Identity and Performance

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Have you ever stopped to think about how athletic performance fits in with your identity? How does athletics shape your attitude and influence how you make decisions on a daily basis? Give it some consideration! Do you see yourself as someone who is a little competitive or an athletic warrior?  Are you performance driven or do you use athletic opportunities to practice perseverance through challenge? Maybe athletics is just a part of a healthy life style and it is enjoyable.

Clarifying how athletics shapes your identity can be helpful in many ways. The clearer your understanding of who you wish to be, the more you can tap into that identity strength during moments of challenge (e.g. Last big hill and I am someone who never gives up…trying harder!) Acting in those moments and being focused improves performance and strengthens that characteristic of your identity. 

Positive self-talk is a very powerful tool. Positive self-talk is that inner dialogue we have that helps us think more precisely about what we are trying to achieve in the moment. It gives us direction and helps to distract from unproductive thoughts. More technically, “it is an internal dialogue in which the individual interprets his/her thoughts and feelings, regulates and alters evaluation and convictions, and gives themselves direction and support” (Hardy et. al., 2001).

For example, if your identity is one of being a challenge seeker you use self-talk to focus your energy on overcoming obstacles and avoid the distraction of worrying about comparisons with other people in moments of great athletic challenge. You may remind yourself the goal is taking on the challenge in the moment, not being the first to cross the finish line. The narrowing of the focus will allow you to concentrate your mental energy where it serves you best at a given time. 

You can design specific self-talk phrases ahead of time to use during your athletic performance. “I am” statements are helpful for strengthening motivation and clarifying your identity. Here are a few examples, “I am someone who pushes through and finds success” “I am someone who distinguishes him/herself by making the extra effort”, “I am master of my body and mind”, “I am loving this challenge”. Write these down and then practice using the phrases when you hit a tough moment. Your focus will raise your motivation, help you to give a better effort, and help strengthen your identity. You’ll find that using these statements throughout the day will strengthen your performance in other areas as well.

Have Fun!

About the Author: Dr. Eric Bergreen, an NCAA champion, four time All-American, and former team captain at UCLA, has a doctorate in psychology and specialization in sport/performance psychology and derives great enjoyment out of teaching people how to find the best part of themselves, improve their performance, and feel the pride of their success.

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