Speed Secrets: Competition Versus Performance

By Ross Bentley

September 06, 2017

By the very definition of the word “competitor,” we compete against others. However, if your focus is on competing, you lessen your chances of performing well. When you focus on your performance, you increase your chances of performing well, and therefore, of winning. Ironic, isn't it? Perhaps then, instead of “competitors,” we should consider ourselves “performers.”

Focus on your performance, your execution, rather than the result. Paradoxically, your best results will come when you are least concerned with them – when you focus on your performance. This may be one of the most difficult “inner” concepts to accept. After all, racing cars is all about competition – beating the competition. And yet, when you detach yourself from the results, you will reduce your stress level, become more relaxed, your brain integrated – you will be “in the flow” – and the results will take care of themselves.

If you think about it, you really can’t control what your competition does, anyway. You have very little direct influence on them. All you can do is control your own performance. So, focus on what you can control, not what you can’t.

Research has actually shown that athletes focused on their own performance - their technique - have sharper vision and quicker reflexes than athletes focused on their results.

Don't worry about what other people say. Don't compare yourself to others. Compare yourself with your past performance, and strive to improve, no matter how you compare to the competition. Of all the drivers I've coached through the years, it's the ones who are constantly looking at and comparing themselves to their competition that struggle the most. The drivers who focus on themselves and don't worry about anyone else, are the ones who win most often.

Only judge or evaluate yourself based upon what you've done - your performance - not on what other people say or think. Do what you think is right for you to achieve the goals you've set for yourself. Only you know what is right for you.

Winners focus on themselves today - in the present. They spend very little time, if at all, looking at or talking about what they did or achieved in the past; or what they will do in the future. They look at the past only to learn from and improve. And yes, they have short and long-term goals, but they know it is today's performance that will enable them to achieve these goals.

It is when you are totally focused on the task at hand - in the present - and not on what has or will happen, that you most effectively activate your subconscious performance programs.

Expectations - thinking about a particular lap time, or a qualifying or race finish position - can really limit your performance. Often, with expectations, you are so focused on the outcome, the result, that it distracts you from the moment, from your technique – and ultimately, from your performance.

When you have no expectations, you have no limits, no preconceived ideas or thoughts to un-focus your mind. With expectations, you have pressure, stress and anxiety that will negatively effect your performance. Plus, you will rarely ever exceed your expectations.

With many of the race drivers I coach, one of the first things we do is take the stopwatch right out of the equation. I have the driver just go out and drive, without thinking about or worrying about their lap times – their expectations. After all, why do you really care what your lap times are? If you turn a certain lap time, are you going to stop working at going even faster? I hope not! One of your objectives should be to always go faster.

Now, I know what you may be thinking: your lap times are a measurement, a comparison with your competition. The point is, though, you may be focusing too much on measuring and comparing yourself with the competition - the result. In other words, if you put that much focus and attention on your own performance you may be so far ahead of the competition that there is no need to compare.

As I said, one of your objectives should be to always go faster. Unfortunately, many drivers at that stage try to go faster. The result is rarely what the driver wants. Trying rarely works. Instead, don’t force it. Relax, and just let it happen, focusing on your performance.

Either do something, or don’t do something – there is no point in trying to do something. By the very definition of the word, trying gives you a way out, an excuse. Trying means “to attempt.” To me, that doesn’t sound very positive. It doesn’t to your brain either. The second you try, you become tense. The second you become tense, your mental performance suffers.

As you know, driving a race car well – performing at your own 100 percent - comes from driving subconsciously. It comes from your “program” in your brain. Trying to drive fast is just like trying to make a computer with no software do something. It just isn’t going to happen. Trying is driving consciously. Instead, focus on giving your bio-computer (brain) more input. Focus on what you can see, feel and hear; become aware; and visualize the act of driving.

Have you ever noticed how practically every great athletic performance looks almost easy – effortless, even? Great performances, and therefore the best results, are always achieved when the right amount of effort is used in the right places. This right amount of effort is usually less than you think necessary. The less unnecessary effort you spend, the more successful you will be. The key is to use appropriate effort - economy of movement.

Doing the wrong thing with more effort rarely results in a good performance. Great race drivers use less effort to produce great performances, and great results. The more intense the competition, the more they relax and just let it happen.

Think back to some of your great performances in your life, whether in a sport or anything else. Were you tense, and aggressively trying – forcing yourself to perform well? Or, were you relaxed, calm, focussed, assertive, and simply doing what seemed to come naturally? I bet you were in the latter mode, not even aware that you were trusting your subconscious programs to perform.

Again, focus on what you can control. Focus on what you want. Focus on where you want to go. Focus on the moment – your execution, your form, your technique - rather than on how much more there is to go, how much faster you need to go, or what position you are in.

Speed Secret: Focus on your own performance.

Ross Bentley

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