Do you listen to your gut feeling?
Competing to win is more than physical. Your mental game needs to be as strong, if not stronger, when you’re seeking to beat the competition. Laser focus, tenacity and drive combined with strength, endurance and speed are the basics for champion athletes. Learning to trust your gut feeling is an advanced mental toughness move.
Preparing to compete follows a systematic, logical plan. There’s a science for athletes to become competition ready. Your gut feeling is the opposite of logic. It’s an awareness which may go against the logical move.
Different names, same game
Whether you call it a gut feeling, a hunch, ESP, sense of knowing, or a thought which suddenly pops into your mind, are all one and the same. Intuition. You’ve already experienced a gut feeling. Now let’s develop it so it works for you when you’re under pressure.
An athlete’s performance skyrockets when by tuning in instead of tuning out. That’s because our brains subconsciously absorb tons more information than you realize. There’s a specific way athletes learn, practice and perform.
The path to mastery
Intuition. Early in the game, as a newbie, your instincts kick in as you’re learning the ins and outs of your sport.
Learning. It’s an ongoing phase as you progress from newbie to mastery.
Mastery. Mastery is achieved when you’ve internalized the basic elements, grasped the theories and then put your personal spin on it. It’s a fine blend of practice and innovation.
Athletes struggling with low confidence and perfectionism are less likely to listen to their gut feeling. Instead they’ll play it safe, possibly holding themselves back, to avoid risk of failure. Conversely, highly driven athletes seeking performance breakthroughs will take risks beyond what’s acceptable.
Connecting the dots
Athletic training, continued education and personal experience all play a part to develop your intuition. So that’s how your instincts work with your logical mind. Your gut feelings are connected to your subconscious. It’s similar to viewing a situation from a bird’s eye view. The pull to change directions may not make sense at the moment when you’re standing in the thick of things at ground level.
Quick decisive action is required during these moments. Thinking through the pros and cons works against you. The longer you ponder the choice, the less likely you are to take action. Eventually, you’ll talk yourself out of it since it lacks logic. By then the moment of opportunity had disappeared.
Six moments when it’s best to trust your gut feeling:
- Fast response situations
- Unexpected change
- High pressure situations without a clear choice
- Conflicting options
- No prior experience available
- To improvise in tough situations
Thoughts distract your intuition. Thinking too much during high pressure moments works against you. High performing athletes trust their first hunch. Mentally running through all the doubts, fears or risks only slows you down.
Trust your gut feeling
Consider all the countless hours spent training. Your athletic trainer and coach worked with you to be competition ready. Trust yourself when your instincts guide you in a slightly different direction. Developing your intuition is similar to gaining muscle. It’s developed through repeated use and pushing to failure.
Observing means tuning into the things around you as well as what’s going on within you. Hunches and gut feelings deserve your attention. Consider them as an internal guidance system. Observation is a concentration exercise.
Here’s how to follow your gut feeling.
- Preparation. Experience, training and ongoing education develop the foundation.
- Incubation. You’ll feel yourself being pulled in an unplanned direction.
- Perspiration. A tug of war when you’re logic and gut are pulling you in opposite directions.
- Revelation. The moment of decision.
- Production. Acting on your inspiration.
Spending too much time in your head creates a lot of noise. Self talk, especially when it’s negative, messes with your focus. Your thoughts slow you down. Performing your best means your mental game needs to be as strong, if not stronger, than your physical game. Even if you’re constantly battling with your inner critic, learning presence of mind is possible.
4 Functions of our mind
Carl Jung, a famous psychologist, stated that intuition, sensation, thinking and feeling are four major functions of our minds. Grasping the importance of intuition is difficult for athletes who prefer systems and order since it’s not based upon logic or reason.
Champion athletes trust their gut feelings. Does it work all the time? Absolutely not! Nothing in sports is a sure thing. Sometimes you’ll make mistakes. Maybe you’ll misinterpret the information. Or you lacked information. But you can learn from those mistakes, gain insight from them and improve the process. Lots of time and energy will be saved by following your gut feeling.
Let’s learn from one another. Post any tips you’ve used to strengthen your intuition. Share your stories about a time when you went with your gut feelings.
Challenge: Tune into your gut feelings and hunches. Notice the fleeting thoughts which appear before your logical mind takes over. Consider previous times when you regretted not following your hunch. Take a moment to visualize going with your gut feeling. How would things have turned out differently? Next time, choose to follow your hunch before your mind clutters with logical thoughts.