Juan Martin Zubia & Polito Pieres

THE MENTAL GAME: DON’T SET YOUR POLO LIMITS

TO OUR READERS AND VIEWERS: POLO CHANNEL WANTS TO HEAR FROM YOU! OUR GOAL IS TO HELP YOU IMPROVE YOUR GAME. WHAT MENTAL OR PSYCHOLOGICAL CHALLENGES WOULD YOU LIKE ADVICE ON FROM OUR MENTAL PERFORMANCE EXPERTS? SEND AN EMAIL TO: darlene@polochannel.com

STRETCH THEM OUT OF THE COMFORT ZONE! – Part 1

JOHN HAIME

In part one of our three-part series on the “comfort zone,” world renowned mental performance coach John Haime explains how and why staying in the comfort zone can hold you back from improving as a player.

As the timeclock ticks, players get trapped in repeating habits, in a comfortable zone—most often below the level they are capable of playing. What you may not know about these habits is they are below your consciousness and determine what you think you can or can’t do. You become comfortable with these habits, and they end up running the show. 

Unfortunately, that comes with a cost: the stagnation of a career. When the annual handicap changes are announced, some players’ ratings remain steady year after year. That’s great if you’re a 10-goaler, but not for the rest of us. Some players keep diligently swinging the mallet for 10, 20, even 30 years and stay relatively in the same place every year without any increase or real shift in improvement.

How can that happen?

The answer is comfort zone. The longer you stay in the same comfort zone, the more it shrinks and the harder it is to expand it. The more you continue to do the same things, make the same mistakes, ingrain the same habits, the more your comfort zone shrinks—

and you become THAT player—your identity.

WHAT IS YOUR COMFORT ZONE?

Everyone knows about the idea of comfort zone: the space where your activities and behaviors fit a routine and pattern that minimizes stress and risk. It’s a comfy place where you’re not threatened and everything always stays the same—offering you mental security.

There’s a lot of science that highlights why it’s so challenging to break out of your comfort zone, and why it’s good for you when you do it. With a little understanding and a few adjustments, you can break away from your comfort zone by expanding it . . . and improve your game. 

In 1908 psychologists Robert Yerkes and John Dodson showed that a state of comfort created a steady level of performance. But they also highlighted that if you want to increase your performance, a state of relative anxiety is needed—a place where stress levels are slightly higher than normal. This is called “Optimal Anxiety,” and it’s beyond your comfort zone. Further, they showed that too much anxiety can produce too much stress leading to performance drop-offs. So, finding that ideal stress level for you is key to be able to bring the right amount of energy and focus for your best performance.

You are not alone in the quest to expand your comfort zone. The leading professional polo players and other athletes I work with daily are constantly working to shift their comfort zone and find the place leading to higher performance. If you want to become a better player and see improvement, it’s an important exercise for you, too.

NEXT: In part two, John takes us to the next challenge: identifying what causes you to be in the comfort zone and what can keep you from breaking out.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: John Haime is President of New Edge Performance. A world-class Human Performance Coach for athletes, executives and artists, former professional athlete and current bestselling Author of You are a Contender! Build Emotional Muscles to Perform Better and Achieve More, John understands how athletes think and feel. He’s been there—under the most intense pressures of amateur and professional sports. He is trusted by a wide range of clients including some of world’s leading professional and amateur athletes. John coaches professional equestrians and up-and-comers with a proven system generating measurable results for clients. He has certifications in psychology, neuroscience, emotional intelligence and coaching. www.johnhaime.com

James Beim
Nico Pieres

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