Finding the Performance Mindset
The right education
As I look back at all of my most successful times in my cricket career, there are two very obvious patterns that always pop up. It wasn’t until 4 years ago when I was educated by a world leader in mental skills coaching, Dr. Jacques Dallaire, on the very simple and crazily powerful mental skills, that I have really been able to look back and see that there were common circumstances around me at that moment in time for just about all of my best performances. Even from a very young age, these common circumstances in my life got me tapping into my best performance mindset.
My best performance mindset patterns
One of the constant circumstances in my life was proving people wrong. I had a deep-down burning desire to show someone that I was going to win, or that I was going to prove them wrong. One example of this that really stands out as one of my best days was as a 20-year-old and I was playing first class cricket for Tasmania against my home state, Queensland. There was one guy, no names mentioned, who from the time I left Queensland tried to make my life hell by continuing to go very hard at me at every opportunity he could about why he thought my decision to move states wasn’t a good one. I was so charged up to prove this guy wrong and show him that I wasn’t really appreciating the constant barrage that was coming my way. What was the outcome….. well no surprises, I bowled the fastest I ever had. I got my best first-class figures for a match, my first and only 10 wicket haul in a match to prove a point.
My first IPL at the age of 26, in the inaugural IPL in 2008, was another time where I had one of my most successful periods in my career. After consistent hamstring and calf injuries, I was on the Australian Cricket scrap heap as everyone was getting fed up with my constant injuries, as was I. I was told in late 2007 by an ‘expert’ that I should give up bowling as my body just couldn’t take being an allrounder. So after finding another ‘expert’ to breathe new life into me as an allrounder, I had such a huge point to prove to show everyone that I wasn’t washed up at the age of 26 and that I still had my best cricket in front of me. So, proving these people wrong gave me the deep-down burning desire to be at my best, which lead to me significantly contributing to Rajasthan Royals winning the inaugural IPL and also being named as the MVP of the tournament. Again, the circumstances around me got me into proving people wrong, one of the mindsets that I have when I am at my absolute best.
Then there was 2009, and these were different circumstances around me that got me into my best performance mindset and this lasted for well over two years. After being in and out of the Australian team over the previous 7 years, being injured on and off throughout that period and thinking that I might never achieve my ultimate dream of being the cricketer that could win games for my country, with either bat and ball, I finally let go. I was thinking during my down times, and there were a few, that maybe I was never going to be in this position, so I really just let go and got into celebration mode. I had to pinch myself at times, thinking, I always dreamed of being able to do these things on the field and for quite a while there, it was looking like my dreams where going to be shattered, and now……. this is bloody amazing!!!! I started batting with absolute freedom, even as an opening batsman in Test Cricket. I was bowling with absolute freedom - as much as my body would allow anyway, and I was loving every single minute of it!!!!!
But why should it have had to come to this, with all of the down times and looking like my dreams were doomed, to then fully let go and play with the absolute freedom and joy in my heart and this was some of the best cricket I had played in my life.
One final example of the circumstances around me getting me into my best performance mindset was my highest Test score of 176 at the Oval. I had had a poor Ashes series up until this point when I was opening the batting so I got moved down the order to number 3 for the final Test and I knew that the next move in the batting order was out of the team. And after all of the scrutiny that had been around me about getting out LBW, my back was totally against the wall. I thought, well, you know what, I very rarely get out LBW in One Day and T20 cricket so stuff it, I am just going to bat like this in this Test Match. I am going to take these English bowlers on like I do in the shorter formats of the game and if I go down, and get dropped from the team, I am going to go down swinging. Well, the result of all of these circumstances coming together was tapping into my best performance mindset, taking the game on, not worrying about getting out and my highest Test score was the outcome,
I just wish I knew this information as I was starting out
As I look back at all of my best performances, there are two common threads, and this is more-so from a mental point of view. Number 1 - I was proving someone wrong or proving a point. Number 2 – I was playing with absolute joy and freedom in my heart to celebrate these skills that I had worked so tirelessly to express.
And this is what I have learnt from Dr. Jacques Dallaire, 4 years ago now….. Why not pull yourself into that best performance mindset and never be reliant on the planets aligning to have the circumstances around you put you into your best performance mindset.
How is this done?????
As simply as defining your best performance, deeply, on all levels and then visualise exactly what this looks, feels and smells like, to then bring this every single time you need to bring your best performance.
So now I have been implementing this every single time since the end of 2015, in the twilight of my cricket career. And what is the result - I have had a number of my best performances in my career at a time when so many people say that my time was done 4 years ago.
If you are able to develop and implement this best performance mindset, it certainly never guarantees the best result every time, as there are a number of factors that are out of your control that can have a significant impact on the end result. But, you are giving yourself the best chance to make the most of those days when these factors do fall your way and you get the results that you have been dreaming of.