Want an excellent way to kill your self-confidence and pull the plug on your motivation at the same time? If so, then try COMPARISON. Take your performance and compare it with a teammate's, an opponent's or anyone else's. It's a surefire way to get you feeling badly about yourself.

One of my athletes competed over the weekend in a swim meet. He had a chronic problem of getting much too nervous before his performances and, as a consequence, would always underachieve. However, he's been working really hard to develop mental toughness and turn this thing around. At the meet in question, he conducted himself very differently. He stayed in control of his focus of concentration, because of that he stayed calm pre-race and those times when he felt the nervousness building, he stepped in and calmed himself down. The same thing was true for him mentally during his performances. He concentrated on all of the right things and when his focus did drift, he was aware of it and quickly brought himself back to the right things.

In my book he should get an "A" for mental toughness and for turning around a difficult problem. Not surprisingly, his times reflected what he accomplished mentally. He swam close to personal best times and in both of his individual events, he qualified for Regionals, a huge accomplishment! After his races he was really feeling good about himself until he watched four of his teammates swim the 400Free relay. As he watched each guy in the relay go under his individual 100 Free time, he became more and more bummed out. When the relay was over and all four swimmers had gone faster than he had, he concluded that his "accomplishment" wasn't really worth much of anything.

This is called "raining on your parade" or robbing yourself of the opportunity to feel good about yourself. He took a clear success and, using a little "comparison magic," turned it into a failure replete with crappy feelings, low self-confidence and a sense of being discouraged.

When you define your successes based on the accomplishments of others, when you compare what you do with teammates or opponents, you get an exceedingly inaccurate measure of your success. Instead you need to learn to measure your accomplishments against yourself, against your past performances or achievements. Everyone has various strengths and weaknesses. Everyone has different handicaps, injuries, physical liabilities, etc. To compare what you have just done with what someone else does and then conclude that what you did wasn't good enough is to be very unkind to yourself. You can't define your successes and accomplishments solely based upon how you did in comparison to others.

Imagine how Michael Phelps' teammates must feel when, no matter how hard they work or how fast they go, they're always slower than he is. Does that mean that their accomplishments and "best times" are worthless because Phelps still beat them? When they get a personal best, shouldn't they stop to feel good about themselves? Keep your measure of success internal. Learn to measure your efforts and accomplishments internally, by what you did in relation to what you used to do. Drop the comparison stuff. COMPARISON is a dirty word which will kill your confidence and leave you short on motivation.