The Mental Approach


By Eric Ah-Yuen

The conscious & subconscious mind

What is the Mental Approach?
Mental Approach to competition is a broad spectrum of concepts and can have a plethora of meanings and ideologies. In this article, the focus relates to a golf athlete who is able to control the mental aspect of their performance before and during the intensity of a competition. The goal of the mental approach is to be able to repeat a system where the athlete is full of confidence, have hardly any thoughts and in complete control every time they compete. The question is how do we develop that system and make it repeatable when it’s time to play?
Through my many years of experience and competing at a World Class level, I have talked with some of the World’s best athletes. I have interviewed World and Olympic Champions and asked them what they
were thinking when they were performing at their best. Interestingly, most of them say their minds were completely clear and they were just able to focus on the task at hand. They mentioned that they were
thinking of almost nothing or very little while winning their event. This made absolutely perfect sense to me!
When I look back the year I won the World Championships in Toronto, Canada, I remember walking in the ring being so calm and not thinking of it being a gold medal match. I had complete confidence in myself and was just focused on the task at hand with complete mental peace. It is difficult not to think about winning the Gold Medal Match at a big event like the World Championships, especially when you have already fought your way through 5 matches. I obviously wanted it so bad but I remember repeating to myself to stay in the moment and I felt re-assured to know that I did everything possible to make it there. I was in the best shape and my techniques were just as solid as the top 10 guys in the World. I felt that my training plan was on the exact schedule set out and my diet, nutrition, rest and recovery were on exact points.
I remember being so focus in the ring that I was hearing the sound of me breathing in and out and my pads clashing with my opponent’s every time we hit. After the match was over, I remember doing an interview and I could not hear what the reporter was trying to ask me as the spectators were so loud and still cheering for me as I was a Canadian winning a gold medal on home turf territory. He asked me what was I thinking in the ring and if the boisterous crowd helped me through my matches. I remember telling him that I did not even hear the crowd and I was very confident and calm throughout my process. I was thinking of very little at the time and everything came very natural in a slow motion kind of way.
All this makes complete sense as when the conscious mind is quiet; the subconscious mind works at its best. We need to perform subconsciously in big competitions. Too often when we think about winning while performing, we become too focus on the outcome instead of performance oriented and normally over trying is the end result. Over trying has caused more good competitors to lose competitions than any other form of mental error.
The effect that happened was the conscious mind was in complete synchronization with the subconscious mind. When this happens, the flow, energy and skills set becomes automatic.

The Conscious Mind

The Conscious Mind plays a very important role in our success. It is your awareness at the present moment. We are aware of our environment, our breathing, smell, taste or the chair that we are currently sitting on. It is what you picture and what you are seeing. The conscious mind plays a role in everything you do and your success in competitions.
First of all we have to understand what we want to win. Winning can come into multiple forms and shapes and it’s how we base our goals consciously. Once we have that goal, we set out our plans, priorities and timelines in a conscious manner. We start to believe and become what we picture.

The Subconscious Mind

The Subconscious Mind is the driving force for success and performance. Whenever you hear of an athlete mentioning they were in a zone, it was usually being accomplish in the subconscious mind without much thought. When we are in training and practicing, all the skills are repeated and learnt in the conscious mind and being stored subconsciously mentally. It is the conscious mind that drives the subconscious mind until the skill becomes natural and flowing. Once the skill is mastered, the subconscious completely takes over. As an athlete, you want to compete in that subconscious state all the time since there are usually so many moving parts in our conscious mind that it becomes almost impossible to think of them all. Hence this is why the proper training and technical skills is so important during practice, when it’s time to compete you want all the movements to come out very naturally without much thought and your body becomes on auto pilot.

The progression of skills during your training phase also play an important role in order to master what you are trying to accomplish mentally to restore that balance.

In conclusion, in order to have great performances as an athlete, the conscious mind triggers the subconscious mind to activate. As the conscious mind is assessing the environment, goals and solutions, the subconscious automatically goes in auto pilot to start performing. The goal is to be able to keep this balance and establish the conscious-subconscious connection. When you are well balanced, you will perform well and the flow will be effortless.