From my perspective, the key to a great mental game is to become aware of the situations which impact you, alter your reactions to these triggers with intervention strategies that foster a more productive response and subsequent outcome.
Begin by identifying the specific situations act as a catalyst for you to lose focus, take you out of being present or act as fodder for losing emotional control. Be sure you are detailed with the specifics behind the triggers. By formally articulating your poor mental state triggers, you are developing awareness. With awareness, you can create a proactive plan when your poor mental game triggers emerge in competition.
Once you have articulated your triggers and negative response to these situations, think about interventions which can help you alter this trigger – response sequence. For illustrative purposes, here is one of the most common situations which often lead to a poor reaction and response.
Situation Bad Ball Reaction
Reaction (1) Concern about score, not being present; (2) frustration & anger, interferes with clear thinking & good decision making; (3) physical symptoms, heart rate up and physical tension which interferes with good shot making
Response Making radical moves and ball changes hoping to find something (panic driven).
To develop a stronger mental game, introduce an intervention which will interfere with the current negative response and negative outcome.
Intervention When I perceive that I have bad ball reaction, I will take a deep breathe to help slow my thinking and lower my heart rate. Self-talk statements will include “incremental moves. No Lane Beats Me. I can always figure it out!”
Outcome higher scores due to less radical shots which lead to more lower pin count on first shots, difficult spare shots, splits and/or wash-outs.