The age old question: What does it take to win? Part 3
Part 3: Overcoming losses
Any good self-help book will tell you that the key to success is overcoming losses. This adage is not only highly applicable to athletes, but also one athletes should stride to be experts at it. What group of people fails more than anyone at the thing they do daily, passionately, and as a career, other than TV meteorologists, athletes. Why is that you ask, because sport is a practice. It is a practice not only at getting better at your sport, but also at overcoming losses. The key to winning is not only practicing mentally, and physically, but also at rebounding from losses.
Mentally (and physically) hanging onto a loss, a mess up, a missed field goal etc. will literally add a weight to your body and soul, withholding you from winning.
A couple weeks ago I attended a football game with some friends. As I watched the game it was quite evident how the visiting team was struggling significantly with overcoming losses. Each time the quarterback got the slightest bit of pressure, he threw an incomplete pass. After the kicker missed one kick, he missed every subsequent one. If these players had the tools to overcome these mental blocks, they would have been able to easily win the game.
So here are your tools to avoid these athletic snags that are weighing you down, and free you up for a win.
- Visualization: Visualization is a tool that can be utilized for many aspects of your game. To use it as a tool for overcoming losses you must visualize the situation, either in movie or picture form. Now, with the image or short mental video clip of the worst feeling part of the loss in your head, make it seem very real, bring it into color, add sound, increase clarity, or whatever feels right to you. Then apply a visualization method to destroy it forever. This can be a multitude of ways so find what works best for you, some useful ones include : drifting away into the sky, exploding into smithereens, getting farther away from you until you cannot see it anymore, kicking a soccer ball into it etc. Repeat this about 7 times (more or less) until when you try and recall the original image onto the screen of your mind, it is either no longer there, or has no feeling/thoughts attached to it what so ever. This technique can be utilized either in the moment, to overcome small athletic snags, such as a missed goal in practice, or larger ones you may be dealing with such as fear of an opponent or skill.
- Meditation practice: The more you practice meditation, the easier it will be to allow obstacles big and small to no longer effect you.
- Affirmations/mantra: Many times fear is what causes losses to occur within sport, and life. We will explore fear more in depth at a later date, but for now, if you sense it is fear that is causing your athletic mishaps, use this tool. Construct and write down an affirmation or mantra to tell your mind that winning is possible. Make it something concrete, and write it where you will see it often, and record it to play back to yourself. These should also be in a positive sense about yourself, because your mind reacts to every subtle detail. Examples may include: “I am a terrific athlete” “I will make this pass” “I will run/swim/bike my best time” “I am focused” If you would like assistance creating a mantra or affirmation leave a comment and I will reply. Also, creating affirmations such as “I am a winner” are not very productive, as your mind has many different definitions of this, and has the capacity to have negative results. It is best to make it personalized for you, and as concrete and specific as possible, such as “I am a terrific athlete”.
- Whatever you do, do not punish yourself for your mistakes. Mistakes happen, we are human, but abusing self for these human tendencies does not help them happen less often, it actually has the reverse effect. Maybe people are chastising you for your mistakes, and that is terrible and scary, but continuing to love yourself in spite of your mistakes will aid in limiting and eradicating this external abuse. Mistakes are intended to be learning experiences, so do just that. Learn from your mistakes, and never stop loving yourself. Practice self love all day, every day.
Remember sport is a practice, and mental practice aids in making your physical practice better!