Change Your Mindset, Change Your Game

“I’m nervous for today’s competition. My confidence is low, and I don’t think I’ll do well.”

This is a familiar feeling, right? We’ve all been there.

Some days our confidence is soaring and we’re on top of the world and some days we feel like we couldn’t hit water from a boat.

Confidence isn’t fixed and we’re not born with it. It is acquired and improved over time; however, it can be tricky.

From a sport and performance psychology perspective, one could be confident you’re going to succeed but equally confident you’re going to fail miserably.

Self-efficacy is about shifting our mindset to the positive.  

A famous social psychologist, Albert Bandura, described self-efficacy as your capacity to believe in your ability to achieve a desired goal.

Self-efficacy theory says there are four components to improving our self-efficacy.

These four pieces are:

  • Past accomplishments,
  • Vicarious experiences,
  • Verbal persuasion,
  • Emotional and physiological states. 

Performance accomplishments are the experiences we gain from completing a difficult or a similar task in the past which we can draw upon.

So, an example here could be shooting a free throw. “I’ve done it before, I can do it again!” Or maybe it’s going through injury rehabilitation.

“I’ve done this before, I didn’t enjoy it, but I got through it and I know I can do it again.”

We have a bounty of successes we can pull from, and sometimes we need to adapt those to the situation at hand.

Vicarious experiences are those which we obtain through watching others model the desired behavior.

So maybe we have a favorite soccer player we can learn a new technique from or maybe we see a phenomenal cellist play a beautiful piece and that helps to motivate us to perform.

We have the world at our fingertips with the Internet, so what I like to encourage athletes to do is get on YouTube and find that elite player in their position and watch them play and learn from watching!  

Verbal persuasion can be verbal motivation from a friend or coach, or it could be self-talk.

Sometimes we have to be our own biggest fan and hype ourselves up with a mantra or a quote. For a boxer for example, a mantra could be “slow is smooth, smooth is fast.”

Moving too quickly can be reckless for a boxer, so reminding themselves to be smart with their movements is critical.

On the other hand, maybe you’ve got a close friend who knows how good a performer you are. Give them a call or a text and let them be your motivator. 

Emotional and physiological states are internal conditions we want to be aware of and explore.

Am I sore? Where is my mind today? Sometimes we go into competitions and we don’t feel quite there physically or mentally.

Maybe we need to put extra emphasis on having a good warm up, or maybe we need to go sit and quiet our minds for a few minutes with some imagery or a meditation.

We all perform our best at different levels so experiment to find what yours is!


Another technique to increase self-efficacy is the use of visualization or imagery.

Paint a picture for yourself. What does it look like? What does it feel like? What is the weather like? Where is it? Try to make this visualization experience as real as possible by using all your senses. 

Now to tie this back in with confidence, the more confident a person is in their abilities, the more likely they are to succeed.

When successful, they have more opportunities to build their self-efficacy.

Higher self-efficacy, in turn, leads to increased confidence because that person knows they can complete a task, and around we go in this cycle.

Self-efficacy beliefs are the product of these four sources.

If you can identify WHY you feel confident, or WHY you don’t, by way of these sources of self-efficacy, then you know what strengths you can build on or where you need more help.

You’ll be more likely to be successful in a given task whether it’s in sport or another evaluative situation. 

Ok, let’s go back to today’s competition you’re not feeling quite up for yet.

Rather than allowing the negative feelings to wash over you and dictate your performance before you’ve even stepped out on the field, court, or stage, think about a past performance where you were successful.

watch a YouTube video of your favorite athlete making an unbelievable play, call or text a best friend or an old coach who always has your back, and do a body scan to see how you’re feeling leading up to walking out.

You’ve got this. You always have.