There are a lot of moments in life when we are challenged to improve our consistency in order to achieve optimal performance. Early on as an athlete, it was hard for me to control my mind while training and competing at a high level. However, there was a stretch of time in my career when I created a habit of being consistent. Now, reflecting on my struggles and successes, there are a few things that I learned along the way that I try to help athletes with. Boiled down, it is all about how we react to obstacles, optimize self-control, and balance out our mood fluctuations.
We all can become frustrated when presented with a challenge, obstacle or set back. Many athletes I work with often lose focus, become reserved or completely give up and throw in the towel. On the opposite hand, if we quickly react to these life challenges in a positive way, we can then create a habit that will allow us to achieve things that were seemingly impossible. These tough situations arise to strengthen our focus and direct our intention in a better way. Getting mad during competition wastes time, energy and diminishes focus. After a game, meet, or match is the best time to revisit certain pivotal moments and learn appropriate lessons. These reflections can help us build towards a stronger future. While doing this, try and set goals on how to shift from a negative to positive reaction when a challenging moment arises.
Learning self-control will help athletes maintain focus where it is most important; during competition. The trick is to understand that there are most likely different segments within a competition and if one portion does not go as hoped, it does not mean that the whole experience is a loss. For example, at a swim meet there are three main portions: a warm up, the race, and a warm down. This does not include the time in between including rest, eating/drinking, talking with the coach etc. When taking into account that there are multiple races at a meet, this will create even more segments to maintain focus on throughout the day.
It is easy for our moods to fluctuate when things happen that is out of our control. We can forget to seek out the opportunities that are presented within obstacles that we face. All of us have the ability to shift our focus and not revert back to negativity if something turns out to be harder than originally anticipated. Letting go of these feelings will help sharpen our focus, which can lead to emotions positively affecting performance. Even the most successful athletes have setbacks, fatigue, fear, stress and self-doubts like everyone else. However, they are the best in their sport because they refine the necessary skills needed to let go of their negative thoughts. With time and practice it will become easier to make this shift from negative to positive consistently.
A few ways to stay on track with this change is to get more rest, keep a list of positive experiences, and embrace all successes (both small and large). We always have the option to either change our focus or change our environment if things become overwhelming. We can use this practice as a shield to protect ourselves from negativity and regain a balanced mindset. Coaches, let us help the people around us prepare to be positive, let go of negative thoughts, and SHOW UP when taking action to reach their goals!