“You” Control Your Performance!

by Simon Hartley

Be World Class

Your performance is entirely within your control. Your performance is not dictated by anyone else or anything else. It’s not dictated by circumstances or external factors. Your performance emanates from your thoughts and your feelings. Nobody can influence your thoughts or feelings, unless you let them! No situation or circumstance can impact on your thoughts or feelings, unless you allow it. Fundamentally, you have ultimate control over how you think and feel. Therefore, you have ultimate control over your performance (Manz, 2000; Jauncey, 2002).

Stephen Covey said, ‘Between stimulus and response is our greatest power – the power to choose’. (Covey, 2004)

So why is it that many people’s performances are so inconsistent? Even elite athletes often struggle to control their mindset and emotions. Many elite athletes are affected by external influences and other people. The fact is we all have the power to control our mind and emotions. However, most people give their power away.

I have recently started working with a squad of elite junior fencers. The Director of Fencing initially approached me because the athletes were displaying a great deal of frustration and anger on the piste (the piste is the fencing equivalent of a pitch or a court. It is the narrow strip that they compete on). The problem is that if they display their frustration during competition, they risk being ‘black carded’ (disqualified) and banned from the competition for several months.

I started by talking with the fencers about the things which made them frustrated. They listed a host of factors that affected them. One athlete said that when the opponent celebrates, it really winds him up. Another said that if he was fighting an opponent who he was ‘supposed to beat easily’, he would get really frustrated when they scored a point against him. Others were affected by the referee, the opponent’s supporters or the opponent’s trash talk. At the end of the discussion, I asked them who had control over their mindset and their emotions. It was obvious that the fencers had given control of their own thoughts and feelings to just about everyone else. As a result, they were being ruled by other people and by circumstance. They had strapped themselves into a mental and emotional rollercoaster because they had given up control.

Job number one for the fencers is to start taking control back.

We have control until we give it over to someone else or something else.

If we control our thought and our feelings, we can control the performance. So where do we start? There are 3 key element that help us to ensure we achieve our peak performance consistently. Our magic trio are:

–          Control Confidence

–          Master Motivation

–          Hone Focus

If we can do these 3 things, we stand a great chance of performing at our best! So, how can you get started? Perhaps the best place to start is focus. Find something really effective to focus on. It’s normally something very simple. Often it’s best to find something that you see, hear or feel when you perform at your best. Here are some real life examples from some elite athletes I’ve worked with recently.

Martial Artist

–          Watch the opponents eyes.

International Squash Players

–          Watch the movement on the ball.

–          Feel the shots.

–          Hear the sound that your shots are making or the sound of your footwork.

Hammer Thrower

–          Feel the balance in your feet.

–          Hear the sound of your rhythm.

–          Feel the smoothness in your movement. (Hartley, 2010)

There are other examples and tips in Athletic Focus & Sport Psychology: Key To Peak Performance (published in Podium Sports Journal, Dec 9th 2010).

For more tips on how to hone your focus, control your confidence, master your motivation and maximise your performance, download the Maximum Performance webinar at http://www.be-world-class.com/webinars/maximum-performance-in-soccer-webinar .


Covey, S.R. (2004) The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, New York: Simon & Schuster.

Hartley, S.R. (2010) ‘Athletic Focus & Sport Psychology: Key To Peak Performance’, Podium Sports Journal, December 2010. Available Online. HTTP. <> (accessed 21st December 2010).

Hartley, S.R. (2011) Peak Performance Every Time, London: Routledge.

Jauncey, P. (2002) Managing Yourself & Others, Brisbane: CopyRight Publishing.

Manz, C.C. (2000) Emotional Discipline: The Power to Choose How You Feel, San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.

Simon Hartley, MSc, BASES Accredited Sport & Exercise Psychologist.

Simon is a freelance sport psychologist & performance coach at Be World Class. In recent years he has worked as a consultant performance psychologist to the English Institute of Sport as well as working with a range of professional sports in the UK. Simon has worked with Premiership and Championship football clubs, international teams including England Squash and professional golfers.

Simon Hartley is the author of Peak Performance Every Time. For details, visit www.peakperformanceeverytime.com

Photo credit: Dominik Walker


3 thoughts on ““You” Control Your Performance!

  • May 30, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    This is an interesting article. It is especially important that in the world of elite sport participants control their emotions, but as correctly cited there are many examples this does not occur. I fully believe that one construct that should not be ignored for the recognition and regulation of emotions is emotional intelligence.

    • June 5, 2011 at 6:21 pm

      Nicely put. Emotional intelligence includes so many things…the ability to stay positive, to learn from mistakes, to manage stress effectively, to work well with teammates and coaches, and more. Without it, you’ve got athletes that lack self-discipline, patience….and oftentimes are so focused on outcomes they forget what got them there. I have also grown to really appreciate the developmental maturity that facilitates mindfulness. With that comes perspective, and the ability to use experience as a tool – not an outcome. Thanks for a point well made.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.