Courtesy: Rudo Loock
In our hectic everyday lives, we tend to be so rushed that we make so many unconscious decisions. For example, we all have our specific morning routines from the moment we get out of bed. You get up, make yourself a cup of coffee, fill your bowl with cereal, shower, get dressed, brush your teeth, and so on. These are all decisions you’ve made unconsciously. You see, unconscious decision-making is a product of routine. These are the things that have become part of our everyday lives.
However, when we begin to think about our decisions consciously, our lives begin to change in ways we could never imagine. This is a skill I have been trying to master for many years and still to this very day.
Why is deliberate decision-making critical?
As athletes, we tend to get stuck in a daily routine. Sleep, practice, eat, repeat. This never-ending cycle results in mental exhaustion and growing tired of the very thing we have devoted our lives to. I have been guilty of being stuck in a routine when it came to swimming. I used to “go with the flow,” hoping I would improve.
Life is too valuable to go with the flow. Making conscious decisions is one thing that will dramatically improve your way of living and, as a result, your overall performance. The most important thing is that it helps us learn more about ourselves. Why is this important?
When you know every single detail about yourself, it allows you to grow. It will enable you to answer questions about yourself that you usually wouldn’t be able to. For example, you might be wondering why you are not performing up to your usual caliber. Most people might think that they aren’t good enough anymore to compete the way they used to.
However, when you know your body, you know where you are at in the season and where you should be. You know that even though you are not performing up to standard now, you will be at the end of the season when it matters. Deliberate decision-making is a skill that you can master. It just takes a little practice.
How do you make deliberate decisions?
My senior year of college was the first time in my life when I focused on every little detail. From the minute I woke up to the very second I went to bed, I was conscious of every decision. I was more focused than ever before. I focused on what I was doing in practice, focusing on every detail of my stroke. For the first time, I was not only physically drained after practice but also mentally drained (in a good way, of course).
The point is not to focus on the big picture. That is something you keep in the back of your mind. The point of making deliberate decisions is to focus on all the little details that most people miss. Break it down. For example, what are you eating at which times of the day? Why are you eating it? Is it for performance, or is it for recovery?
One thing to look out for is not to try to tackle too much detail at once. This can lead to the feeling of being highly overwhelmed, which could potentially lead to giving up. Take it one day at a time. Focus on one thing at your next practice which you could improve on and nothing else. This is how we make deliberate decisions.
How does deliberate decision-making help your performance?
At the end of the day, it’s not always the person who works the hardest during practice getting the medal. Yes, physical work is a vital aspect of sport. However, it has to be paired with focus. You can be the hardest worker on your team, but you will eventually reach a plateau if you only go through the motions each day.
I cannot emphasize the importance of focus during practice. You have to be mentally present every day. When you know your body this well, you won’t falter when it comes to competition. You will know exactly what you need to do when you don’t feel perfect. Most of the time we don’t feel perfect during competition.
We won’t always have the ideal conditions, the superior race, or the perfect mindset.
When you make deliberate decisions, you learn how to adapt to any situation. That is what makes us champions. Many people believe that champions are born different from the rest of us when, in fact, they are products of all the decisions they made throughout their careers.
Dream. Dare. Succeed.
ABOUT RUDO LOOCK
My name is Rudo Loock and I am from South Africa. I was blessed with an opportunity to go swim for Florida State University. I am a 4-time ACC qualifier and one time NCAA qualifier. After battling many ups and downs throughout my career, I now aim to share my knowledge about the sport’s physical and mental side through my personal blog at www.alpha-mindz.com with the rest of the swimming world.