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How To Create Confidence

Many paddlers have been told that they have the skill to run more challenging rapids -but they hold back. What drives us? What limits us? There is much information in this field. If we use this info consciously, we can influence the level at which we boat and free ourselves up to enjoy whatever level we choose.

People like to perform their best and so purposefully (although often unconsciously) seek out conditions that produce a state of optimal arousal in the brain. A paddler can perform at her peak when the brain is neither overwhelmed nor bored. Each of us has our own measure of just what optimal is. People participate in kayaking because of the intrinsic feelings of enjoyment, well-being and personal achievement. This state of being, which lies outside the parameters of worry and boredom, is called being in the moment or in the Zone.

Here are some conditions that are necessary for a paddler to be in the Zone. The activity is completely voluntary, the motivation is intrinsic, the outcome is uncertain. There is just the right amount of challenge. Being in the Zone can only be experienced when the ability to influence the outcome by applying personal competence is matched to the risky situation.

What makes being in the Zone worth repeating the activity? The goal is clear and the feedback is immediate. Action and awareness merge into pure, uninterrupted concentration. The field of stimulus becomes centered and limited. There is an experience of "self forgetfulness". There is a feeling of control over ones actions in the environment. The experience is so enjoyable and meaningful that the individual hopes to reproduce this state by repeating the activity!

Knowing this about our minds, we can cultivate a type "C" personality, one that objectively evaluates our commitment, control and confidence over a challenge. Commonly, there is the rapid or river that represents the step up. Your mentor has assured you that your skills are up to the challenge. Yet you've held yourself back. The first question you must ask yourself is, "Do I want to do this?" Your motivation must be intrinsic and the decision voluntary.

If you decide "yes" then guide yourself through this process. It will help you step out of the emotional side and into the physical side, and help you create an attitude of control and confidence.
*First measure the difficulty of the parts. Break the rapid down move by move. Have you ever done similar moves on any other river? Have you done similar moves upstream?
*Rate the difficulty on your own scale. Can you make that ferry? Can you catch that eddy?
*Rate your ability. How successful were you with similar moves? How is your energy?
*Imagine the worst outcome. How likely is that to occur? What are more realistic consequences? Are you willing to suffer the most likely consequence?
*Evaluate your group and location. Do you have confidence in the support your group can provide? Does the environment provide the necessary margin of error to let you take on this challenge today?

Next create a "can do" attitude by visualizing your run. See yourself successfully dealing with the crux move. Which paddle blade goes into the curler? What posture and boat edge is needed? Continue to see your line all the way through to the final eddy. If progress stops at a certain feature, you'll need to work through it until you see yourself successful. Use only positive and realistic self-talk. Quiz the better paddlers in the group. Watch their runs to reinforce your plan. Remember that a great percentage of the work is done above the move. From each staging eddy, where did the successful boaters line up? What landmarks can you use to lead you to the positive line?

On the other hand, if you are happier seeing the take out than the put in, perhaps your motivation is not intrinsic. How many of us have run a rapid because "so-and-so ran it and I'm better than he is." Or because the group we paddled with created an atmosphere of judgment? You'll never boat in the Zone at peak performance if something other than joy is driving you. What drives us changes day-to-day, even moment-to-moment. Let yourself focus on the water in front of you and realistically evaluate your skill and the difficulty. Know that YOU want to take on this challenge, or not. Only you can control the conditions that allow you to be in the Zone. Some days it may be catching every eddy in a familiar rapid. Another day it could be while running a rapid for the first time.

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