Heather Sumlin, director of customer relations for Mental Management Systems answers your questions about mental preparation!
Can you explain what you mean by mental training?
There are three mental processes that control performance: the conscious mind, the subconscious mind, and self-image. The conscious mind is your thoughts. The subconscious mind is your skills, or how well you prepare. Self-image is your habits and attitudes, your belief in your ability. When these mental processes are balanced and working together well, performance seems easy. When these processes are out of balance, it is very difficult to reach your potential under pressure.
Nerves are really tough for me, especially before I go do my dance. What can I do?
First understand that pressure is essential for success. Elite athletes feel nervous before they compete, too, so this is not something that needs to be feared. Butterflies are normal and natural. In most cases it is not the physical effects of pressure that causes performance to drop, instead it is our negative internal response to the physical effects of pressure. When you feel the butterflies next time try responding positively instead of negatively. We need pressure as fuel to compete to the best of our ability. It is the adrenaline released in our bodies that helps to fuel us toward success. Nerves are actually a good thing; it is simply your body knowing that this event is important to you.
Sometimes during interviews, I seem to forget all of the prep work I've done. Can you help me remember under pressure?
In training you need to be thinking the same way you do on competition day in order to build consistency. We teach clients how to run a mental rehearsal and mental program before each phase of competition. I recommend mock interviews in training but use those mock interviews to gain experience both technically and mentally. Treat each mock interview as your real interview, listen to the same type of music in preparation, have the same mental pictures and thoughts before you walk into the room. Be positive during the interview, your evaluation of your answers is best left for after the interview is over, not during the conversation.
I'm not really a competitive person, but do I need that to win?
I think being a competitive person can help in increasing motivation to train, outworking the competition, and moving quickly toward a goal. But being competitive can also derail a contestant if she focuses too much on what other people are doing and if her main desire is to beat others not build herself. I do not believe that you have to have a competitive personality to win but I do believe you have to train to win and prepare for the competition with focus and drive to have a better probability of success.
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