Preparation vs. Performance Mindset

I always tried to take a mature approach towards the game of basketball. I listened to coaches, took care of my body, and developed a taste for the hard work of preparation. My mindset in training was where it needed to be, but my mindset during games often was not. I didn’t understand how beneficial it would’ve been to shift my approach come game time. In that vein, I recently heard these concepts from Brian Levenson on his podcast, “Intentional Performers.” and thought they were too good not to share:

“Prepare like a pro. Perform like a kid”

Professionals take preparation seriously. They train their bodies to exhaustion. They measure what they eat and how much they sleep. They hire gurus and specialists to get any conceivable advantage. But come performance time? They’re more like a kid. We’ve all watched kids play — They don’t care about making mistakes. They don’t care about how they look. They know how to have fun. I always played my best when I didn’t take myself too seriously. My wife once commented and that when she saw me smiling, she knew I was going to play well. Train and compete with intensity — but watch a young kid, and be sure to also “play” with that same level of freedom, creativity, and joy.

“Anxious in training. Cocky in performance”

It’s okay to have some fear about your performance or work. A little anxiety in leading up to an event can be good. It can drive us to put in the needed work or heightens our senses. I always liked the “butterflies” before a game. It made me feel alive and helped prep my mind to compete…But once the ball goes up, there’s got to be a switch. During the game there’s no time to be anxious. We need to replace any unease with confidence. The presentation, the performance, the game is the time to let go of all insecurity and play with authority.

“Visualization in preparation. Presence in performance”

Preparation is a time of anticipation. We go through drills that mimic game situations. We picture in our minds performing at the top of our game. We pre-play our response to adversity. Mental rehearsal is a powerful exercise done by world class performers. During performance, however, there is no daydreaming. Those that execute at the highest level in pressure situations are completely dialed in on the moment. They don’t allow what could happen or might be to cloud their focus. Flow only happens when you’re 100% engaged in the present.

“Humble in preparation. Arrogant in performance.

We must have the humility to subject ourselves to teaching, to ask questions, to seek critical feedback, to do the little things. It takes humility for someone who has already reached the pinnacle of their sport or profession to continue to receive coaching, but it’s essential if they want to remain at the top. We submit ourselves in preparation and then exert ourselves during performance. Call it what you want: confidence, belief, swagger — but the very best have an air of arrogance when they’re on stage or court.

*The more we dedicate, discipline, and challenge ourselves in preparation, the greater ability we will have to be confident, decisive, and free during performance.

Play like a kid!

Explore Further:

In this Forbes article, sports psychologist Dr. Stan Beecham shares some interesting thoughts on the mindset of elite performers in both athletics and business.

“People who’ve dabbled in sports psychology, they say, “Well, the kid who’s the better performer, they think differently. The reality is not that they think differently. It’s that they don’t think. It’s the absence of thought. It’s the absence of cognition. It’s the absence of emotion. That really is the advantage.”

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