Big day confidence
Have you ever experienced growing confidence as you go through the process of training, only to find when you face a race or a big event that nerves get to you and that where excitement should be instead there is fear?
Athletes are often confident in training, confident in the taper, confident in preparing for the big day and even on the way to the event, and then as soon as you reach your venue or the boat for the big day then you face a sudden free-fall in confidence. This can happen just as you start, or in the minutes, hours or even last few days before the event.
The same can be true in the corporate world, perhaps for a big presentation or a job interview. You know you have prepared well and yet the nerves hit as you arrive at your meeting place, as you walk into the meeting room or even before you’ve got there but the big day has arrived.
Where did the confidence that you worked so hard for and deserve disappear to?
Yesterday was fine, maybe even just a few short hours ago and then suddenly………
The environment and the amount of control you feel over your situation. That’s about it. Everything else is the same. Your preparation hasn't suddenly disappeared. The pool, the sea, the track, the meeting room are still the same as they were.
Even the things you wear will be familiar - if you’re a swimmer - your swim suit, swim hat and goggles will all have been worn before. If you’re a runner, the trainers and kit will be the same. Chances are if you’re having a big meeting or interview that you’ll be wearing your favourite power outfit.
So what could it be then?
The reason we are able to feel confident in training, in our preparations and the days leading up to the big day is that we are in control.
We don’t have to face the enormity of the big event when we’re training with friends or when we’re preparing with colleagues. We are running our normal daily routines, the ones that we can now run subconsciously.
Once we find ourselves thrust into that competitive environment, at that presentation or at the start of a individual marathon event, the enormity of the situation and the threat of what it all means to you hits you squarely between the eyes!
Perhaps there are others around. If you’re preparing for a channel swim there could be others also gathering, ready to start - do you think they’re stronger, faster or better than you? What about that job interview, are there other candidates? How do they appear - perhaps they have more experience than you or have a smarter suit? Are you waiting for a mass race? How do the other participants look? Do they have a better bike than you, or the newest and best trainers? Do they look in amazing form?
Then there’s all the other people around - the officials at a competition, spectators, conference attendees, support crew etc.
It goes further than that. People who are not even physically there can impact you. Perhaps your family, your friends, your coach, your boss. What about all the people that wish you good luck and will be willing you along. What about those that you think secretly want you to fail (although that is you aiming to mind read, it’s unlikely that someone has actually told you that!).
Suddenly we’re faced with the pressure of this one moment that all that work has been leading up to and that pressure can be significant.
If this does sound familiar, you are in good company. It’s really common. And the good news is that there are things that you can do to blast through the fears and concerns and retain your well earned and normal confidence.
Here are some ideas……
Follow your normal routine
When you’ve trained and prepared for this big day, you’ve probably done a lot of things in exactly the same way:
How you pack your bag
What you eat for breakfast
If you’re training for a channel swim, what about
Do you shower before training?
Do you wear the same kit to training?
Your favourite costume
When things feel overwhelming around you, a routine in something that is familiar and you are able to focus on. It’s something that you can control.
A pre-event routine starts you off on the right track by giving you a series of familiar patterns which mean that the whole event can actually be positive and familiar. You know you’ve done everything that you can do to prepare. It’s worked before, it can work again.
Visualisation can be used to improve your technique. You can rehearse your ideal event ahead of time or use it as a way to cope with any moments when it all feels a bit difficult during the event.
If you find yourself doubting yourself, use it then. If you feel yourself being distracted by things that are not helpful, things that could lead you to underperform (other people are a good example), use your visualisation.
In the days and weeks leading up to the big day, spend 5-10 minutes per day mentally rehearsing the various elements of your big day - the preparation, the start, during, the end. Visualise the stress, the anxiety, the pressure and visualise yourself staying in the moment and focusing on the things that lead you to perform well.
Do this enough times and this too can be one of your automatic routines.
Peak performance state & anchoring
I’m sure at some point in your life you have performed at your absolute peak. That could be for a big event or in training. It feels fantastic when that happens and you will remember it well. Sometimes it would be fantastic if you could just bottle that feeling.
A peak performance state is something that you can choose to recreate at will. Furthermore, you can associate that feeling with a simple everyday action that can then be repeated at will so that you can trigger this peak performance state at will.
This is a very simple process which can be done a couple of different ways. Let me know if you would like some assistance in doing this.
Take a moment to listen to the way you talk to yourself. Are you supportive of yourself or do you put yourself down. It can be tricky to force yourself to use only positive self talk, what is often easier is to talk to yourself in the third person. It will sound less fake and more genuine if you talk to yourself like perhaps your coach would. For example, ‘Come on Emma, you’ve got this, let’s put all that training into action.’
Keep repeating the positive phrases that you need to hear in the days and weeks leading up to the big day.
The natural instinct when we get stressed is to fight or run away - the ‘flight or fight response’. Not only is this totally normal, it is what your body has been designed to do when faced with perceived danger. It is a natural safety / defence mechanism.
When we start to panic, we dump the things that we normally do and that work well for us.
So, when things get stressy around you, slow down. Take a deep breath. Then another. Relax. Close your eyes if it helps. There’s no hurry, just calm, controlled and confident.
Whilst it seems illogical to slow down during a stressful experience (after all you just want to get out of this stressy stuff as soon as you can), slowing down will give you a sense of control. The time will actually pass at the same speed regardless of whether you are calm or stressed. So calm is the better choice.
If you have found that you play the same unhelpful pattern each time you have a big event and you want help removing this unhelpful part of you, please get in touch as I can help with that.
Try these tips out in training or at work and let me know how you get on.
As always, I am here to help if you need it.
07702 814690 ~ firstname.lastname@example.org