By Lanny Bassham
This article was originally written for a Golf Magazine. If you are not a golfer, don’t turn away! Please keep in mind that this information applies to ANY sport or performance area!
If you discover that you are out of balance, your mental system should have specific strategies to correct the imbalance by managing the processes. That’s why it is called Mental Management®. Ideally, next you would try to increase the effectiveness of all of the processes while keeping them in balance.
Let’s look at some examples. If you look like fig. 1 you are in balance. I call this the TRIAD STATE. When I won my Gold Medal in the Olympics I was in the Triad State. Consciously, I was focused on the process of shooting each shot. My Subconscious skill level was good enough to allow me to have a winning performance and I had the Self Image attitude that it was like me to win the Gold Medal.
When we begin to learn to play golf it is likely that we will look like fig. 2. We have to think about everything Consciously because we have little Subconscious skill. Our Self Image tells us that we are “beginners” and we do not have a high expectation of success. Golf may seem difficult. Remember those first days when you had to think about all of the elements of form because few, if any, were automated by your Subconscious mind. Coaches often bring players in balance by taking “baby steps” in form acquisition, learning one form process at a time and then when it is subconsciously automated move on to the next. If we practice properly the Subconscious circle will grow.
In my experience most imbalanced players look like fig. 3. The Subconscious circle has balanced out with the Conscious because the player is training the Subconscious through practice. Have you ever had this thought? “I know my form is good. My scores are low in practice but they are much higher in competition. I’m, losing too many strokes to mental inconsistency.” If so, chances are good that you look like fig. 3. You are not manageing the growth of your Self Image. The Self Image grows through positive imprinting and playing a lot can cause it to shrink if we are getting or picturing a lot of poorly executed shots. Every time we think about, talk about or write about playing well our Self Image grows. BUT, every time we think about, talk about or write about a poor shot our Self Image shrinks. Your ability to control the growth of your Self Image is directly related to your discipline in avoiding negative imprinting. Think only about what you wish to see happen. Avoid any negative imprinting and your Self Image grows. Otherwise, you sabotage yourself, your Self Image shrinks and your score suffers.
Fig. 4 illustrates a loss of Conscious focus. Have you ever felt distracted while playing? If so, you might draw your circles this way. The loss of focus is a common mental error and your mental system must include elements to hold your focus on performance while executing the golf shot. A common error is to think about your score while over the ball. One solution for this problem is to run a mental program. A mental program is a planned, practiced sequence of mental activity that controls the Conscious mind while hitting the shot. We will look at that technique in detail in a future article.
Looking at fig. 5 we see a Self Image circle that is too large.This player is overconfident. The player stops learning and is susceptible to the false idea that he need not continue to grow as a player. Normally this person is taken to the cleaners by less-skilled players in a big competition. That usually gets their attention. The best solution is not to reduce the Self Image but to grow the Conscious and Subconscious circles by returning to a learning mode.
The key point is to learn to balance your mental processes. If you can determine that one process is smaller than the others you know where to put forth your efforts. If you are frustrated, YOU ARE OUT OF BALANCE.
Remember, no one can defeat a player who has his mental processes in balance UNLESS they face someone who has larger circles and is also in balance. In future installments we will look at specific ways to build these mental processes and increase the size of your circles.