In yesterday’s post, I introduced you to the dark side of my brain… those not-so-friendly thoughts that fired fiercely when my softball performance was sub-par.
Today I want to focus on the flip side: a time when my brain helped me mobilize my full potential as an athlete — and how mindfulness played a vital role. Mind you, this was long before I knew there was such a thing as mindfulness.
As a softball player, one of my main missions was to ready myself physically and mentally before each at-bat. At some point in my career, I unconsciously implemented a little ritual that did just that.
Upon stepping into the batter’s box, I would lightly plant one foot at a time. Then, once both feet were planted, I would inhale deeply as I brought the bat up to shoulder height. Just as I made eye contact with the pitcher, I would let out an exhale and bring my attention to the supple grip of my hands on the bat.
Sounds a bit like mindfulness, don’t you think? Granted, I didn’t do it all the time, like when I was busy busting my chops for a terrible last at-bat, but when I remembered, it made a huge difference. My vision was clear, my stance relaxed, my gaze soft, yet focused, and my confidence soared. My pitch selection improved tremendously because I was connected to this moment, this at-bat. It’s not that I hit the ball out of the park every time, but the probability that I would at least make solid contact went through the roof.
“Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.” This mantra came up a lot when I trained soldiers in resilience. Mindfulness rituals trigger the brain to slow down, settle in and sync back up with the present moment. In essence, they give us access to a smooth, or effortless, quality that helps us accomplish the mission more efficiently – and effectively.
When stakes are high, and you may be inclined to go a million miles a minute on autopilot, you can consciously insert a routine that unfurls the mind and re-grounds the body. Whether you’re about to give a presentation, have your blood pressure taken, or make an important phone call, you can experiment with creating a ritual that enables you to mobilize your full capacity.
What say you? Do you already rely on rituals to simmer your nerves? Where can you see yourself using a practice like this?