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Before almost every game in my first two years in college, I would leave the team and sneak to the bathroom to throw up. Actually, I never vomited because I had no food in my stomach; I only dry-heaved, which was even worse.

Like many people, I misunderstood the source of my angst, insecurity, and doubt about my ability to compete on the Division I level. I attributed my anxiety to my opponent, the gym, who I was guarding, the cameras, the reporters, all of which prolonged my suffering.

I believed the only way to find relief from my insecurity and to gain more confidence was to work harder. I spent many late nights and early morning breakfast sessions in the gym searching for my confidence. I believed if I worked hard enough I would once and for all silence my internal doubts.

It didn’t work.

And, I was miserable and ended up hating my sport because I could never attain the supreme confidence I desired.

Why?

Competence does not equate to confidence.

It is an enormous myth in sports that the harder you work the more confident you become. Thousands of athletes are tirelessly addicted to working out in order to achieve the unachievable.

Competence does not equate to confidence.

If competence = confidence, then why would any professional athlete struggle or have doubts? They are in the top 1% of competence/skill mastery in the world, yet every day we can read about a professional who is struggling with his jump shot, putting, driving, batting, you name it.

Sadly, culture conditions us to believe a confident feeling is tied to our hard work and success.

Consider being countercultural.

Consider looking in another direction.

Confidence is caused by clarity of mind and the absence of excess thinking in the moment.

When our head is filled with personal thinking, our mind-set falls and confidence declines.

Athletes, it is natural and normal to have confidence and lose confidence as your head clears and clutters. Once you understand the origin of your confident feelings, you no longer need to work out so you can feel better. Rather, you can work out to get better. And, as you work out to get better you give room for your psychological immune system (this is what moves you effortlessly from clutter to clarity and back again) to take you back to your default state—clarity.

Understand that the source of your feelings is your thinking in the moment and not any external achievement—and watch your productivity grow.

Please reach out with any questions or comments.

Grace and peace,
Bruce