When you step on the ice for that competition skate and you’re thinking about getting through the next few minutes without making a mistake or falling, or you’re worrying about your overall performance, chances are the result will be a foregone conclusion. And not in a good way.

I’ve talked many times about how the mind doesn’t deal in negatives (remember –  if you just say to yourself “Don’t think of a pink elephant” you’ll be thinking about one straight away!). And I’ve often mentioned how crucial it is to focus on what you WANT, not on what you DON’T want.

Even so, there are STILL skaters heading out onto the ice with an invisible ‘suitcase’, collecting “All the things which could go wrong” at each and every opportunity in their programme.

“Here’s a fall at the beginning on that Axel – (let’s pop that one in the suitcase). Oh no – now there’s another jump coming up and I’ve just fallen on the axel so I’m going to have to be really careful not to fall… oh no! that’s another fall (pop it in the case with the other one).  Oh dear! Now I’ve missed two jumps and I’m going to have to skate the rest perfectly or I’ll lose so many marks… let me just go carefully into this spin… Aaarrgh! I fell!  On a spin! (let’s stick that in the case too…)  How will I make it up? I’ve got that AWFUL jump at the end and I can NEVER land that one! Ah no!! Sure enough I’ve fallen on it. I just want to sit here and cry and disappear through the ice… boo hoo!”

So our skater has gone from one jump to the next focusing on what might go wrong – and falling as a result. Then trying to be extra careful, she has slipped on a spin – which she’s never done before – because she was being too tentative about it – in case she made a mistake and thinking about what she didn’t want to happen!  And it’s just like she’s carrying a little bag of worries around with her on the ice, filling it up with all the things which could possibly go wrong.

To the onlooker, it’s like watching a car crash in slow motion. You just know as the skater gets further into the programme that they are going to fall at every opportunity. Your heart goes out to them as they step off the ice in tears.  Another chance to get a personal best or a qualifying score goes down the drain.

That skater – like all skaters competing – is perfectly capable of skating a clean programme. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be there. But when the head is focused on all the negatives, the outcome is a far cry from what they are truly capable of.

Next time you’re competing or taking a test, remember to focus on the positive. Think about what you want to happen, not what you don’t want.  And instead of collecting up all your mistakes and dragging your ‘baggage’ around with you on the ice, leave each element there on the ice as you do it. If you fall, there is absolutely nothing you can do to change it, so leave it behind and consign it to history. Move your thinking along to the next thing – focus on the set up, take-off and landing – just for THAT move you are about to do.  It’s no good thinking about the one you missed, or the tricky one coming up at the end, because if you are, then you’re not focusing on the stuff you are supposed to be doing RIGHT NOW!

So leave the baggage behind and travel light across the ice!