Mental Hijacking: Use Olympic champion Tianna Bartoletta's Code R.E.D.
By Greg Bach
Olympic great Tianna Bartoletta is relentless when it comes to working hard.
And helping others manage the oh-so complex mental side of competing.
“I call it mental hijacking,” says Bartoletta, who pulled off a rare golden double in Rio at the 2016 Summer Olympics by winning the long jump and running the leadoff leg on the victorious women’s 4x100 meter relay team. “I have to sometimes hijack my own brain in order to get out of my own way so I can be a higher performer.”
And the three-time Olympic gold medalist – she ran the leadoff leg on Team USA’s world record-setting 4x100 meter relay at the 2012 Olympics in London – dispenses golden nuggets of wisdom to young athletes every chance she gets.
“It’s important, especially for younger athletes as well, to understand that when I’m out there on the starting line or on the runway there are doubts, insecurities and self-consciousness,” she says. “But I am well-trained in hijacking those things and overriding the system and I’m able to execute anyway.”
And when she finds techniques that work for her she shares them to help others boost their performances and squeeze the most of their ability.
As the coronavirus has brought life to a grinding halt, it has also thrown new challenges everyone’s way.
Even for one of the fastest women on the planet.
“I struggle when I’m not organized or when I have a lot of unstructured time,” Bartoletta says. “So I created Code R.E.D. for myself because I was waking up and kind of having that feeling of what do I do today? So it helped me figure out what I need to do to help make getting through these days easier for myself and I shared it because I thought maybe it could help someone else who is struggling with that same thing.”
Code R.E.D. is an acronym for:
As Bartoletta explained on her Instagram post, this is all about reinforcing habits or skills that you want to keep sharpened; eradicating habits or behaviors you want to get rid of; and developing brand new habits, skills or behaviors.
On a three-column chart individuals write down the current habits or skills they want to maintain under Reinforce; they jot down the current habits they want to get rid of under Eradicate; and they write the new habits or skills that they want to develop or learn under the Develop column.
Each day that you successfully execute your Code R.E.D. plan you mark a big ‘X’ on those bad habits you’re getting rid of and a positive emoji on those areas that you are reinforcing or developing.
“It’s just a tool to help me cope during this time,” Bartoletta says. “Writing it down really allows you to see areas where you can accomplish some of these things that you have been waiting on. I think as you tackle those things you do end up generating positive momentum.”
Whenever Bartoletta speaks to a class the question that gets posed to her every time is if she gets nervous.
“I’m downright scared,” she reveals, shocking her audiences every time. “Especially before the 100 meters I am frightened and scared to death. And I see the eyes widen and hear the gasps around the room when I tell them this. On the one hand they are thinking that they are never going to be able to get rid of their nerves and they look discouraged because they see someone who has had the success that I’ve had still gets nervous; but there’s also a visible relief that they see that nothing is wrong with them and nothing is wrong with feeling the nervousness.”
Whether it’s a Saturday morning youth sports event or an Olympic final, those nerves are going to be present in all athletes. Along with the challenges of navigating the ups and downs that accompany competing in any sport.
And at any level.
“Success boosts confidence, but it doesn’t last,” Bartoletta says. “All it takes is going to the next competition and losing to knock you back to the start in re-building your confidence. So you want to get to a point where your confidence is not dependent on the result of the competition. That’s why I think it’s important that I share exercises and homework for the mental toughness side.”
A three-time Olympic gold medalist, and three-time World Champion, doing her mental homework exercises would certainly be a smart move.
You can follow Bartoletta on Instagram and Twitter.
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