Over the past few years, I’ve consistently seen athletes who felt really challenged by pre-race, or pre “event” (work/life, etc.) anxiety levels end up having a tough time getting the most out of themselves during competition. By reframing that anxiety into excitement, they were able to feel far more free on race day, and perform better.
But one other key point seems to really cement that reframing approach. This is a concept I first read in 1999, and which really altered my view (for the better) of what competitive sport was. Psychologists Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi and Susan Jackson described in their book, Flow in Sports, that the term competition came from the Latin “Con Petire” meaning: “to search together”. Csikszentmihalyi and Jackson go on to discuss how competition then, is not about grading yourself or vanquishing/beating others. At its root, competition is about searching out your best through the help of your peers!
When we are reminded of this key point, we can clear a lot of the anxiety which is generated through the perception that our race times/placings create our value as an athlete. Likewise, we are reminded that sport is about seeking, growing and personal evolution. We can recognize how important it is to hold our competition with gratitude – without them, we would not grow as much!
If you feel that you experience a level of anxiety before races or other performances, certainly start out by reframing that emotion into excitement for the event… But then further that, by remembering that at its root, sport is about growth. That shift in thinking will improve your enjoyment of sport and will free you up to perform your best!