It feels so personal somehow… but truthfully, I don’t get that emotional for my own successes for Pete’s sake!? (hmm… good blog subject!) Those high-level competitors have nerves of steel though, don’t they: all those hopes, all that pressure – and whole countries looking at them to bring “us” home the gold! Go us!!
We hear more these days about the element of “mental preparation” in sport, but do we truly grasp what that’s really about? High-level sport is a glaring demonstration of the impact of “thought” in our lives. If world-class athletes can’t manage their thoughts, the path to gold can’t even be travelled.
In the weeks leading up to the 2014 Olympic games, the W Network had a seven episode presentation: “Tessa & Scott”, an intimate look at the two-time world champion Canadian ice-dance team that won both the top prize and our hearts at the 2010 Games in Vancouver. The bevy of highly specialized coaches we meet throughout this reality series includes the best sport/life coaches in the world, ensuring this prized duo has both cutting-edge info and tried-and-true techniques to manage the stress and pressure that accompanies their competitive lives. Listening to athletes being interviewed, it seems a given that they spend time conditioning their minds.
Focus on the now.
Visualize your path, your outcome... feel the feelings that you want to feel from this experience.
Trust your gift and your training.
Acknowledge you’ve BEATEN the stress-monster before… it’s only a figment of your thoughts – and you’ll beat it again – always.
Perform for yourself: have fun!
I’m curious as to how transferrable these techniques have been in these athletes’ everyday-lives: do they adapt these skills and affirmations permanently, or are they attached more compartmentally to their sports performance?
Tessa and Scott gave us some insight into that question, providing a fabulous all-access pass to the battle of stress and fear demons on and off the ice. Thank you- especially Tessa, for letting us witness that even with the benefit of expert mental health coaching, thoughts can be tough beasts to tame.
Tessa is talented, beautiful, bright, charismatic, and on-track to comfortably medal at this next milestone event. Still, she struggles with enormous self-doubt: she vocalizes that she’s “not good enough” – and not only referring to her craft. Throughout the show, Tessa spins insecurities and often stops and consciously employs thought-control techniques (sometimes to little effect). Scott is seen working hard to master switching focus between his competition-life and home-life with the absoluteness required for his sport: seduced by beliefs that one aspect or the other must be suffering. As a team, they are both hugely challenged daily to keep healthy thoughts forefront: they share a coach and a practice rink with their main rivals, Americans Meryl Davis & Charlie White, who recently stole the world champion gold from our Canuck sweeties – man, that’s gotta be torture, eh!
Seriously though, why??? Let’s break this scenario down a little:
~You see peers challenging themselves, thriving: isn’t that good… aren’t you inspired… don’t your thoughts immediately burst to “I just can’t wait to get out and live my dream too- just like them“?
~You love what you do, you’ve created something that you happily spend time mastering – and you’re good, damn it!
~Your passion, your gift delivers health, self-expression, a livelihood, fulfillment.
Where on earth does a defeating thought even fit in here?
I can only imagine where sport might be if understanding our thoughts and pursuing our desires for the pure love and challenge of it – not to define a hierarchy, was inherently nurtured from birth. Not so sure what the competition part would look like, but I believe the talent would be infinitely higher – and athletes infinitely more joyful! It’s my speculation (based on societal norms) that the “mind-management” tools that many professional athletes recite are learned with their sport, and not necessarily the result of premium conditioning as infants and toddlers (the behaviourally impactful years). It’s likely then, that they’ll require further psychological support to apply some of the great tools they’ve learned in this sequestered piece of their lives more organically into the other facets of their post-competition lives. Ever wonder why we have so many messed-up former sports heroes??
So the point here… again… thoughts influences the tone of our lives and the pathways to our achievements; testament… again… that the earlier we can own our uniqueness and gifts, irrelevant of others, and understand and master thought, the more automatic the tools kick in, the faster we re-route positively, and the less stress and more joy we will feel.
Last post, Wayne Dyer took center-stage in thought-provoking, this time ’round, one of my top five all-time masters of perspective, Robert Holden, ties together some of these ideas of thought-management for the athlete and spectator alike.
Can a Single Thought
really make that much difference?
They estimate that you speak to yourself at a conservative average of 50 words a minute, 3,000 words an hour. If you listen to your inner dialogue, you will notice an assortment of observations, judgments, commentary, beliefs, doubts, hopes, fears, anxieties, chatter, and general nonsense.
Fortunately, it takes only one great thought—one inspired piece of inner dialogue—to create some success.
Next: Is Your Self-Talk Helping … or Hurting You? (page 2)