We all want to get better in certain areas of our lives. For some, better mental performance might mean achieving better grades in school or becoming more efficient at work. Others may desire developing or fostering relationships we’ve let slip.
For the Emergency Room Physician, for example, it may mean staying cool under pressure when a patient enters the ward with a life threatening injury. In a sports context, if the athlete may have well developed mental skills and confidence, odds she will be able to drive harder or defend more aggressively.
Before we look at the end goal of any mental performance though, it’s important to understand some key principles of what drives individuals. See if you can relate to some of these key performance variables:
1) What we think affects how we feel and perform.
If I feel there is a good probability of success if I put in a solid effort, I am more likely drive in that direction. Think about the best coach or mentor you’ve had; odds are they gave you a feeling that they valued and supported you on your journey to self improvement.
2) Training your brain is as important as training your body.
Did you know that cognitive decline for most begins in your 30s and progresses in a negative linear fashion until we die? The good news though is that we have the ability to slow or change this decline through simple lifestyle changes by exercising regularly, learning new things, adopting better eating habits and managing our stress.
3) Mental skills like physical skills need practice.
Research in neuroscience tells us we can outperform others who don’t train on tests that measure things like speed and span of recognition, eye-hand coordination, focus and tracking, concentration and reaction time.
4) We have the ability to control how we respond to certain events.
Everything that passes through our brain gets interpreted. Do we see the performance evaluation at work or the chance to play in the big game as an opportunity or a nightmare?
5) Overly stressed individuals don’t learn as well and performance suffers.
Complex learning shuts down when we are defensive, scared or angered. The best learning conditions are one’s that create a positive emotion, are personally relevant and are interesting-educators take note!
6) Vision is the most important sense to train.
The eyes take in approximately 80% of all the information the brain receives. In sporting situations, for example, that number jumps to well beyond 90%. Bottom line-step up your vision training and improve your performance.