A typical golfer will hit balls on the driving range until his wife files a missing person’s report. A tennis player will practice strokes until his or her blisters have blisters.
Athletes are notorious when it comes to putting in the practice time to groove their skills.
But as much as you perfect your game in practice, you rarely, if ever, play up to your ability in competition. And it doesn’t matter if you are having a Hall of Fame career or if you are Harry Hacker or Donald Duffer—the best you ever played is not even close to what you are really capable of.
And the reason is simple. You’re thinking too much!
When you compete, you are most likely thinking about mechanics, or strategies, or results you hope to achieve.
I’ve got to keep my head down.
I’ve got to follow through.
I’ve got to hit the ball hard, or soft, or to right field, or down the line, or over the pond.
I hope the ball goes in the hole, or in the basket, or over the plate.
I hope I win. I hope I don’t lose.
These types of thoughts and millions like them, no matter how fleeting, are sabotaging your performance.
These thoughts are activating a part of your brain that is disrupting the flow of muscle memory to your body.
In other words, those thoughts are handcuffing you. They are adding flaws to your performance, causing you to rush shots and play more stiffly. And here’s the kicker: it doesn’t matter how much you may have practiced beforehand.
Remember Phil Michelson who lost the 2006 US Open at Winged Foot when he hit a banana ball on the 72nd hole of the tournament. There isn’t a golfer on God’s green earth that could have sliced it worse. If it hadn’t hit a tent in the concession area, that ball would have exited the grounds and still be bouncing down the New England Thruway.
Perhaps Phil didn’t practice enough, you say?
As it turns out, two weeks before the tournament, Phil practiced on that very hole more than all the other golfers combined.
So how can an elite golfer blow it so badly? Especially after all that practice?
In my opinion, he must have had a teeny tiny thought about hitting the ball at the absolute worst possible time. That thought disrupted the flow of his muscle memory and because Mickelson swings with such power, that flaw got magnified to epic proportions.
If it happens to a Phil Mickelson, you can bet it happens to everyone else all the time.
Now here’s where it gets good:
There’s a simple trick, invented by my friend and taught in my book The Mentally Quiet Athlete, which keeps your mind free of all of these disrupting thoughts. When you play with a quiet mind, what happens next will astound you. What you thought was your best is nothing compared to what you can achieve when your mind is quiet.
Caution: My book, while an enjoyable story, should be read very carefully. What is being taught is subtle. You don’t want to miss it with a quick glance and knee-jerk opinion. Power resides in the subtle. That’s why a nuclear bomb is more powerful than dynamite. A nuclear bomb operates on the sub-atomic level which is way more subtle than the molecular level where dynamite operates.
The lessons in The Mentally Quiet Athlete are subtle. And because of that, they are mega-game-changers.
But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what George Brett, the Hall of Fame third baseman, had to say:
"These guys have discovered something that is going to have a huge impact wherever it is taught."