Often times when athletes are struggling the most important thing they can do is stop thinking about results. This is of course easier said than done for some people and might even seem counter to everything they have ever been taught. Most athletes are used to focusing on winning or at least performing well. This is what drives them. No one would be motivated to practice hard if everyone got a ribbon at the end.
But ultimately, if you are ONLY focused on results, at some point you’ll meet failure. EVERYONE does. Actually, that’s not entirely true. Let’s rephrase that: EVERYONE that challenges themselves, everyone that pushes themselves, everyone that strives for greatness meets failure at some point. That’s the definition of challenges-things that you aren’t guaranteed to succeed at.
So if an athlete is completely wrapped up in results, at some point those results are going to be unfavorable. Many athletes then try harder, tighten up, start thinking too much, hesitate, then perform worse, making the results they want even more elusive. A dangerous cycle begins.
So what is there to do?
The only way to really break that cycle is to stop the cycle completely and start focusing on the only thing that will get an athlete back to their best game: the process of performing well regardless of results. To trust the process completely, imperfect though they might be and have fun competing in the sport they love.
To some this sounds a little crazy I know. But think about a painter. A painter might have an idea of what their art will look like, what the end result should be. But a painter can’t think about the finished project while they are painting. The painter has to paint, focusing on every tiny brushstroke, feeling the art, not thinking the art. If he or she thinks about the end result instead of the process of painting, the art will not be art- it will be something that is TRYING to be art. Ultimately the painter must trust the process-that if they focus on the moment, the end result will be a thing of beauty, imperfections and all.