Competition intensity is either a predator, stalking you. or it’s your invited guest. Intensity is like an opponent, and it plays a game with you. Here are the tactics designed by the adversary call pressure or intensity:
1) If any concern, distraction, or errant thought enters your mind, pressure wants you to stay with it, attend to it, let it bother you.
2) Once you feel unsettled, it wants you to do anything you can to make those feelings go away.
3) The competition intensity wants you to think that you do not have the mental and physical game to deal with what it throws at you. It wants to make your-self smaller.
4) Here is the big one. Anytime intensity starts to activate you, you are supposed to see it as a signal that danger is impending.
Intensity says, “Hey, take me seriously!”. Then, because it has been paying attention to you, it picks the one situation or spare that it knows will get to you. And, because it likes to pick on the little guy, it tries to convince you that YOU are a little guy. Lastly, competition intensity likes to appear as threat. It wants you to spend lots of energy to feel comfortable, instead of you learning to feel bold.
Your Winning Strategy
You are going to play a game. The way you win is to score points.
Step 1) Step back. Observe. Ask, is this a chirp or a growl (noise or signal?)
You have to decide whether what you noticed is a real threat, e.g. sticky approaches, or just chirping, e.g. people are watching, negative thoughts.
You get one point every time you interrupt your automatic response system, and determine that things that don’t really matter, are put in the “fake gremlin” file.
Step 2) Choose the situation, no matter what you might be feeling. You are an athlete precisely so that you can be tested, so that you can grow, transform, and be bigger than you were. “I want exactly this” is the hallmark of a champions strategy for dealing with competition intensity. You are the hero in this story. Heroes act without any guarantees of how things will turn out.
You have to embrace the moment. Be willing to experience anything. Dive into the wave. Don’t try to swim away from it.
You don’t have to have tons of techniques to calm yourself. You have to transform into the kind of person who decides they can handle anything. *Because once you stop backing up, and decide to lean in, then competition intensity starts to vaporize.
You get one point every time you stand and invite pressure or anxiety to show up, let it take a seat, and do whatever it wants to do.
Step 3) Know that you have the ability to do this. Any level of intensity is worth facing if it helps you to learn, to grow, and to master this sport. If you are really willing to challenge yourself, you have to risk losing something. If you can’t handle missing, then you have to choose a sport that provides you with a sure thing every time.
You get one point every time you are willing to be in any competition situation no matter what, particularly the next frame. If you are willing to take a risk, you get the point (pun intended).
Step 4) Put a great deal of energy into what you are committed to executing. It’s okay to be excited. Your own intention has to match or beat the intensity of the competition situation. It is an attitude shift, not an energy shift. Intensity is a challenge, not a threat.
You get one point when you put as much energy into committing to a great shot, as there is intensity pressure in the situation.
Step 5) Instruct yourself to take an action. Keep your word. Execute. Your energy says “Go.” Your preparation says “This way!”
You get one point for rolling the ball toward your mark in the manner you decided ahead of time.
One point maximum per frame.
8-10 You win the game. You found the way to defeat competition nerves.
6-7 You showed up for the street fight, but you need more practice risking everything in order to be phenomenal
5-6 Pressure is winning the game, but you are at least aware that there are moves to make
3-4 You experimented a few times, but didn’t trust the process when it didn’t work out right away
0-2 You didn’t really lean into the storm
In order to be a master of competition you have to enter situations where you are pushed, stressed, and the outcome is uncertain. You have to do what you came to do, even if you have doubt inside that you can really do it. You can transform to meet the challenge the day presents, or you wouldn’t be here!!
Copyright Dean Hintz, Mental Game Intensity. 2016. Reprints with permission.
Source material drawn from Wilson, R., Stopping the Noise in Your Head. Health Communications, Inc.. Deerfield Beach. FL. 2016.