The Mindful Athlete

By Engr. Carlos V. Cornejo

If you are the type that has a tendency to choke or get anxious during crucial moments of a game or while giving a speech or report, this book, “The Mindful Athlete: The Secrets to Pure Performance” by George Mumford is for you.  The book tells the story of snowboarder Shaun White who experienced pure performance while executing two inverted flips and rotating three and a half times over an icy snow‐packed halfpipe in the 2010 Winter Olympics. White was asked what he was thinking during the move, and he said, “At that point, you’re really not thinking. You’re just letting it happen. It’s a mixture of being completely focused then slightly not caring.”

George Mumford has taught mindfulness to elite athletes for decades. Mumford has uncovered the secrets to pure performance. You can use these secrets to find “the zone” during your next athletic competition or work presentation and brush off those fears of failure.  Here’s his four-step formula:

Crystal-Clear Intention

While in a relaxed and positive mental state, see the outcome you want in your mind’s eye and feel the movements in your body. Believe with 100% certainty your intended outcome will happen.  This is visualizing what you are going to do or how you are supposed to perform in front of a crowd or audience.

Complete Trust

After having that crystal-clear intention, entrust that visualization of yourself to your subconscious.  For religious people they would add God into this.  The author would term this technique as “Trusting a force beyond your comprehension”.  He says, “Trusting a force beyond your comprehension is like a parent who needs to watch their child perform on stage during a school play. The parent helped the child to prepare, but now they need to trust the child to perform without further instruction. Sadly, most of us are like a parent who yells instructions from the audience and runs onstage to direct the play.” You basically say to yourself, “I have prepared for this and now I let my subconscious (and God) take over in performing my craft.”

Breathe Well

Amit Ray once said, “If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.” Don’t control your breathing, just let it go.  By simply breathing well your autonomic system will get optimized and generate a feeling of relaxed concentration.

Centered Mindfulness

Imagine the eye of a storm, that calm, quiet blue center of the storm. No matter how intense the storm gets, that quiet center remains. “We all have this quiet center within us,” Mumford says.

A championship athlete goes to their quiet center and watches their performance unfold without conscious interference. It’s as if their conscious ego‐mind, who typically wants to control the situation, sits back in a comfortable chair and watches the body perform flawlessly. If you deliver a presentation while watching from your calm center space (your eye of the storm), the performance will seem effortless, and you’ll be free of that voice in your head reminding you what to say or should do.

The goal of every performance is to remain in your calm center space and be mindful of your actions.  As Jon Kabat-Zinn would say, “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, nonjudgmentally, as if your life depended on it.”