There are going to be difficult times when it comes to performance and performance demands. For the athlete, it is the media and the fans. Fighting back the words the negative thoughts can be difficult for most people. For the athlete, they are surrounded by these negative words and it could possibly hinder their performance. The way to let these thoughts and words pass is to practice gap training.
Gap training is the task of focusing on staying in between the thoughts. There is a small gap between our thoughts where our minds are not thinking about anything. People inadvertently find this gap when they are focused on a task without interruption. Watching a TV show, listening to a motivational speaker, etc. In these moments, people are focused on the task and what they need to do to execute this task. The trick to making yourself shut off the thoughts and literally let them go in one ear and out the other. There are three steps to this process; acknowledge, let go, move on.
Let’s say you are on a break-away on the ice for your hockey team. Your eyes are focusing on the goaltender and net before you. Your brain is processing information, but suddenly the thought of ‘don’t miss’ or ‘don’t screw this up’ crosses your mind and you start second-guessing yourself. This moment is the perfect time to say, ‘I hear you’, let it go, and focus back on the goal-scoring opportunity. Practice this exercise daily. Take some time to focus on a task and when a non-relevant thought enters your mind, acknowledge it, let it go, and focus back on your task. How do I acknowledge it, simply say something like ‘okay, thanks’ and let it go so that you can focus on your task.
A few examples of how my clients do not let the thoughts enter their mind imagine yourself standing between your thoughts with your arms extended out to your side as to say ‘stop’. This stops the disruption of the gap because you are not letting anything enter this gap. Another client pictured railroad crossing arms going down and stopping traffic. Cross-traffic are the thoughts while the train is her tennis match. Acknowledge the thought, let it go, and continue your task. You will find an empty mind leads to better success as all of your energy is focused on one task.