Many athletes get hung up on questions along the lines of: What can I do if things don’t go my way, eg an outcome of a competition, or a bad day of training . How to shake it off when the referee seems unfair, negative thoughts come up etc.
Some of this we touched on during our first session. For example, practising something like the ‘floating leaves exercise’ is a great way to build the muscle that helps letting things go.
Another aspect though is to know what to let go and what to flag for later as something that needs to be addressed. There is a lot our mind concerns itself with. And some of it might seem ‘valid’.
Let’s assume that you are having a tournament and the other teams or athletes seem far superior.
Let’s start with what not to do. What not to do is focus on things that you can not control. Or at least not control alone. The stuff in your ‘circle of concern’ (or ‘anxiety/ worry’).
Let’s say the above scenario happens in your next competition. The other team/ gymnast seems in incredibly good form. If you win the competition will depend on a number of factors. To name a few only:
- Has the other team had enough sleep
- Have you had enough sleep
- Have you looked after your health and prepared well in training
- Have you learned from your past mistakes?
- Did Team Incredible follow their training schedule and improve even more?
- Are some of their team members distracted by an unhappy love story or internal conflict?
- Is the temperature too cold today?
- Does the referee secretly like you guys better?
- Etc etc.
You can easily see that some factors are very much in your control, while others are not at all in your control. And who wins a competition is a combination of all of these factors. So yeah, if Team Incredible has never lost a competition, your team might quite likely lose. But so what?
What would be the best thing to do if it looked like this early on? Give up? Well it depends what you are aiming at. You could just use this opportunity to learn from your mistakes, which would show up much more clearly than when playing someone much worse than you. You could develop your mental stance, – you could focus on enjoying your routines and not to care too much about the end result. To be present in the moment. A bit like Boris here:
Talking about which: the present moment is of course the only one you have any control over, right? We already established you can’t control the future, you certainly can’t do much about the mistake you just made one minute ago, even the mistake 5 seconds ago is already out of your control, – but you can do your best right now.
So in a way, the best attitude is to think that the competition is like playing a game of tennis against yourself: Who will win, the part of you that wants to give up or the part who wants to persist? The part of you that wants to learn from your mistakes at least as much as Michael Jordan, – and become much better every year, or the one that gets hung up about mistakes made in the past and loses confidence? The one that thinks ahead about ‘what if I don’t win this competition’ or the one that can focus on what s/he needs to do right now in this moment?
Each time you perform, no matter against who, you are playing against yourself at the same time, and if you do it well you become a better gymnast. No matter if you lose or win in this competition. Winning a competition is only partially in your control: There is the ref, there are your team mates, your coach, and of course the other team or gymnasts. There is only one person and one moment that you can do something about, and that’s what you should come back to each time your mind wonders about the referee, the coach or the result at the end.