Calling on his incredible career as an Olympic gold medal-winning athlete, business mentor and now Elite Performance Coach at BISS Puxi, Marlon Devonish shares his tips for achieving elite performance and guidance on maintaining mental wellbeing and positivity in this A-Z series.
Over 20 years of competing against the very best in athletics I was always striving to improve. In just 10 seconds I needed to explode into life, to be in control, to push myself to the limits and yet be completely relaxed.
In this scenario, you don’t have time to think. All of this must happen at a subconscious level and must be executed with supreme control and confidence. So, how do we express and build true confidence?
It may seem old fashioned but, there is no substitute for practice. Every successful person I have met in sport, in business and in education has worked hard. All elite performers practice with a very clearly defined goal in their mind. The key is: train with the same mentality that you wish to bring to a competition or an exam. The clearer and bigger the goal is, the more effective it can be in channelling your practice time into positive results. As you approach the starting blocks, an important meeting or an exam, you want to feel that you have prepared well and have a clear, defined goal in your mind.
Nerves are a normal reaction to stressful situations. In fact, nervousness channelled in the correct way can aid your body and mind in delivering peak performance.
One step I took that made a big difference to my performance was to surrender to my nerves. My coach Dan Pfaff told me this and it has resonated with me ever since. By acknowledging your nerves and accepting them, you can use them to your advantage. If you try and fight, ignore or suppress nervousness, it fuels the fire. Ask yourself: what is the positive intention of this nervousness? Then you can embrace it and channel it for your own benefit.
Remember your nervousness only exists because the situation matters to you.
With the nerves, the anticipation, the opinions and the voices around a race, it can be easy to get distracted. Sitting in the call up room just before the race, boxed in with your competitors and sensing the anticipation of those outside and within the camp, all sorts of ideas can enter your mind.
What is happening on the outside is not important, the only important thing is how you execute your own plan. By focusing on you, you can assume complete control of everything that is within your sphere of influence. You can acknowledge elements outside of your control, but your focus must be on what you want to achieve in that moment. With complete dedication to your own plan, you can focus on what you want to achieve and how you are going to achieve it.
It’s natural for an athlete to take care of their body. We go to extraordinary lengths to make sure we are in peak physical condition. However, it is imperative that we are in peak condition mentally and spiritually too.
In this respect there are real parallels between peak performers in sport, in business and in education. At BISS Puxi, the teachers and I collaborate with a great number of academically gifted students and I am often amazed at how, at such a young age, they have understood a great balance between health, study, fitness and many other aspects of their life. This holistic approach sets them up well for a great future.
All the great sports people use visualisation as a tool to perform well. Increasingly, business executives and education providers are using similar techniques to excel through challenges. In athletics, I would create a vivid picture using all the senses, the smell of the track, the sound of the crowd, the feeling of the race, the taste of the sweat mixed with my favourite energy drink, it all had to be vivid. It had to be real.
The mind cannot tell the difference between an imagined and a real experience which is why visualisation is so powerful. I would visualise different scenarios from lane one to lane eight, creating confidence and success in my mind.
Take a challenging situation you know you will face and with a positive mindset visualise what you can see, hear, feel and smell. The important thing to remember is to see yourself winning or doing it successfully. Why not give it a try right now and see how it works for you.
We hope you enjoyed this blog! Stay tuned next week for part four of the series: D is for Decision Making
Want to see Marlon in action with students at BISS Puxi? Check out his video here.