PRACTICE MAKES PERMANENT
By Kemmie Ryan
By Kemmie Ryan
In a highly anticipated conference matchup, the two football rivals were locked in a standoff—neither team able to hold the advantage for more than a moment. As the seconds wound down, the offense brought on their seasoned kicker. With five seconds on the clock and the crowd giving him their full attention and voices, the kicker sent the football straight through the uprights from the 35-yard line, clinching the win.
How did this kicker withstand the immense pressure to perform? Did he use the noise to his advantage? Did he heighten his focus? Was he just “lucky?”
In fact, it’s far more likely that the reason he succeeded amidst so many mental, physical, and emotional distractions is because he simply and clearly remembered how.
That’s right. It all comes down to muscle memory because what you practice becomes permanent.
Muscle memory impacts more than just your body. Our brains store habits and automatic responses, too. That’s actually one of the brain’s key functions—it’s brilliant at finding more efficient ways to get things done so it can conserve energy, focus, and decision-making power.
For better or for worse, you’re constantly strengthening your mind’s muscle memory. Every time you check your email first thing in the morning, drive a familiar route to work, or sip coffee while you scroll the internet—without really thinking or actively choosing—you’re experiencing mental muscle memory in action.
When these habits and rituals are positive and goalaligned, this muscle memory can be one of the most powerful ways athletes and high-achievers can sustainably perform at a high level—almost on autopilot.
When this “programming” is negative, however, it can be one of the brain’s biggest roadblocks to success, and also the fastest pathway to what I call “The Red Zone,” the psychological state that makes us overly focused on the negative and overwhelmed by stress and pressure. It looks like irritation, frustration, and critical or controlling behavior. And it feels horrible.
At EleVive, my team and I help athletes optimize their practice, elevate their performance, and avoid The Red Zone through transformative mindset work. And there are three specific mindset responses and patterns we coach our clients to intentionally practice every single day:
Start strong with powerful morning routines.
Practice good wake-up habits like drinking a glass of water, going for a walk around the block, or setting (and writing down!) a positive intention for the day. That’s the kind of muscle memory that really serves you.
Engage your subconscious mind for restful, helpful sleep.
Our subconscious mind is the most receptive first thing in the morning and just as we’re getting ready to fall asleep. If you’ve ever watched a scary movie right before bed, then dreamt about it all night long, you know just how powerful this principle can be!
Make the most of these impressionable times by being mindful of what you listen, watch, and think about right before you go to bed and right as you wake up. Get in the habit of meditating, maintaining a calm environment, and focusing on what’s going well—instead of all that went or is going wrong. You’ll be surprised at how powerful this can be!
Check your setbacks—and your responses to them.
We all have a near-automatic response pattern when things go wrong. Do you tend to blame others—or yourself? Do you focus on what you have—or what’s missing? Do you quickly spiral—or do you slow down?
As you become aware of your natural setback response, begin to practice more positive ones. Acknowledge that times are tough, but you can handle anything that comes your way. Identify the positives and find what’s still working for you. Take a slow, deep breath.
In everything you do, the more you replace negative responses and rhythms with resilient, empowered ones, the stronger your mindset—and your performance—becomes.
Visit elevive.com to learn more about how our neuroscientific principles and mindset coaching can help athletes get more of their head in the game.