Cognito ergo non ferio. (I think, therefore I fail.)
You can’t think and hit at the same time.
—Yogi Berra

When Southern Utah’s University’s new basketball coach Robert Reid arrived, his team ranked 217th in free-throw percentage, lowest in their division nationwide.

During practice, Reid had his players develop a mantra before each free-shot—a three or four word phrase coupled with a deep breath for relaxation. He gave the example of “relaxed and smooth” when stepping up to the free-throw line, but emphasized that each player determine his own mantra. Additionally, he simulated game conditions by abruptly stopping a player in practice and asking him to shoot two free throws. Reid simulated the mindset of pressure in a game situation by suddenly stopping to shoot a free throw. If the player made the shot, he got to take a breather. If he missed, he had to sprint around the court.

In two years, the team was ranked number one in their national division.

The most important thing we can do to achieve success is to regulate our states of mind. The state of mind determines the meaning we attach, and the meaning determines the behavior. By changing your state of mind, you change the behavior.

There are two primary ways to regulate your state of mind:
1.  Physiology
2.  Focus

Physiology: How you use your body—to change your body—your biochemistry—to change your state of mind. Relaxation, deep breathing, meditation.

Focus: What and how you focus on. From quantum physics and neuroscience: You get what you focus on, not what you want. Focus aligns your energy field. What you focus on—what you pay attention to determines your state of mind. Your state of mind determines the meaning you attach to something. And the meaning you attach will determine your behavior. Your power is what you focus on.

Three parts to a mantra:

  • A cue: two dribbles; a personal gesture
  • A phrase: such a “Relaxed and powerful”
  • A deep breath: breathe in relaxation, breathe out tension

Mantras can be used in various situations to manage states of mind, especially for emotional triggers that can instantly change a state of mind. Some of my clients who are pro athletes and actors have used it to get grounded and centered for their performance, and to stay grounded during the performance. Executives and practicing professionals need to establish and maintain the optimal state for each task, and to insure executive presence.

Mantras can both calm, as well as keep you from over-thinking in a high-pressure situation.