How Confidence Led to Peak Performance for the Final Five

With the 2016 Rio Olympic Games wrapping up, the topic of confidence has been on my mind.  I followed the events closely of the American women and the Russians who were their primary contenders for gold.

What was the difference between the American women gymnastics team and the Russians?  Confidence was clearly a distinguishing factor that enabled our girls to take home more Olympic medals than any previous women’s gymnastics team in history.

Confidence is Not Arrogance

Confidence is sometimes mistaken for boastful pride or arrogance.  It is the opposite in fact.  Confidence is born out of humility.  Read about Aly Raisman’s comeback.  After her winning performance on the floor exercise she said; “It only took me five times to get it right.”  She knew her journey was marked by triumph as well as struggle.  But in the end she put herself in the right frame of mind to win.

Confidence is Knowing Who You are

Aly Raisman also knows who she and her teammates are.  As team captain she inspired them to remember their identity and the work they have already done.  Upon entering the arena she advised her teammates to be confident.

(paraphrase)

“We are the best gymnasts in the world, let’s carry ourselves that way.  Let’s not be nervous or fearful.”  They had done the work of preparation and they knew their identity.  Then they performed consistent with their beliefs.

Auto Pilot & Muscle Memory

In several interviews following her winning performances Simone Biles made reference to her mindset.   Most of the time it is like being on auto pilot.  These gymnasts had done these routines many times before.  Their bodies had tremendous muscle memory.  So in times of intense pressure Simone remembered that her body knew what to do.

Knowing that your body knows what to do can bring great comfort to athletes who struggle with performance anxiety.

I can recall my first skating competition.  The way I dealt with nerves was I reminded myself that my body knew what to do.  I had run that program many times so my body knew it well.   I simply focused on each element, one at a time and what I needed to do to make that element work.  Focusing on each element also took my mind off the fact that a lot of people were watching me including judges.

Confidence is Grown By Decision

In another area of life, my daughter started high school last week.  Coming from a small rural school to a large school with over 1000 students was a big change for her.

Instead of shrinking in fear she decided to become a master connector.  She decided at her Orientation day to seek out the shy kids and make friends with them.  She continued to do this her first week of school.  Now she has established herself as the friendly, smart and gregarious new freshmen.

We can literally decide to be confident and caring.  If we want to.

Confidence Is Grown By What We Hear

Faith comes by hearing.  What you tell a child they will usually believe.  If you tell a child she is shy she will live out behaviors that are consistent with that trait.  If you tell a child she makes friends easily she will behave according your expectation of her.

What we tell ourselves also builds confidence or destroys it.  Part II will address this subject.  Stay tuned!