“I suppose we end up where we think we belong a lot of the times. It’s amazing what the subconscious does. Whatever’s deep down inside us and we believe that’s our status, that’s where we end up.” – Padraig Harrington, 3-time Major winner
This month’s post can be summarized in one statement: You’ll never outperform your self-image.
In other words, we all have a subconscious or conscious image of what kind of athlete (or person, for that matter) we are, and we will usually end up performing very close to that level. Of course there will be those times when we catch fire or just stink up the joint, but even then we will “even ourselves out” and return to the level we feel we belong.
So this points to the profound impact our self-image has on our performance, which begs the question – What can we do to improve our self-image? I’ll offer up three ways:
1) Pay attention to the stories you’re telling yourself
Self-image is a byproduct of self-talk. You have the power to craft the stories you are constantly telling yourself. Research tells us we have somewhere between 400 and 1000 words of self-talk each minute (!). Each of these words has an impact on your self-image, either chipping away at it or reinforcing it. You get to choose. Stop listening to yourself and talk to yourself.
2) You have to see it to believe it
The power of using our minds to create and re-create images (or visualization) is well documented. This mental skill is utilized by many of the best in the world across every sport and performance domain, so why not you too? But to take it beyond daydreaming, you’ll need to go about it in a systematic and disciplined way. I’d suggest setting a timer for 5 minutes each day: get comfortable, see yourself performing at the top of your game (whether that means a previous peak performance or a future one), and maintain the mental discipline to “rewind” if you get distracted or the image starts to go down the wrong path.
3) Make it a priority to build your “bounceback-ability”
Yes, that is a made up word, but I love the image of bouncing back. And what we’re really talking about is resilience – the ability to bounce back every time adversity knocks you down. If you are someone who thrives off of setting and pursuing goals, I encourage you to set a specific, measurable goal having to do with resilience in the face of adversity. If you’re not a goal-setter, spend some time identifying and keeping track (in a journal, ideally) of how you are responding to mistakes, losses, setbacks, etc.
The greatest predictor of your performance level is your self-image. If you want to improve your play, improve your self-image. Take it from a 3-time Major winner – we end up where we think we belong. Where do you belong?