Have you ever experienced a time during a game where your emotions got the best of you? You probably already knew that allowing your emotions to get out of control wasn’t going to help you but at that moment it didn’t matter. Maybe you threw your helmet or argued with the umpire or maybe you were simply pissed off or depressed the rest of the game. I know for me getting a grip on my emotions was something I struggled with for most of my career. If an at-bat didn’t turn out the way I’d hoped then I’d slam my helmet into the helmet rack, kick a door, or destroy a locker room after the game.
At the time I knew it wasn’t the best thing I could do however I had no way of controlling it. My desire to be an elite level hitter combined with my low performance on the field left me frustrated and most of the time I was only a bad at-bat away from exploding. As I got older and gain a greater understanding of the mind and how it impacts human performance I gained a completely different perspective on my emotions. A perspective that allowed me to both understand why I had particular emotions and to gain control over them.
What I began to understand was that my emotions were the direct result of where I was currently focused. If I was focused on or thinking about a negative result or something that angered me then I began to feel negative emotions. On the flip side, if I was focused on something positive I in turn felt positive emotions. This understanding was very eye-opening for me as I began to discover that in order to control my emotions all I had to do was direct what I was currently focused on. After an at-bat where I didn’t produce a desired result I began to choose to focus on either what I did well in that at-bat or what I could learn from that at-bat. This change in focus forced me to think more positive and empowering thoughts which in turn brought my emotions under control. Oh sure, I wasn’t happy about the fact I just struck out however I was no longer exploding emotionally and allowing those emotions to carry over into future at-bats.
As my understanding of mental performance deepened I began to realize that we perform at our highest capacity when we are completely present. This understanding then lead me to an even deeper understanding of my emotions and what those emotions meant during a game. I realized that negative emotions, frustration, anger, anxiety, etc. are nothing more than an indicator that I wasn’t currently present. Any negative thoughts that were producing the negative emotions were thoughts that were outside the present moment. I was thinking about a previous at-bat, a bad call, or maybe a pitcher I was going to face. When I was completely present I felt nothing but peaceful which allowed me to get the most enjoyment out of playing and allowed me to perform at my highest capacity. This understanding now allowed me to view my emotions in a different light. I no longer saw them as something I was trying to avoid or as a performance inhibitor but rather as a tool or as a reminder that I need to bring my thoughts back to the present moment. In doing so I’ve been able to stay more present during games, performing at my highest level, and experiencing less fluctuations in performance.
In order to gain control over your emotions you must first direct your thoughts. Choose to focus on either positive aspects about your at-bats or adjustments you need to make. Begin to see your emotions as an inner coach directing you to be more present. Allow them to be the indicator that your thoughts are not in the present moment and as such you are not performing at your highest capacity. Bring your thoughts back to the present (track the ball into the hitting zone and execute a swing) and you will regain emotional control.