Almost anyone that has ever competed has suffered from nerves. Whether it be in the form of butterflies in your stomach, feeling sick, sweating, heart beating faster or even running to the toilet every two minutes.Some people say that they enjoy the nerves, that they feel they need them to perform. Others can be crippled by them. They’re the ones that know they could have beaten their opponents “in the gym” when no one was looking and they didn’t feel the pressure to perform.
As a competitor, some of the best competitions ive ever had were when I couldn’t decide whether I was feeling nervous or excited. Looking back, i’m going to say it was excitement, as I know I can feel confident at the same time as excited. As a coach, i’ve seen a lot of fighters really lose their games before stepping up to fight and always thought it was a massive shame.
Over the last 8 years I have studied a lot of personal development (read books, watched videos, attended courses) and the thing that has given me the most as a single technique in regards to training/coaching competitiors is something called an NLP Swish Pattern. The purpose of the swish pattern is to install choices rather than change or remove old habits. It is important, i think, to keep the old habits as you will be able to recognise them in the future and repeat the swish pattern. I like to think of the pattern as similar to scratching a cd. If you think as the old habit as a song on a cd that you don’t like anymore and the swish pattern as taking a needle and scratching the cd so that the song will not play properly anymore.
The valuable thing about a swish pattern is that you can use it to manage negative thoughts or feelings associated with the past, present or future. (memories, limiting beliefs, anxiety) and there are only 4 pieces of information needed to run the pattern. They are:
- Unwanted feeling: The feelings I don’t want(nervousness or anxiousness)
- Trigger: The thought or image which evokes these negative feelings? (standing mat/ring/cage side)
- Check: I know my anxious feelings are irrational i.e. I don’t need to take practical action – it’s just a silly thought
- Replacement image: I can see myself acting like I wish to be.(strong/powerful/confident)
NLP is using language to affect your nervous system to install new programmes (habits) and while having a coach is great, there are patterns you can do by yourself and this is great for that. It is especially great for those who are good at visualising as the pattern involves making pictures in your mind.
How you can use the Swish
(A) Preparation & set-up
(1) Unwanted feeling i.e. What do you NOT want? Identify the thought and/or feeling that you’d like to replace. As this note is titled “How to get rid of unwanted pre-comp nerves.” Im guessing nervousness is the unwanted behaviour. Although, as said earlier, this works just as well for anxiety.
(2) Trigger? What triggers the unwanted feeling i.e. what do you see or imagine seeing just before you feel bad?
(3) Check re practical action! This is very important. The Swish must only be used where the situation does not require practical action. Nerves are a minor programme invoked from our Fight or Flight response. The swish pattern should not be used to stop you from running away if you are in serious danger.
(4) How do you want to feel instead? Select your replacement feeling (strong/powerful/confident) – the one you want the current trigger to evoke. Spend a while reliving this pleasant or empowering moment to make the memory richer. This means go back to a time you can remember feeling either really strong, really powerful or really confident.
Make sure your final version is a dissociated image (i.e. you can ‘see’; yourself in the image/situation/memory)
(B) Running the technique
1) Get the picture that represents the unwanted behaviour you would like to change. (Ask yourself: When I think of being nervous/anxious do I have a picture?) The picture is just an internal representation. Everyone will have one as, if you didn’t, you would never have experienced the unwanted behaviour.
2) Now get a picture of the type of person you would like to be. (Ask: How would I like to be instead? When I think of that do I have a picture?)
3) Change the visual intensity of the desired state (brightness, colour, size, distance, focus etc) to whatever gives you the most intense positive feelings.
4) STEP OUT of the picture so that you can see yourself in it.
5) Bring back the old picture (#1) and STEP INTO IT so that you are fully associated (seeing everything through your own eyes)
6) Place the new picture in the lower left hand corner of the old picture. Make it small and dark and make sure you can see your body in the picture.
7) Explode the new picture up BIG AND BRIGHT and have it explode up so that it now covers the old picture, while the old picture shrinks down into the left hand corner becoming SMALL AND DARK. Do this as quickly as you can say the word “SWISH” – THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT TO THE TECHNIQUE SO MAKE SURE YOU SAY THE WORD “SWISH” whilst performing the technique
8) Clear the screen and break state (look at your watch, out of a window, move around for a second)
That’s Round 1. You need to do about 5-7 Rounds (from step 5-8) to wire-in the new programme.
Do it quicker each time e.g. first round in no more than 5 seconds then 4, 3, 2, and 1 seconds and a final two or three Rounds at 1 second each.
There’s no need to try to get your images to change perfectly – just quickly. Aim for speed rather than accuracy.
(C) Test it
Having done your 5-7 Rounds ‘change state’ by doing something else for a couple of minutes.
Now discover what happens when you try to recall the Trigger image (i.e. the original negative image).
If it’s difficult to bring back – or if the negative feeling is no longer evoked by it – you’re done.
- If it does come back do another 2-4 Rounds
- If that doesn’t work find a better and more powerful positive Replacement image – and then run the whole Swish from the beginning.
- And if that doesn’t work it could be that the Trigger is too powerful for the Swish technique – that’s why we have so many techniques, and more in-depth processes, in NLP.