Practice is for developing skills; competition is for unleashing them.
Why do we train?
The purpose of training is to increase our skill sets. We don’t go into a practice with the objective to “win today.” Instead we focus on improving a few important tasks that will help us build and nurture skill sets. We focus on the details, and practice deliberately.
Developing skills requires conscious effort to encode skills into our subconscious mind. We use our conscious mind to deliberately think about and preform a specific task. To develop the task into a skill we need to perform the task over and over until it becomes engrained into our subconscious. We can tell when this happens because the task will begin to feel natural to us.
Practice makes permanent
What we do becomes easier to repeat in the future, whether the behavior is desirable or not. If we practice an inefficient skill, we will be laking in our performance when the pressure is on. The more we perform a difficult task, the task itself does not change, but our ability to perform it does. Practice makes permanent. That is why we need to be deliberate with our training.
To assure we are acquiring the right skills we need to be deliberate in our practice. We need to have each training session focused on improving performance. We need feedback on our performance. We need reach for objectives that are just beyond our reach. And we need to train over and over with a high level of repetition.
When the pressure is on
The purpose of performance under pressure is to let the skills we have developed in our subconscious mind through training to come out when they are needed. We should never go into a competition or an important performance session with the objective to develop skills. The time for training is past. The important thing when the pressure is on is to focus on adapting to the moment and making the right decisions. We need to let our conscious mind be alert and react to the moment while our subconscious takes care of the technical side of performance.
To unleash our skills from the subconscious we need to have confidence. Not just self confidence, but confidence in natural laws—general confidence. So much of what we do in life is not determined by us, but by the laws of nature that surround us. We have to trust that the skills we developed in training will work in the real world, and we have to trust that if we make the right decisions the laws of nature will aid us in our performance.
We are only as good as the decisions we make. High performance is dependent on making the best decisions in the moment. When we have developed the critical skill sets in our subconscious that are needed when the pressure is on, our conscious mind is free to focus on making the best decisions at the present moment.
Remember, when it comes to high performance, practice is for acquiring the skills that are needed when the pressure is on. Competition is for unleashing them.
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