The definition of success varies from person to person. If you ask 100 people on the street what theirs is, you’ll almost certainly find some common threads, but no 2 answers will probably be the same. Success could be anything from:
- Going a full day without taking a cigarette break.
- Learning how to create a Power Point presentation that will blow your boss away.
- Being the first person in your family to go to college and attain a degree.
My definition of success and yours might be completely different, or they might differ because you and I might be working on completely different things. One thing is for sure though, if you want to be ‘successful’ you need to be in the right state of mind.
So how do you get yourself mentally prepared for a new challenge?
I found myself in this position just this past week as I was about to undertake my first triathlon. I had decided to do this race only a few short weeks before it took place, and I knew that if I was going to make it through successfully (completing the entire race without taking a breather or slowing down) I would not only have to train hard physically with the little time I had, but get myself mentally prepped as well.
In order to get myself mentally ready, I did some research and came up with 4 mental exercises that helped me envision my success.
Meditation is a lot like the definition of success – it can mean a lot of different things depending on who you ask. What I did, was spend about 15 minutes a day doing simple breathing meditation after each intense workout I went through. Blocking out everything else and only concentrating on breathing deeply allows you to feel relaxed, get rid of stress, and able to ignore distractions. The more you practice this, the better your focus and concentration will be when it’s time to get, “into the zone”.
Meditation doesn’t always have to be about going out with new age music and “becoming one with nature” as you grab your energy crystals and yoga mat to head off to the nearest park. Just closing your eyes and breathing deeply works as well.
Re-framing is the ability to take a look at a problem from a different angle and see the positive side to it.
My re-framing moment came about a week before the triathlon was to take place. I had made a $100 bet with my father that I could swim across the lake (where my parents live and the lake where the triathlon took place) in under 6 minutes and 30 seconds. I lost the bet… badly, and at the moment felt pretty deflated. It was disappointing at the time, but it actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It allowed me to see weaknesses that I hadn’t really considered before while I still had time to work on them, and also gave me the sense of urgency I was in need of. I could see there was a problem, but I could also frame the problem so that I knew the solution.
After my failure in swimming across the lake, I started replaying in my mind what I did right, what I did wrong, and how I’d do it if I could do it over. When I would do my deep breath meditating, I would picture myself during the swim leg of the triathlon over and over again. I would play out all the scenarios and how I would handle them if they came up during the race. I wasn’t focused on the outcome, only the process and how I could adapt and respond to any situation effectively. I did this every day the week before the race, and it helped tremendously to keep myself calm and collected when I was in the situation for real.
Self talk is the process of repeating to yourself positive affirmations and things that will help you to complete your task at hand. There are various types, but to use another example from my triathlon experience, I used both motivational, and instructional self talk to help myself through.
Motivational came in the form of repeating to myself phrases like, “you got this”, “keep it pushing”, and “don’t stop, no breaks”.
Instructional was in the form of repeating things like, “take deeper breathes and relax”, “take longer strides”, and “keep an even pace”.
It seems kind of silly, but the more you use positive affirmations and repeat instructions to yourself, the more your positive actions become subconscious and just feel natural.
Although my most recent use of these mental exercises was for triathlon purposes, meditation, re-framing, visualization, and self-talk can help you achieve nearly every goal in life. Commit a little bit of time to these each day, and watch as your results improve.