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Mental Skills For Performance

Fundamental to all aspects of sport/performance psychology, is identifying and developing the host of mental skills that are known to influence performance. These mental skills are all elements that can be learned and practised to optimise performance and outcomes.

Listed here is an overview of the variety of mental skills that can be learned to enhance sport performance. If you're interested in a more detailed exploration of these skills and how they can be applied to assist your athletic or business goals, please contact GMT Psychology.

An Overview of Mental Skills

Attitude Attitude is about choice, and choosing a positive attitude. Developing skills in the pursuit of excellence, rather than perfection; respecting yourself, your sport, and other competitors and officials; seeing sport or your work as an opportunity to be your best; and to learn from successes and failures.
Goal Setting Setting short-term and long-term goals that are realistic, measurable, and time-oriented. Goal plans are specific and detailed, and relate not only to outcomes, but target process and performance aims as well.
Motivation What are the internal and external factors that motivate us to perform? What rewards do we envisage that keep us committed to training through difficult times? Motivation also includes the rewards that come from participation, rather than outcomes. These include skill-attainment, autonomy, and social interaction.
Confidence Confidence relates to both how we think and feel about our abilities, and the likelihood of attaining our desired outcomes. Confidence is affected by many factors, including past success, self-talk, our emotions, and arousal.
Attention Attention encompasses a range of specific mental skills, such as our ability to concentrate; our awareness of what is happening around us; when it's advantageous to have divided attention, and when we need to be selectively-focused; our ability to switch attention on and off, as appropriate.
Communication How do we communicate with those we interact with, verbally and non-verbally? What are we saying to ourselves in our self-talk? How can our listening skills be attuned to help us train and perform more effectively? What are our strengths and weaknesses across different media, for example: face-to-face, by phone, text, e-mail, etc.?
Leadership Leadership may include authority, but is often more about being a role model, through the ways in which we communicate, encourage, exhibit confidence and generally relate to others. It is also about how we deal with conflict and difficult opponents, and demonstrate ways to overcome challenging circumstances.
Team Building How does a group work together and interact to achieve their goals? Do members of the team like and respect each other? Does each team member understand their role? Is there effective communication and shared vision within the team?
Behaviour Our behaviour, including how we interact with our thoughts and feelings, and how we respond to people and events, greatly influences performance. Acquiring a greater awareness and control over behaviour is a fundamental mental skill.

Arousal Management

Arousal management refers to the level of various physiological indicators, such as heart rate, respiration rate, galvanic skin response, brain wave activity, etc. The challenge is to determine optimum levels for each individual, and via this awareness, regulate to achieve best performance.
Anxiety Management In the realm of sport and performance, anxiety is a common reason for under-achievement and poor performance under pressure situations. It encompasses both the mental aspect (worry) and physical symptoms (see Arousal Management). Accept that anxiety will always be a factor, is sometimes beneficial, and learn how to manage it, as necessary.
Decision Making Decision making is influenced by a variety of physiological and mental factors, including anxiety, motivation, confidence, and attention. Under stress or duress, decision making can deteriorate; therefore, it is important to develop the relevant mental skills to enhance decision making under pressure, such as during competitive sport, or in business situations.
Imagery Imagery involves practising or re-creating an experience in the mind, that enables one to relax, focus attention, and improve performance. Finding ways to regularly integrate imagery into physical training and pre-competition preparation can be very effective and is practised by many high-level athletes and performers.
Counselling The high pressure of sporting demands may require an athlete to seek assistance with the many sports-related and non-sports-related issues affecting performance or health.
And More... There may be compounding issues that influence performance, such as time-management, coping with distractions, relationships, the ability to relax, sleep, eat nutritious meals, etc. It may also be necessary to deal with many other emotions, including anger, depression, or grief.