A while back I’d asked all of you what topics you’d like to see on my blog this year. Today I want to talk about a great question: how do you control your emotions both in and out of the car? I thought this would be a fitting topic for the current time as we are constantly keeping our emotions in check with all of the changes going on in our world.
Emotional control takes practice, just like car control does. It’s not something that you just go out and have success at. It takes mental preparation, thinking in advance through the facets of how to persevere in stressful situations, and then being able to execute your strategies when those situations arise.
Professional athletes—professionals in general, actually—take things that are extremely difficult and make them look easy. But professionals got to where they are by having strategies to stay focused in times of extreme stress in order to achieve their best results.
Throughout the years I’ve found that my mental focus is a key component to having success within stressful racing situations, whether they be positive or negative. Positive imagery is a great psychological tool used in sports, and it has really helped me. It’s a practice that you use before a stressful situation arises. You focus on the outcome you want to achieve, including the steps for how you get there and even the feeling you’ll have in the end. Those images give you positive energy as well as a road map to help you get to your desired result. That helps keep negative thoughts away, and instead channels positive thoughts in a chronological order that will help get you to where you want to be.
These emotional challenges can come at any time, whether you’re at the start of the season and just getting into a rhythm—when you’re still a little physically and mentally rusty—or at the end of the season, when pressure is building and you’re trying to end the season on a high note. I’ve had some of the most mentally challenging races of my career at the end of a season.
Rather than focusing on the sum of its parts, breaking a situation down into individual steps can lead you to that finish line. It also helps you stay more mentally focused. This is something you can practice even while you’re away from the track. Think through an upcoming stressful situation and map the keys to success, each step of the way, to get to your desired result. Then visualize that journey in your mind.
Positive imagery can train your brain to not only start to think in that focused way regularly, but it’s also a way to help you feel a positive vibe before going into a stressful situation. That positive energy is going to give you a better opportunity for success.