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Mental Processes and Why Are They Important

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Posted in Mental Management

The Mental Management System has played a big part in 2016 being a pivotal year for me as a competitor in K9 Nose Work and in business. I know some of you have already started using this system and I am excited to see what 2017 holds.  Below is an article by Heather Sumlin from Mental Management System...what do your circles look like. 
.....Nancy Reyes 
this was taken from the mental management dog handling newsletter. If you have any questions, email Heather Sumlin at
As I was preparing for this newsletter I realized I am uncertain of where all of the readers are in their understanding of Mental Management. Most of you have probably at least read “With Winning in Mind” which lays a good foundation for what we teach. However, “With Winning in Mind” is not specific to your sport and most of the examples are of sports with repetitive action like rifle shooting, golf or bowling. Handlers have a longer action phase than a golf shot and there is a need to control the mind and trust your training during a longer period of time. Plus the handler has an added variable, their dog. So for this issue I will give a quick breakdown of the mental processes for handlers.
There are three mental processes that control performance no matter the activity.
The Conscious Mind is your thoughts, which need to be controlled by you and not by your environment. We are almost always thinking and if we can decide in advance the optimum way to think before, during and after the action we can improve consistency.
The Subconscious Mind is your skills, which are built in training – the quality of your training enhances the quality of your skills. Every time you take a class from an instructor, attend a seminar, train from home or compete in a trial you have the opportunity to build Subconsious skill.
Self-Image is the most important mental process because without a strong Self-Image you cannot reach your potential under pressure. We will perform to the size of our Self-Image not our skill level in most cases. Your Self-Image is your habits and attitudes – it is what makes you act like you. It is your belief in your ability as a handler, a competitor, a teammate and a trainer. Building Self-Image takes intentional effort with focus on changing habits and attitudes. It is not easy to change Self-Image but it is possible and vital to success.
If your Self-Image is equal to your skill level and your Conscious Mind is focused in the right place you have a great chance to reach your potential under pressure. In our system we use circles to represent each mental process and our goal is to be balanced in our circles.
Quick example of handlers who may be out of balance:
The Beginner will have a larger Conscious circle because they have not developed skill or confidence in their handling. They are learning which is done Consciously first. It will take time through repetition to gain the skills needed to advance in the sport.
The Frustrated Expert is someone who has been working on building skills and focus but hasn’t spent enough time building Self-Image. This handler is out of balance because their Self-Image is much smaller and even if they are focused and prepared for a competition, if they do not have the confidence in their ability to succeed under pressure due to having a small Self-Image circle they will most likely make mistakes in their runs that lead to a performance less than their potential.
The Unfocused is a handler who may have been in balance on the way to the trial and then something or someone pulls their focus. Maybe they realized certain people were present or they hear negative comments from others and their thoughts become taken hostage by their environment. Another example of unfocused is the handler who thinks about the importance of the Q and are outcome driven prior to a run instead of focusing on the processes of executing their plan.
There are many ways to be out of balance, these are just a few examples. I recommend you take some time to think about if you are in balance or not. If not, why not? You may have different set of circles for different circumstances, obstacles, events, dogs (if you have multiple dogs – you may be in balance more with one than the other), training vs competition, etc. Your goal is to find the mental processes that need to be built and work on bringing those up to the same level as the others.
Handlers often times struggle because they spend time building the skill level, Self-Image and Conscious Mind of their dog more than they spend building themselves. I believe you must build your dog’s circles but you must be focused on yourself as a handler to reach your true potential.
Most of this will be review for many of you who have our products and have attended training. Send me an email with questions you would like for me to answer is a future issue. I am happy to help in any way I can.
Heather Sumlin

Posted: 12/4/2016 | Updated: 12/4/2016

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