Athletes say they’ve got a much better chance of controlling pressure situations when they are confident and use positive thinking. The biggest thing is to have the belief that you can win every tournament going in, said golfer Tiger Woods. A lot of guys don’t have that. (Jack) Nicklaus had it. He felt he was going to beat everybody Under pressure, you win with your mind.
It’s a common trait among not only athletes but all human beings to worry about situations, says Richard Earle, director of the National Institute of Stress in Canada and a former weightlifter. Studies show that people have about 66,000 thoughts every day. And 70-80 percent of those thoughts are negative, Earle says. It’s the people who think positively about stressful events who are the most successful.
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Doubt has been studied less than anxiety and fear, according to W. Timothy Gallwey, a golf coach, author, and peak performance teacher with major corporations. Doubt and fear are definitely friends, perhaps even relatives, but they are not twins, he said. We often experience fear in the presence of a real or imagined threat that is, when we are vulnerable to harm or imagine we are but we do not feel anxiety if we do not first doubt our ability to sink (a putt). If we can lessen our selfdoubt, our fear automatically wanes.
Self-doubt interferes with performance, says Lawrence L. Kerns, a Barrington, Illinois, physician affiliated with the Columbia-Woodland Hospital who specializes in behavioral and mind-body medicine and author of The Conscious Athlete. That sense of supreme confidence serves athletes well. Adds Andrew Lovy, chairman of the psychiatric department at Columbia Olympia Fields Osteopathic Hospital in Olympia Fields, Illinois:
Once athletes have that confidence, they don’t feel the pressure of the game. They consider that this is the epitome of what they’ve practiced for. This is the reason they’ve developed their skills The physical mastery of a skill, the practice, has to come first. Without that, ifs all desire. And there are a lot of wannabes out there who haven’t paid their dues.
But those who have paid their dues approach stressful situations with bravado. All I know is that when I’m batting, I believe I’m the best batsman in the world, that bowlers are second class, that I’m in total control, said ricketeer Desmond Haynes. If I feel negative at any point, I stop the bowler and make him wait for me, just to reassert that control.
While on his way to winning the gold medal in the Olympic decathlon in 1976, American Bruce Jenner said: I started to feel there was nothing I couldn’t do if I had to. It was a feeling of awesome power, except that I was in awe of myself . I was rising above myself, doing things I had no right to be doing.