Have you ever wondered what goes through the mind of a world champion athlete in the final moments before they compete? Jeremy Bloom, a three-time world champion freestyle skier describes with great candor exactly what he was thinking in the minutes before having to lay it all on the line at a world championship.
“A voice rang through the darkness of the starting area: ‘Bloom on deck.’ I shook out my legs; nervous energy filled my body. My muscles were tightening. I knew I had to stay loose. In about a minute, I’d be skiing for the freestyle world championship. I stretched my legs and swung my arms to loosen my chest and shoulders. While stretching my neck, I heard, ‘Bloom in the hole.’ I let my skis slide down closer to the starting gate, my heart raced and my breathing quickened. The guy before me took off and skied out of the darkness of the shadow of the starting gate and into the light of the mogul field. This is the moment I had worked years for… my mental training kicked in.
“I positioned my skis at the starting gate, focused on the first six inches of the course and thought: ‘This is the single-most important turn. It’s all I need to think about. Just make a good turn here, and my skills will carry me the rest of the way.’ I imagined the perfect first turn.
“And then I built a barrier with my mind, a tunnel around the course that blocked everything out. It blocked out the TV cameras, the fans, my parents, everything and everyone. Now I existed inside my tunnel. All I could see, all that existed, was the course. My only thought was the first turn. The guy in front of me finished his run. My turn. I planted my right pole, then my left and then took a deep breath. Ready.”
Bloom sounds almost superhuman in his ability to singularly focus on his goal while mentally blocking out all distractions along the way. But even more incredible, was he continued to use those very same techniques after retiring from skiing. After his skiing career, he went on to play three years of professional football in the National Football League and then built two successful businesses (during the Great Recession, no less), all by the age of 29.
Few of us will compete in a world championship like Jeremy Bloom. But that doesn’t make it any less crucial for us to master the same skills he used to win. We all have stressors, like illness, injury, financial challenges, professional setbacks and loss of a loved one are all situations that we all will likely face. We all have adversity that can be stressful in our lives, how how to respond to them will depend on how we have developed our minds. Jeremy Bloom worked hard to train his mind at a young age so he could be his best under stress. You can too, no matter what your age.