We are a society driven on ‘winning’, thirsty to attain a professional level status in our given sport and be praised as Demi-Gods by millions of fans and arm-chair quarterbacks the world over. The more we win, the more successful we appear, but how do we define ‘winning’?
What is the path to do so? The power of psychology in sport is undeniable; it’s an internal process that each athlete undertakes in their own way and pace. Your frame of mind is the absolute bottom line in your success or failure as an athlete and developing your mental toughness starts with goal setting.
What is the result you’re looking for? What are you hoping to achieve today; tomorrow or even throughout your career? If you’re successful, you wouldn’t start down a road that you didn’t have it in your head where it ended up. You have to set clear and attainable goals that propel you to your success, whatever you may deem that to be. First, let’s check the ego at the door, because ego can be an incredibly self limiting device to you. An ego orientated athlete with a high task orientation accompanying it is a best case scenario; however, in real life the pressures of society and to win almost certainly drive and fuel an ego – involved athlete. So, it would benefit you to try and shift your focus more to your tasks. Keeping your drive to win is fine, but if you’re planning on playing or competing for a while, it would behoove you to focus on HOW you do what you do. You may have seen or heard quotes from various elite level athletes about how they “left everything out there” and that, regardless of the outcome; they felt good even in a loss. This is a highly efficient and dedicated athlete who says this. They give everything to the game and their team, literally doing the absolute best that they can and knowing the outcome of the game/ competition is not something they can control. They CAN control THEIR focus and THEIR effort. As Sports Psychology Consultant, Graham Betchart, preaches to his professional athlete clientele; “play present…focus on your process”.
So, let’s start by setting a goal of shifting the thought process to controlling what you CAN control, and that’s the work you put into becoming better at your sport. Putting in the work and choosing to master your skills, may also motivate teammates to do the same and put you in a leadership position. This becomes a win-win, in a sense, because that now fuels the ego. Greatness is infectious and, being most people are born followers and few are born leaders, motivating your team to master their skills is creating a positive environment. Only good things can come from that. So, what would you consider ‘winning’ now? Is the instant satisfaction of literally winning a game/ competition the end – all – be –all? Is knowing that you’re on track a straight path to evolve as an athlete is happening and you’ll live to fight another day, should the outcome not be what you want?
The reality of life is that you won’t win every game or every fight. You can only set small goals to be better for the next time…knowing there is ALWAYS a next time.