It is natural that change is hard; it is human nature to struggle with change whether it is in jobs, personal relationships, moving etc. However, it could be argued that change is a necessity as it relates to success and the conscious effort that making changes requires make you that much further ahead as it relates to your mental development.

There is a lot of speculation on what change can do. Look at the speculation on Tiger Woods, lots changed personally over the last 3-4 years and many argued he would not be the same Tiger Woods. Of course he will not be the same Tiger Woods, we grow and mature and above all make mistakes (some more than others and some bigger than others). However once we accept the changes to our life and begin to move forward we may regain that success, which we may see now as Tiger returns to #1 in the world. Caution – change and adjustment requires time, it does not happen overnight (Tiger is a great example of time and commitment to the process of development). We have seen Tiger make changes before (i.e. coaches) and these changes are needed to stay ahead of the game. In simple terms it takes a conscious effort towards the process.  Another great example in the golf world is Rory McIlroy. In today’s outcome driven culture, we question the change in Rory’s equipment, but as an athlete Rory decided he would move to Nike, this is a change and takes time and a dedicated process. Strong and committed athletes know the value of change and they know that in time they should be rewarded. Conscious effort towards the process of focus and improving and skills is a deadly combination.

Having the ability to work with amateur athletes has shed light on the fear of change in high performance sport. It is a daunting task to change your perspective and how you prepare or develop for success. For instance, take the concept of goal setting – many athletes at times struggle committing to the process of detailed goal setting in the fact of incremental or learning phases required to attain goals. Some athletes believe that their goals have to be achieved in order to be successful where the process, incremental or learning goals provide much more feedback to their development. The process of competing has to be achieved (that is what makes you smarter and mentally tougher) but the outcome does not in order to gain a mentally tougher approach.  These details (process, learning or incremental) are where the change is needed in our athlete’s mindset. A goal can be taken and built upon day to day, week to week and month to month. Athletes tend to set strong outcome goals but fall short in the process of achieving the outcome because it becomes too difficult or more likely they have to change their process and approach and that is time consuming in itself. Details of achievement are the actual measuring sticks and require a conscious effort, will power and discipline. The outcome does not provide the accurate measuring stick of what you are about as an athlete.

Take for example the hockey player that is trying to make a selected team next fall. His or her outcome goal is a given – make the team. However the process is a lot to be left desired for. In a recent conversation with an athlete I asked the athlete what is your goal for the fall? Answer – “make ______team?” Question – How do you achieve that? Answer – “workout”. There is a lack of knowledge of the process of working out. Work hard but work smarter. To do this ask your self – What does your workout consist of? What are your intentions? How do you get better? What is your attitude? In order for success this is where the change occurs, a change in your conscious effort towards the details. Amateur athletes at times don’t think about the details and their approach to the incremental and learning phases of reaching their outcome. This detailed approach is difficult for athletes to achieve however necessary.

Carol Dweck (Stanford University Professor) suggests that there are two mindsets; fixed and growth. Taking a different spin on this concept the fixed mindset in my opinion revolves around the outcome and the outcome only where the growth mindset involves the conscious effort towards success and adjusting or changing your focus in goals when required.  In general having a detailed approach is the change. It takes a conscious effort and is difficult for athletes to attain.  It makes the individual have a process orientated conscious effort towards their goals and adjusting or changing these details for consistency in performance.

Whether you’re a high performance athlete or an individual preparing for any amateur event having a conscious effort and changing your way of thinking towards success is a difficult but prosperous process.

Change your approach/mindset and focus on the details and you will become mentally tougher as a competitor.