The mental game is something that has fascinated me since the days of Chess Master Bobby Fischer. There’s a lot of Mental Management experts focusing on Dog Agility now, and those more versed than I will certainly address the topic more expertly. Instead, from the student’s perspective I thought I’d mention a few tricky bits about the mental game-
Mental Management won’t improve your timing or your front cross. Its not magic. You will still need to develop your hard skills or all the brain games in the world won’t do you much good on course.
Mental Management is about what you do, not who you are. It isn’t really about becoming a better person, although that might occur. It likewise doesn't imply that you are in any way defective if you elect to work your mental game. It's simply about creating a more powerful performance by getting you out of the way of you; there is no you!
No one ever died of Negativity. Don’t overreact to it; you’re likely to do more damage than good.
Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. It's easy to overthink Mental Management. For example, feeling a quick pang of anxiety before a run doesn’t mean you should stop competing until you can be perfectly calm! Every one of us is a work in progress.
Mental Management isn’t psychotherapy. In other words, don’t go pushing Humpty Dumpty off the wall if you aren’t reasonably sure you can put him back together again in time for the show. Take it easy on yourself. Love yourself extra during transitional work, and if your self-image is turning to Swiss cheese from all the introspection, give yourself permission to be mentally imperfect for a while longer. There are plenty of successful competitors out there who have not given a moment’s thought to what’s going on in their heads.
Find a supportive mentor. Really. Mental Management is hard work. Find someone who inspires you to keep going and feel good about your journey.
It will be interesting to come back in a year and see how much of this I still agree with, but my summary perception is this- Mental Management is just another tool in the toolbox, in the end. As with Agility itself, don't take it all too seriously.
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