Mental Game


The other day, a college coach who was visiting GPC asked me what I thought was the most important mental game skill. Regardless of your personal beliefs, in the field of Sports Psychology, there is one psychological skill that seems to rise above all others in terms of impact on performance, and that’s confidence. If you have confidence, you tend to perform better than if you don’t. The term confidence is difficult to define and in the literature is a direct descendant of American Psychologist Albert Bandura’s notion of self-efficacy

Bandura defined self-efficacy as an individual’s belief in his or her capacity to execute behaviors necessary to produce specific performance attainments (Bandura, 1977, 1986, 1997). Bandura also distinguished between two types of self-efficacy: (1) a belief in yourself and (2) a belief in your abilities. In order for your performance to truly benefit from self-efficacy, or confidence, you need both. A belief in yourself but not in your abilities leads to overconfidence and a belief in your abilities but not in yourself leads to self-doubt. 

So, how do we develop both a belief in ourselves and our abilities? According to Bandura, there are four important ways to develop these beliefs:

  1. Mastery of experience – The most effective way of developing confidence is through mastery experiences. There is no short-cut in mastery experiences. They require effort, hard work, skill building, patience, and most importantly, the experience of overcoming obstacles. It is knowing you can do difficult things and can come out stronger on the other side that gives birth to self-confidence.

  1. Social modeling/Vicarious Experiences –  Another key to developing confidence is to surround yourself with likeminded people. By watching others accomplish goals similar to our own pushes us and inspires us to do the same thus strengthening our own beliefs that we are capable of achieving what we put our minds to.

  1. Social influence – It’s not only helpful to surround yourself with likeminded people, but when those same people share their belief in you to achieve your goals, our beliefs in ourselves become even stronger.

  1. Mood and Physiological States – How we feel mentally and physically plays a critical role in our experience of self-confidence. Not surprisingly, a positive mood enhances perceived self-efficacy, whereas a depressed mood diminishes it. This holds true for physiological states as well. The more stressed you are, the less self-belief you have. By increasing your awareness of your mind and body, you can recognize when you are not in an optimal state for performing and with a little practice in self-regulation can dial up an internal experience more conducive to self-belief.

Although developing confidence requires practice and patience, putting yourself in an environment that is designed to nurture it, will help turbo charge you growth. Doing this on your own presents a host of obstacles, which can lead to frustration, disappointment, and unfulfilled goals. But why do it on your own when the Golf Performance Center has already set up the environment for you? All you need to do is show up!

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