Anybody can feel confident and be positive when things are going great. And its easy for us to stop learning or look for ways to get better when you think life and your sporting journey are going great.But know that it takes no special talent, discipline or grit to smile and feel motivated when you’re on top. However, the mark of a true champion lies in how you handle the down times. It’s in those times when you feel discouraged, hopeless and unmotivated that the seeds of true greatness reside.
Understand that no one embarks on the tough road from beginner to champion without encountering a ton of emotional and physical setbacks along the way. It’s actually what makes it worthwhile. It’s in those moments that true greatness lies. The uncertainty of the road ahead is what makes sport great and addicting. Homing in on the tough road is importantly about how you react to and manage your failures, disappointments, performance slumps and plateaus! This will ultimately determine whether you’ll be a success or a failure in anything that you attempt, on or off the playing fields.
And so, by learning to manage stress and adversity, you will become mentally tougher. You will perform better in key moments and perform on the big stage. If you learn to handle stress and utilize coping mechanisms and mental strength intervention’s, nothing will phase you. Your mind and body will learn to normalise pressure situations.
So, let’s start with some basics here:
The failures and hardships that you encounter along the way are put there to make you smarter, mentally and physically stronger and ultimately more talented.
In elite sports, you have to expect challenges. Expect hardship, adversity and disappointment.
Allowing failure allows space for success.
These challenges and losses are meant to be learning opportunities. Your disappointments hold invaluable lessons for you. It’s your job to sort through all of those very difficult emotions so that you can then find the important learnings within the setback and take advantage of them! They are important to your development and mental toughness capacity. Think of them as an integral, NORMAL and important part of your athletic journey.
Therefore, with the correct attitude, YOUR SETBACKS ARE MERELY TEMPORARY! Just because you failed last week, yesterday and today doesn’t mean that you will fail tomorrow. Your past failures are not a predictor of future failures or of permanence, (i.e. “this always happens to me” ), unless you adopt this as an attitude. Your disappointments, regardless of how frequent, should be viewed as simply temporary occurrences. Learn from them and leave them behind you. Many athletes and coaches deal with cognitive dissonance or distortion. The key is to shift your mindset and take out the negative thoughts. In this instance you can learn to become motivated by failures or setbacks.
Get more motivated every time you fail. Failure is simply feedback and feedback is the breakfast of champions.
Each setback provides you with important lessons that will help you take your game to the next level. As a result, you want to get yourself excited with each setback because, despite the “down” emotions, this actually puts you further down the road and closer to success. Can you imagine what would happen to your game if you adopted this attitude of getting more determined and motivated after each setback? That’s right! You’d probably have to spend the rest of your life cursed by success! Persistence and plain old-fashioned hard work will overcome almost any obstacle that life can throw in your path. Do not, under any circumstances ever stop working hard. Do not, ever quit! Sustained hard work in the face of failure, disappointment and frustration is the key to success and you want to use that key every day to unlock the doors that may be blocking your way.
Setbacks can come in many forms and can come out of the blue. You have to have the gumption to withstand and let it motivate you to become better. For example, whether it means getting cut from a squad that you desperately wanted to make, suffering a season ending injury/illness, falling into a major form slump or simply being forced to ride the bench by your coach. The road to your dreams is uncertain and going to be predictably bumpy and sometimes frustrating. Let these challenges fuel your desire to work harder. Try and not have a black and white way of thinking. A mindset of winning and losing depicting you as a complete success or a complete failure.
Part of being a professional athlete is to handle the hard times ‘professionally’.
It’s your job as an athlete to embrace these bumps as a normal part of the journey and then use them as a steppingstone to push yourself further along the road. This is called growth. The more you grow, the better, more authentic a competitor and human you will become
As we stated previously, the failures and hardships that you encounter along the way are put there to make you smarter, mentally and physically stronger and ultimately more talented and equipped to handle further adversity and tough situations and everything in life is a lesson. Experience is a wonderful thing. Failures and hardships have to be looked at the right way. They are meant to be learning opportunities. Your losses, disappointments hold invaluable lessons for you. The more experience you possess, the more equipped you are. But you need to really dive deep into the lessons. Many athletes at this point say, ‘this is too hard’ or ‘I can’t take losing’. Toni Nadal when he worked in Rafael Nadal, famously said that his priority was to develop Nadal’s capacity to learn and to endure suffering. As a professional athlete, it’s your job to sort and learn through all of those very difficult emotions and doubts so that you can then find the important learnings within the setback and take advantage of them! Every time you learn, your competitive advantage widens
Adopting the right attitude is vital. Everything stems from here. With the correct attitude, YOUR SETBACKS ARE MERELY TEMPORARY!
Elite athletes don’t worry about losing and disappointments too much. They have a great ability to move on quickly. Therefore, just because you failed last week, yesterday or today doesn’t mean that you will fail tomorrow. It’s important to understand that your past failures are not a predictor of future failures or of permanence, (i.e. “this always happens to me”) or a “why me” response. Remember, how you react to setbacks reveals your destiny. Your disappointments, irrespective of how severe or frequent, ought to be viewed as simply temporary occurrences. Learn and build from them and leave them behind you. If you are constantly looking backward and revisiting your past, you can’t move forward.
Get extra motivated every time you fail. Failure is simply feedback and feedback is the breakfast of champions.
As stated previously, each setback offers you important lessons that will help you take your game to the next level. As a result, you want to get yourself excited with each setback. Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan had this mindset. This is so because, despite the “down” or ‘frustrating’ emotions, reacting the right way will actually put you further down the road in development and mental toughness and closer to your ultimate success and goals. Envisage an attitude that looks at the reality, lean into it and let it fuel your desire and work ethic to get better. Can you envisage what would happen to your game if you implemented this attitude and mindset of getting more determined and motivated after each setback or loss. Nothing would phase you!
Simplicity is key. There is no magic formula. It comes down to persistence and plain old-fashioned hard work. These two things will overcome almost any obstacle that life and sport can throw in your path.
There are 4 key rules for elite athletes;
a) Do not, under any circumstances ever stop working hard.
b) Do not, ever quit!
c) Always seek feedback
d) Love learning
Continued and unrelenting hard work in the face of fear, self-doubt, uncertainty, failure, disappointment and frustration is the central building block to success. A strong foundation can withstand any external force. Therefore, Persistence and constantly seeking feedback is the key ingredient to success. You want to use that key every day to unlock the doors that may be blocking your way so that you can sustain learning and evolving as a competitor.