@salaamlaw: Visualise. Set your goals. Believe in yourself.
Four golf competitions in ten days on four different courses. My eldest is preparing for them assiduously by practising every chance he gets. It is through this practice under pressure that he is improving his game. The T-times are fixed with precision and it is with those times and days in mind that he has made sure to practice prior. It is great to go to class, to learn, to play casually and regularly but it is the push come to shove of signing in to a competition, the desire to shine, the adrenaline of winning that will give the better results.
My 7 year old daughter is walking in her brother's "green" footsteps, as she is participating in the Easter par3 competition, casual, but competition non the less. She has steered her attention to golf for a week now and she requests to be taken to the range, even at night, by floodlight. She even treads on the par3 alone and independent to practice.
It was with that determination that she presented herself to the ballet exams at the Royal Board of Ballet, Grade 1. She attended class three times a week instead of her usual once to practice all her steps and no birthday party or outing incited her to cancel ballet practice. She had her priorities all set!
The same can be said of the Violin Royal Board of Music exams. What better incentive to make you practice violin, because "the exam is in a month!" Crunch time!
A challenge is an excellent motivating factor to learning and improving. An exam,a deadline, or a competition gives you a "raison de faire" (a reason to do). The feeling of achieving is attained when you move to the next level!