"We suffer more often in imagination than in reality"
Often, in sport, the one who loses control is the one who loses the match, race, or game. Losing one's composure has the potential to alter an experience. Sometimes it's a slow digression of mounted frustration; other times, its a definitive moment that stands out. Either way, losing composure is losing emotional control. Since you are the only one in control of you, this is not good. If undressed, mental frustration exacerbates so rapidly, it can be easy to identify through the nuances of one's body language: facial expressions, the "deer in the headlights look", or angst-ridden looks of exasperation. These looks exude weakness, physical deterioration, or a complete falling apart. They are completely dependent on the individual. One certainty is that you will not be able to perform at 100% for every single outing. This is why composure matters. Given the likelihood that you are your own worst critic, getting back on track is not easy. But it is possible. These moments can continue to suck or they can be teachable. That's up to you. Below are a couple of tips that will help in fortifying the internal poise, so that the external noise can stay away.
1. Realize - Maintaing composure starts with understanding yourself and your environment. This means finding out (possibly through journaling) how many variables were at play. Pay attention to what might have precipitated those moments when control began to slip away. Was it a product of circumstance?A tough practice/workout that you dislike? The weather? Were you under-the-weather? What matters with what is included on this list, is what matters to you during your performance. Once you come to identify these factors and understand them, you'll be better equipped to handle them in the future.
2. Reframe - Once the external factors are identified, now it is time to work with them. This is the step where you are able to flip the proverbial switch. Reframing is not a one-off deal either. A game/race progresses and can change instantaneously, further reinforcing the need to constantly adjust. These options range from a deep breath, to a mantra/quote/song lyrics, to chunking the overall goal into segments. "Chunking it" means eating the elephant one bite at a time, which can either be committing to running beyond a visual landmark. It can also be committing to playing your best for the next minute, shift, or quarter. Reframing keeps the mind present, and, thus keeping you in the driver's seat.
3. Embrace - Once you're in the driver's seat, you're in charge. This doesn't mean you'll be at 100%. Nor does it mean that all systems will be firing. Embrace is fluidly welcoming what might happen, as opposed to forcing it aside. There is value in embrace because it allows you to extract 100% out of the 45% feeling that you are currently experiencing. Reframing gets you to the here-and-now; embrace keeps you there. From there, potential is boundless.
Whether your game is sport, business, or school, composure keeps you engaged with only what is relevant. Composure has the potential to affect your opponent. Once composed, the opponent can't gain insight. An added bonus is that their mounting concern means nothing to you. Internally, you might barely be holding on, but composure keeps everybody guessing; that is everybody except yourself.