Monday, April 13, 2020

Three Secrets to Overcome Performance Anxiety

It's called performance anxiety, stage fright, choking under pressure, being in a slump, writer's block, or having the yips. The bottom line is when you can't do your best when it counts, that erodes your confidence, saps your motivation, eliminates opportunities and even kills careers.

These three secrets, part of my Kenward Mental Coaching Method, are keys to overcoming performance anxiety, getting fast results that last, and bringing out your potential on demand.

Secret 1: Eliminate mental blocks

My basic test to find out if someone has a mental block is to ask how they do in practice (or when it doesn't count). If they do OK, but can't bring it out under pressure, then I know they have a mental block. It has to be removed before the player can truly do their best, so that's what I do first. Here are two free tools I have created that can help you do that. You can find them on my DOWNLOADS page:

First is my The Mental Coach Performance Questionnaire. The first page has questions to help you specifically figure out what you want, and what that will do for you (that helps you set your emotional payoff, which is really important). The second page has questions about what is going wrong (i.e. when did it start, what was going on in your life, etc.). A lot of the time, this creates understanding and and perspective to help you solve the problem.

Next is my Mental Game Snapshot, where you rate yourself in the areas of confidence, motivation, focus, and how you respond to pressure. This gets you thinking, and it is very powerful! It shows you areas where you are strong, and where you have challenges. I suggest everyone fill it out quarterly (I do), it helps you stay on track and spot any negative trends before they become big problems!

Secret 2: Create and cue a power point

Once the mental blocks are gone, then it's time to create and cue a power point. A great way to do that is to bring up a powerful multi-media memory of a past success. What that means is, in that powerful positive experience, write down what was there to see, hear, feel, etc. Fill out as much detail as you can, this really helps amplify the feeling. Now practice bringing up that feeling (again and again). Because we learn by repetition and practice, it will get better.

At that point, you can link that that powerful feeling to a word, sound, color, whatever you like, so you can cue it and it can be brought back on demand.

This is very similar to feeling an emotion when you hear your favorite song, look at a picture of your best vacation, taste (or smell) your favorite food. We all do this naturally, and I believe that if you can do something naturally, then you can do it on purpose, and cue it.

Your imagination is incredibly powerful, and this is a great way to make it work for you.

Secret 3: Test and measure results

At this point, mental practice is used. I have the player or performer imagine themselves in various scenarios, using their cue to bring on the powerful positive feeling they chose.

When they are consistently successful, then we move to scenarios where things go wrong, and they learn to use their cue to wash away negative stress, anxiety and emotions, regroup and get back on track. This alone will give you the competitive edge!

When you are confident that you can do this in your imagination, then you practice on the field, course, stage, etc.

This is a great DIY process and many people in sports, performing arts, even public speaking, have told me it has really helped them.

But, if someone is still struggling with overcoming their mental blocks, or they want to further power-up their confidence, motivation and focus, or boost their speed, power and accuracy, or bring out even more of their potential, that's when working together, one-on-one, can really make a difference. And I guarantee results. Let me know if you have any questions about that or any of these steps.

Every one of you has an amazing mind with unmatched potential. Using that on purpose is the key to winning the mental game, getting peak performance on demand and getting the competitive edge. Use it!

David Kenward - The Mental Coach
(916) 802-5897

Thursday, March 12, 2020

When you lose your nerve (and what to do about it)

It happens to everyone. You are ready to do some kind of activity (an audition, performance, competition, writing, etc.), but something happens. You choke, freeze, avoid it, maybe even break out into a cold sweat just thinking about it. The bottom line is - you just can't do it. It's like part of you wants to do it and part of you has both feet on the brakes.

Analytically you know you have what it takes to succeed (often you've succeeded at it before). Analytically you understand that whatever happened that resulted in you losing your nerve shouldn't stop you from moving on. You get frustrated, angry, guilty and so do those around you. What's happened is that you developed a problem with the mental game, you formed a belief that is holding you back.

What can you do about it?

Every problem has a solution. Here is something you can try to get your nerve back.

Write down what happened that made you lose your nerve (if you think you know). Draw a big red circle around it and then a line through it. Then DESTROY that paper - rip it up into confetti, burn it, whatever completely gets rid of it. As you are doing that, tell what's on that paper that it's done, finished, deleted, destroyed, whatever sounds good. What you are doing is communicating with the imagination part of your mind, that's where beliefs are stored.

Then, write down the reasons you should be able to succeed (keep it positive - not why you shouldn't be having the problem). Include successful experiences. After you've written them down, read them out loud. Then, close your eyes and picture (or imagine) doing those things successfully.

Sometimes this is all that's needed to get you back on track.

If that doesn't work for you, then you've probably got a serious mental block that needs to be released, but they can be release quickly. I use my mental coaching method to help people do that.

Go to: to learn more.

David Kenward - The Mental Coach

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Helping adults cope with tragedy

There are a lot of resources on how to help children cope with tragedy (such as the mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut or the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado) but not so much on helping adults.  Like children, adults are stressed, upset, angry, fearful, sad, perhaps even guilty.  But, while children aren't expected to deal logically (and analytically) with sadness, fear and grief, adults are. However, when it comes to dealing with powerful emotions, it just doesn't work that way.

A lot of times when adults try to talk about it, they'll get logical platitudes such as; "all things must pass; it'll get better with time; every dark cloud has a silver lining; when one door closes another opens; it's part of God's plan;" etc. Or, worse, "get over it; suck it up;" and more.  The problem is, those are analytical, thinking responses to an emotional feeling and, just as I discovered with people choking in competition, trying to change an emotional feeling analytically isn't very effective.

When I look at people, it's like I see a pressure cooker. When someone is having an emotional reaction to a tragedy or other stressful situation, that pressure cooker is building up steam and, just like a pressure cooker has a relief valve, they have to let off steam or they'll blow.

What happens if they blow? Back on April 20, 1999 (the day of the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado), I was taking a work break and going for a short walk. As I walked around a corner adjacent to a high-rise, a man in his late 20's hit the pavement after jumping from a high floor. That's something I'll never forget. When I got back to the office, my co-workers told me about the Columbine High School massacre. I still don't think it was coincidental. I can't even imagine what emotions, I'm guessing triggered from the Columbine massacre, led that man to take his own life. But, I do know that's the power of anger, fear, sadness, pain, grief and guilt, and that was one of those pivotal moments that led me to do what I do now, helping people let go of those emotions and find peace of mind.

So, what can you do to help? You can listen, validate and avoid judgements or platitudes. What that means is, even if you disagree conceptually with what someone is saying, you acknowledge that they have the right to how they feel. You don't have to agree with them. You're just validating that they have the right to how they feel. Sometimes that's really all we want (or need). We don't want someone to logically persuade us that we really shouldn't feel the way we do, but just acknowledge as a human being we have the right to our feelings.

I believe that's one of the best ways we can help adults reduce the pressure of the negative stress inside them, especially brought on by tragedies around us.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

What To Do When A Person Won't Let Go Of Their Pain

Do you know someone, maybe a performer, golfer (or someone else) in emotional pain? Maybe it's coming out as being in a slump, choking under pressure, withdrawing from performance, competition, friends, or even quitting their career. It's a problem with their mental game, it's holding them back and you'd think they want relief. But, they rebuff efforts to help them, perhaps even sabotaging suggestions or solutions.

They may say (or show) how bad they feel and how much they want to overcome it, or they may just suffer in silence. It's especially difficult to deal with if it is a friend or loved one.

What can help is to understand that what they are doing doesn't make sense analytically (they may even understand that). What I often hear from the people I work with is that it's like part of them wants relief and another part is holding them back. That is absolutely true. What's holding them back are beliefs, which are driven by powerful emotions such as anger, fear, sadness or guilt.

How can that hold them back? An example is a fear of change. If someone is free of what's been holding them back (or can finally control it) then their life will be different. Maybe they can rise to the next level or get back to where they used to be. Their identity will change, both in their own eyes and the eyes of those around them. People won't be as solicitous or helpful (especially the competition or media). Make no mistake, that can scare the heck out of people and many times they will do anything to maintain their status quo, as painful as it may be.

If you live, work with, or represent them, then what you can do to help them is understand, first, you can't force another person to change. Telling them how to solve their problem won't work, they probably already know what to do. Platitudes or motivational quotes (such as just do it, suck it up, things will get better, keep your chin up, everything happens for a reason, every dark cloud has a silver lining, etc.) won't work either (they usually just aggravate the person you are talking to). Remember, it's a problem with their belief system and trying to solve it analytically won't work.

They may feel better if allowed to vent, but it's your choice whether to listen (and it can be frustrating to listen to the same thing over and over when they aren't doing anything about it).

The bottom line, though (and I run into this with my clients) is that it's up to them. You can be supportive and encouraging but, ultimately, it is their choice. The best thing you can do to help them (and yourself) is to let them be who they are and avoid taking responsibility for what they do and how they think and feel.

David Kenward - The Mental Coach
(916) 802-5897

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Three ways to get past grief that's holding you back

The reason people can't get past grief is that they have unfinished business stored deep in their belief system. For some reason, that belief system - driven by a powerful emotion or feeling such as anger, fear, sadness, pain or guilt - is stopping them from letting go.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Justin Rose shows power of golf mental game self talk

Justin Rose (and his ailing shoulder) was featured in an article written by Rex Hoggard on In that article was a CRUCIAL aspect of the mental game - what we say to ourselves (AKA self talk) and whether we take ownership of what's negative in our lives.

Here's what I mean. How many times have you heard a golfer (or anyone) talk about "their" slump or yips, "their" problem with their swing, etc. Or they say something like, "I always bogey on the XX hole at XX golf course"

What that self talk does is reinforce to their belief system that they have a problem - that they own it - and we are taught as a society NOT to give up what belongs to us. That kind of self talk makes it really hard to let the problem go, even if we want to.

The article referred to Justin Rose's "ailing shoulder" but Rose was quoted as referring to it as "a little something."

That reinforces, to him, that it is just a bump in the road he'll get past, not a roadblock.

You can do this, too. Be aware of your language, and even one simple change: "my" to "the" can send a powerful message to yourself, because our mind is always listening. That's an important part of the mental game and it's easy to do.
Here's the link to the article

Please comment to tell me what you think or contact me with any questions.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Did Peyton Manning Lose His Mental Game?

Peyton Manning and the Bronco's were ready to play an awesome Super Bowl against the Seattle Seahawks, but then something happened. Manning missed the first snap of the game.

As Lindsay H. Jones of USA Today Sports noted, "...the bad snap was the moment that seemed to change so much for Manning, who on Saturday night received his fifth NFL MVP award."

From a mental game perspective, I totally agree. A player can build themselves up, can psych themselves up, and their confidence can spread like a wave, affecting the other players on the team, as well.

But, when something unexpected happens (like a bad snap that costs the team), unless the player is able to dump that negative experience, it can derail them.

I believe that's what happened. It's kind of like a stack of cans, you pull out the right one, they all fall down. And the quarterback's attitude drives the team. If he starts second-guessing himself, or makes mistake after mistake, the team expects that it will all roll downhill and they will suffer, also.

Since it's impossible to anticipate every negative event, what *can* be done is to build a mechanism to let go of the emotional effect of mistakes, bad luck and anything else that's not directly related to moving the ball forward and scoring.

Then the player is in charge of their mental game and is not subject to being controlled by it.