on the court, in a higher state of consciousness? The first step is identifying the negative thought patterns. When varsity volleyball player Anna Mathis was asked, “How do you feel awareness of your thoughts can improve your game?” she answered, “Mental awareness of my actions, thoughts and behavior could help my game so much if I just focus on keeping my thought process on the positive and stay focused throughout the whole game.” Anna was then asked, “What are some ways you could improve your mental game?” Her reply was amazing! “I think making note of what my thought process was when I make a mistake. If I could change those thoughts in moments like that, it could change my game tremendously.’
Being aware of our thoughts is the first step in improving our mental game. When we are under stress, it is harder to be aware of the thoughts we have because of the chemicals released in our bodies at these times. Practicing mental awareness during normal activity can strengthen the part of the mind that is the observer. When we observe our thoughts we have the choice to agree with them or not. A young athlete may have been told long ago, “You are too clumsy to be an athlete” and they decide in that moment it is true. But is it? Who says? Every human lives inside their own story of truth. Does someone else’s story get to decide our truth? We all decide our story or truth in every moment of the day. Stories are just that. . . a story! When we live consciously or play volleyball consciously, we have a choice to listen to the negative chatter whether under stress or not!
“Oh! There’s that story again saying I am not good enough! Bla bla bla. . . I don’t think I agree with that anymore. Reset!
Reset is a term that gives the mind a chance to know its going into a chemical response connected to a story. It may still play out for a while but with practice “reset” will indicate that a negative pattern has been brought into awareness and it is time to focus on what is right in front of us.
“I am present on this court and I am hitting the ball with all my energy focused in this moment.” Mistakes are a way we learn and grow! We celebrate mistakes because without them we don’t have awareness how we can improve. Now that the story has been identified, we can reset and focus on the moment in front of us.
How can consciousness improve performance in athletes?
There was a study done by Dr. Berka, a Neuroscientist, that monitored the brain of the number-one archer in California. The study showed that the archer’s brain, just before his shot, was in the alpha and theta state; meaning he was very relaxed with little thought. Dr. Berka also took amateur archers and studied their brains while shooting and saw their brains were very active and their shots were all over the place. She then took these amateurs into an alpha/theta state and asked them to shoot again. . . they shot perfectly.
How do we make this moment our zone? And, how do we stay there?
Starting the game off in the “zone” is key. How do we do this? Practice mind control. What we focus on gets bigger! This is always true. Right before a game where is your mind? Are you nervous, excited? The goal is to get into a positive, relaxed state of being, so when we enter the game we have a high state of consciousness.
Practice with purpose. Powerful words! When we set a goal higher than we think we can achieve, everything that is keeping us from that goal is shown to us. Most of us live our lives with negative beliefs that are hidden in the mind but still control our outcome. Statements like:
~ I will never be good enough. Everyone else is better than me.
~ I am not a strong enough person.
~ They are going to find out I don’t even know what I am doing.
~ If I am not the best, it’s not worth trying.
These are a few doubts that may be lingering in the background as we play, work, or interact with friends. When we make a mistake, these programs come rushing in to run the show. These voices confirm our worst fears: “See I told you, you were not good enough.”
Here is a technique used in many different spiritual practices, yes spiritual practices. It is a way to achieve an alpha/theta state.
Breathe, start with the breath. Breathe in for five counts, now hold for five counts, breathe out for five counts. Do this for a couple minutes. Breathe in this way so your thoughts have to focus on the breath. This connects you to a deeper presence within you.
Next see a beautiful white light surround your body. This light protects you from any outside influences and holds a very positive vibration. The light brings you into the zone and it brings in an energy that is beyond the “self.” You are supported by the universe in this light. Feel this light absorbed into every part of your body. Bring the light through your head and down your shoulders. As it moves though your body it is relaxing your mind and you feel connected to all those around you. When your body is full of this light send it out to all your teammates, your coaches, the refs, even the other team! They are entering your zone of clarity and connection. Now return to your breath and think of three things that you are grateful for. Being thankful has a very high vibration. The higher your vibration, the higher your performance! The higher your vibration, the more positive your thoughts will be. Send the white light to the people, places or experiences you are grateful for. You feel relaxed, supported and positive.
Lastly, visualize your game. See yourself at top performance and completely focused on your game. Feel yourself hit the perfect attack, the perfect serve, or pass an unstoppable ball from the other side. Celebrate your successes and know that the mistakes are there to celebrate! Continue to breathe and relax as you visualize your perfect game while in the zone. You are now focused and ready to enter the game in this alpha state of consciousness.
Consciousness is something that can be practiced. When we enter the game of life with a high state of consciousness, it’s harder for those negative thoughts to take over. Reset! Breathe, bring in the light, spread this light to those we love, be grateful and visualize the outcome we want. Play the game of the mind by choosing the positive! When the negative comes in we “reset” and start again and again and again.
Liz Waddick expresses this by saying, “A strong mental game is everything. It’s what will turn players into champions! If teaching this was easy I think more people would coach. I believe coaching mental toughness starts with mindful practice.” We practice on the court how to become a great athlete; a game that teaches us lessons we bring into our daily lives. The practice of consciousness is a game in itself. Learning to be aware of our thoughts can bring us to new levels of play. We always have the choice to “reset” and play in the zone.
We are all champions playing the game of life!