Dear Coach Ruis,
Recently, I’ve been reading “With Winning in Mind” by Lanny Bassham. So far, I’ve discovered a variety of thinking flaws and have devised methods to prevent such thinking flaws at future tournaments. But in one chapter, he mentions that, everyday, I could write down what I want my goal to be. For example, I could write “I am the XYZ Tournament champion” everyday to boost my self-image. But wouldn’t doing this make me too focused on the outcome, which would be even more disastrous to my performance if I didn’t live up to the goal?
Good reading! Those are called affirmations and there is an extensive literature on their use, so you can find much to read about them (most recently in Archery Focus in Vol 17, No 3). Affirmations are attempts to shape the nature of the future “you.” They can be written on 3×5 cards and stashed around your house or apartment (on your dresser, on the mirror in your bathroom, on the fridge, etc.). Every time you encounter a card, you stop and read it (out loud is best). This guarantees that these positive thoughts about the “you” you want to become are reinforced several times a day. (If you want an inspiring story involving affirmations, look up Billy Mills’ story of how he got his Olympic Gold Medal in the 10,000 meter race in 1964.) Affirmations can be used during competitions. If you just shot a bad shot and one of your affirmations was “I am always calm after bad shots” repeat that one then and it will reinforce that feeling.
You are right to be wary of “outcome” affirmations. Where they come in useful is when you are on the brink of such a title (or state). There is a somewhat believable story of an archer who, the day before shooting for an Olympic Gold medal, failed in his attempt to visualize standing on the medal platform in first place and, well, guess who came in second? So outcome affirmations are great for a short period before an event in which you know you can contend in.
Prior to that I recommend affirmations that are more process-oriented, such as “I am perfectly comfortable shooting high scores,” or “I live in the gold,” or “I love competition nerves; they tell me I am close to winning.” These are more appropriate for an archer learning to win consistently.
And, like all else, they don’t work unless practiced.
“With Winning in Mind” is, in my mind, one of the best introductions into the mental game of shooting sports. I hope you get as much as I did out of the book (which has sold well over 100,000 copies, which is titanic for a sports book).