As a competitive athlete, you are driven by many factors; from the desire to achieve your next goal or push past your last personal best, to your immense commitment to a sport you’ve dedicated years of your life to. Your unique skillset and your incredible talents have seen you out on the playing field, first place on the tracks and gasping for air in the swimming lanes. You’ve been there, you’ve done and seen it all. You’ve been encouraged by crowds cheering you on, by coaches who thoroughly believe in your potential and yet, it remains there – that occasional but all-consuming thought of self-doubt. It’s usually triggered by the experience of defeat; perhaps missing a shot, giving away a goal or stumbling at the very last hurdle. Here’s the thing, world-class performance can’t be expected every time and sometimes, it just doesn’t go to plan.
What’s important here, is how you react and respond to the events that didn’t quite go the way you’d hoped they would. Professional athletes have all fallen short at times and every successful sports person has under-performed during a competition, game or tournament. The most successful of them, will choose to challenge the disappointment with a positive outlook, reminding themselves that the next time they play, they’ll perform even better. They refuse to give in to defeatist self-talk, and instead starve out any negativity with convictions of confidence. True to form, the next time they’re expected to compete – they don’t just achieve but excel and revel in their success. This is the finest example of the power of positivity. Some research has suggested that we can be biologically inclined to internalise unhelpful and unhealthy opinions more frequently than positive ones.Our minds are sometimes wired in such way that we tend to lean much more towards negative emotion over positive and encouraging thought. Everyone comes equipped with their own internal conflicts but altering your mindset so that it diverts away from punitive and menacing self-criticism can significantly improve your personal levels of happiness and ultimately, your performance too.
In short, if you believe you can achieve something – you’ll reward yourself with the confidence to try your best to get there. Great athletic performance is dependent on several factors and while athletes devote hours each day to training, conditioning and honing their personal elitist skills – overall performance result relies on so much more than just physical strength. State of mind is also paramount andapproaching the vast challenges that come alongside a sporting career with a positive outlook and optimistic mindset will profoundly influence sporting performance and encourage exceptional results.
Sports psychologists often place immeasurable value on athletes who can adapt a healthy and positive attitude. This is because they understand that extraordinary athletic performance demands a resilient and positive mindset. Throughout any sporting career, it is inevitable that athletes will come up against challenging and pressing situations at times and the ‘happy moments’ can be few and far between. Facing these obstacles with an enthusiastic and self-encouraging attitude can make a significant difference to performance and career progression.
This isn’t to say that you should eliminate all emotions and feelings of self-criticism or anxiety, of course. In fact, many of the most successful athletes will refer to anxiety as a positive emotion to experience. Those same athletes will often respond to those exact emotions by challenging them to strengthen their mind in preparation for their next game. You cannot control certain events, the same way you can’t choose your opposition. You can, however, approach your next game, tournament or sporting encounter with confidence and conviction. You can embrace the power of positivity and allow it to strengthen and perfect your performance. You can choose to attempt to beat that last personal best, win that ultimate gold medal or jump that final hurdle with absolute determination and the self-belief that you can and will perform to the very best of your ability.
As famously quoted by American Minister and best-selling author, Norman Vincent Peale - “Change your thoughts and you can change your world.”