Seriously, there isn’t a greater paradox in sport, or in life for that matter, than the notion that in order to be more successful you have to let go of your desired outcome of winning and focus more on the task at hand that will support a performance that can win.
Don’t misunderstand me, there’s a lot more to winning than just not trying. But, in all seriousness, achieving high-performance in any sport isn’t necessarily rocket science. Yes, of course, you have to do your homework—train hard and properly, eat the correct foods, get the appropriate amount of sleep, have an emotional and mental approach to your sport that allows you to focus each time you train and compete—all of those components are integral to be sure. However, what seems to shut down that winning performance on the day more than anything else is invariably an athlete’s inability to let all of their preparation and hard work simply show up. More often than not, it’s the athlete that has done that work AND arrived on competition day focused, light and unburdened—free to compete to their potential that garner the most success.
For examples of this phenomenon, simply look to the results of some of the events at this year’s Olympics in London. How many times have you heard a commentator say, “It’s the Olympics—anything can happen!” Well, it’s for a reason. It’s the fact that Olympic medals are so hard to win—so elusive—that makes them so desirable. Being that desirable is what throws athletes off their game and falter in their pursuit of the win. How many gymnastics routines, despite having been practiced untold times perfectly, went sideways when it mattered most? I witnessed more than a few.
On the other hand, when athletes shared publicly that they were focused on doing their personal best and enjoying their Olympic experience, they were able to put together the performance that they were capable of—which sometimes resulted in a Gold Medal. Michael Phelps comes to mind here. When the most decorated athlete is Olympic history recognized early on in the swimming competition that he was too serious and uptight, and needed to relax and have more fun and start enjoying his racing, not surprisingly he returned to his winning ways.
Is it a case of wanting to win TOO much? Maybe. But, most sports psychologists will tell you that in order to support high-performance you need to take care of all of the things that support that high-performance. That includes sometimes getting out of the way and just letting that performance happen. Not surprisingly, that requires practice as well. Too often athletes are able to joke around and be playful at practice sessions only to show up on the day of competition and think that somehow being ultra-serious will improve their chances of winning. Not always so. Remember, if it works in practice, chances are it will work on race or game day.
Jason Dorland is a High-Perfomance Coach who believes the most undervalued and underutilized components of reaching our goals are the mental and emotional areas of our lives. With your commitment, Jason can help you make a positive difference in how you approach your life’s dreams and goals. Guaranteed! To find out how, contact Jason today for a free no obligation consultation. He looks forward to meeting with you and getting started soon!