My 4-year-old grand-daughter put her arms around me, kissed me goodnight and then said, “Your hair smells like beach house.”
One sniff of my newly washed hair took her mind to memories of our family vacation.
Her train of thought is one that can take you to greatness in sports, with a technique called anchoring.
It’s based on a principle so simple that even a 4-year-old noticed it. As mammals, we are wired to associate physical sensations with emotions. For instance, you probably have a song that reminds you of some person, place or thing. Tasting a certain food may bring to mind some memory, like grandma’s kitchen. To this day, the smell of the sun hitting a telephone pole on a warm day takes me back to my childhood, when we spent our summers sitting around a big wooden picnic table.
You can use this principle to lock in all the good things you do in sports. All you must do is perform some action every time you do something you would like to repeat.
Let’s say you’re a softball pitcher working on a change-up. When you throw one that makes you happy or confident, perform some physical action. I’ve seen athletes bite their lip, snap their fingers, brush their hand through their hair, or scratch the inside of their arm. Whatever your action, if you anchor often enough you will soon associate the action with positive emotions.