How to improve your sports performance

Many great athletes agree that the difference between physical and mental effort in their performances follows the 80:20 Pareto Principle rule. That is – 20% physical effort and 80% mental. Yet many people spend 100% of their training time focused on developing their physical strength and skills. You can however enhance your sports performances by spending even 20% of your training time to develop your mental skills.

You can develop your mental skills using Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) techniques. NLP brings together concepts related to neurology (and your brain), linguistics (and your language) and programming (and your actions and reactions). Through the study of NLP, you can develop your awareness of your thought patterns, your behaviours and your language to ensure that everything positively supports and contributes towards successful performances.


2 NLP techniques to help you improve your sports performances.

Well-Formed Outcomes

The first step that will make a difference to your performances is becoming clearer on the outcome you want to achieve. Used ‘Well-Formed Outcomes’ questions. Well-Formed Outcomes questions help to take your SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely) goals even further.

Using these questions you create a richer, vibrant and more meaningful outcome.

1. What do you want? State in positive terms.
2. How will you know when you have achieved it? What will you see, hear and feel?
3. Where, when and with whom do you want it?
4. Where, when and with whom do you not want it?
5. What resources do you need to get it?
6. What will happen when you get it? How will getting it benefit you?
7. How will achieving this goal affect other aspects of your life?

These questions help you to clearly define your own measures of success and clarify the end result you want. Plus, they help you do a ‘quality control’ check to make sure the goal, and all the time and effort put into achieving the goal, is viable and worth the investment.

Additionally, you are creating a stronger magnet to keep pulling you forward until you do achieve that goal. When you have connected to something that is bigger and beyond just achieving the goal, your motivation increases and your commitment to do whatever is necessary becomes even stronger.

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Visualisation, also referred to as mental rehearsal, is a technique where you mentally (rather than literally) rehearse your performance and imagine how things will flow from start to finish. Much like actors rehearse their lines and practice before opening night, you can rehearse your sports performance to help improve your performance abilities.

This is a powerful technique because your unconscious mind does not distinguish the difference between what is real or what is imagined. If you have ever woken up in the middle of the night from a scary dream with your heart pounding and on high alert, you know how real it seems. Hopefully, for most of you, this is only an imaginary threat rather than an actual one! Yet, this example illustrates how powerful the mind is and how our body can react to something that was simply ‘only imagined’.

To do this mental rehearsal for your sports performance, imagine watching a movie of yourself doing your performance. See what you will see, hear what you will hear and even imagine feeling what you will feel. Add as much detail as possible, and even include brightness, colour, tastes and smells.

The Benefits of Visualisation

By repeatedly watching your movie of you being the best you can be, you increase the likelihood to make a very real and very tangible difference to the performance. When you arrive at the big day, your brain will think ‘I’ve been here, I’ve done that and I know what to do’ and will play out the movie that you’ve imagined so many times before.

In conclusion, there are many other NLP techniques that can make a positive difference to your performances in sports and elsewhere in life. Starting off with becoming very clear on the outcome you want to achieve and mentally rehearsing your next performance; you are creating the neural pathways in the brain for the physical body to simply do what you have mentally programmed it to do!

Where is your next sports performance, or life performance, where you can use the Well-Formed Outcomes questions and visualize your performance to enhance the results you achieve on the day? What would it feel like to put these techniques into play and experience the difference?

Read more from Expert Midgie Thomson.

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