Do you find that your mind goes to mush when you get into the lead or when in a position where you are being chased by the car behind?
Does your driving go to toffee when you are on a good lap in qualifying?
If yes then firstly.....cut it out!
And secondly.....don't worry there is a simple cure for this.
Having to battle with your mind whilst trying to drive at your best is a horrible situation to be in.
If left unconditioned and unresolved this can be a killer to any driver's career or chance of success.
When you are in-car experiencing this mental fight with yourself you cannot even brake correctly, you were fine before but now you are struggling and sometimes it even feels as though the set up of the car has been changed.
When this happens you are basically out of control.
As a driver it is your job to control a car when it is doing things it shouldn't be doing, this is the same for your mind, it too needs to be 'controlled' (managed) when it is time to really perform and focus.
Virtually everyone around you is obsessed by results, it's the culture we're in but as a consequence we can easily fall into the trap of making the position itself far too important. This then changes the way we see things thus impacting the way we react and drive.
I Will Never Forget This Time
I remember doing this the first time I got into the lead of a Formula Ford race, I hadn't planned for being in the lead, up to that point I was the one chasing not the one being chased.
I got into the lead and felt like I had hit a new realm of existence, I think I thought something like "Shit, I am actually leading, what now?!?
My focus changed to what was behind instead of what was infront, my driving became erratic, desperate, I was making mistakes and I was no longer driving the car subconsciously. I felt so on the edge.
I was doing everything that was the opposite to how I was driving just 1 minute ago, opposite to the way that earned me this new position in the first place.
For half a lap I was a mess and my team mate said that he could/should have pounced on me at that time because he could see that I was struggling. Luckily by the next lap I had reset myself but damn it was a rude awakening that I needed to spend more time conditioning that part of my mental game.
This Is More Common Than You Think
Since then I have helped a lot of drivers who had the same issue, they either lose their focus when leading, when in a good position or when on a lap that will earn them a good grid position.
They all of a sudden become conscious and start to overthink the basic principle of driving.
They have left the zone.
They virtually self sabotage themselves. They don't do it on purpose but they allow it to prevent them from capitalizing on the opportunity they have in front of them.
They begin to think about what that position means and open the door to distracting thoughts which in turn let's the opportunity slip away.
You cannot allow this to happen, you have earned that position by driving in a certain way, it is your job to keep that mentality, to keep that focus and maintain that style of driving for the rest of the lap or race.
I have often seen drivers turn to mush even when they are told their sector times or gaps to other cars whilst driving. Again, this must be dealt with if you are serious about winning in this sport (or any sport).
No choking allowed!
The Way To Do This
I have many little beauties (techniques) that I use for drivers to overcome this mental hurdle but I am conscious about this being a blog post so I am going to simplify things down.
I will explain the basic structure of what you need to do, this way you can come up with your own ways that work for you.
1 - Know Who Is Driving & How You Are Operating
First off I want you to ask yourself 2 questions.
1) What am I focusing on and thinking when I am driving at my best?
2) What am I focusing on and thinking when I am allowing outside pressure to distract me?
If you split a page into two columns and write down the different characteristics for each situation, you will find something like this:
Basically you can see a big difference between how this driver operates when they are driving well compared to when they are letting things get to them.
They are allowing the outside situation to bully them, to see things in a different way and to focus on different things and thoughts.
Instead of keeping things simple and focusing on the actual driving, they are putting more emphasis on driving perfectly and what this position means to them.
Things become a lot more conscious, hence why they can recall a lot more behaviours and thoughts in the 'Driving like crap' column compared to the 'Driving at my best' column.
So, once you have done this for yourself and you have the specific things you do, you can see two very different drivers. It is important to understand this so you know exactly when it is happening next.
Get to know these two drivers because they are the two that are running the show right now, they are in control of your destiny.
2 - Give Them Names
You now have two different drivers, one who drives well and one who drives like crap, I want you to name these two drivers.
Come up with a strong hero-esque and proud name for the one who is in the zone and allows you to drive at your best.
Then give the driver who drives like an idiot a name that mocks him or her.
So if someone asks you how you drove after a session or a race you can identify who was in control that time.
Plus, you need to be aware of who is driving when you are in the car on the go, that is a vital step to really changing this.
3 - The ABC Technique
This is my favorite way of explaining how to instantly change the way you are behaving or the emotions you are experiencing.
Again it is just the general method, you can come up with ways of doing this yourself.
A stands for Aware
B stands for Break
C stands for Change
If you are driving the car, you are under pressure and are operating like the driver on the right hand side of your page, then you must first become AWARE. Say something like "Ahhh, Numpty is driving right now" (If you called that driver Numpty).
Then immediately after this thought you BREAK the mental pattern that you are running. You do something, anything, to disrupt the mental process that you are using.
As an example in the past I have got drivers to laugh out loud in a silly way, or to smack their hand into their helmet visor, or to say something in a funny voice, it's different for everyone.
This is to snap you out of your current mental process and to make the brain search for what the hell is going on.
What you are doing here is breaking your pattern.
Get creative here and come up with funky ways and sayings that stop you continuing down that self sabotaging thought process and route.
Once you have shocked your way out of that process you immediately CHANGE the way you are thinking and what you are focusing on.
For example instead of looking in the mirror you shout the word "Next". Which is your signal for focusing on the next corner coming up, you shift your focus from looking behind to looking forward.
You could then relax your arms and grip on the wheel and have a nice deep relaxing breath.
You could smile, a huge grin that nearly makes you laugh.
What you are doing here is changing the way you are operating and doing more things that the driver on the left hand side of your page is doing.
In essence you are becoming AWARE of that self sabotaging driver, you then BREAK the behavioural pattern and then CHANGE the way you are operating.
A - B - C.
This is a great way of giving yourself a metaphorical slap around the face whilst on the go.
You are disrupting your mind and your habitual behaviour.
As soon as you notice it going down the usual route of self sabotage, you stop it in it's tracks and replace the behaviour with what you know works.
This encourages you to use your left page driver more than your right page driver.
Do this correctly on the go a few times and you will feel a sense of control that will set you free from overdriving and overthinking in pressureful situations.
Remember situations are only as pressureful and you make them.
Decide how to react to things and how much emphasis you put on the positions you are in.
You are in control much more than you give yourself credit for.
Start to take control of these areas and you will learn just what you are capable of.
Now get out there and stop getting in your own way.
Let me know how you get on.
Main cover photo for this post was supplied by Wikimedia