A couple weeks ago, 17 steel poles broke near Teton Village in a winter storm.
Jackson Hole was closed for days.
The town declared a state of emergency...there was no way in and no way out.
This is the way of nature...and a great metaphor for your mental game and performance.
As martial artist and actor Bruce Lee puts it,
"The stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending in the wind."
And that's why I dislike the term mental toughness.
Mental toughness refers to being strong, hard and rigid.
This so called 'toughness' is actually quite fragile because it's breakable...with enough force you'll snap.
I believe mental toughness is a veneer term
...it's a cover to describe being supple, flexible and malleable.
But no one wants to talk about the softer side of mental toughness...maybe in fear of being perceived as weak?
Strength comes from letting go of being stiff and stuffy.
...the tougher and harder you are, the more defensive, insecure and isolated you become.
...the more open and honest you are, the more secure, fearless and better you become.
STRENGTH = SURRENDERING + SOFTENING
Stop trying to be mentally tough.
Start being mentally flexible.
By not being blinded by what you think will bring you happiness and high performance -like more accomplishments, winning, status, or a rock-hard body.
Rather than repeating the pleasures you already know, open up to the unknown.
It is here where we explore an endless source of possibilities and find our untapped potential.
...and isn't this what we all want?
...to live to our full potential!
An athlete of mine recently shared with me a story of Josh Waitzkin, chess and martial arts champion. In an one-hour interview at Google, Josh says what he's learned from years of studying champions is that those who are the most successful are expressing themselves most purely through their discipline.
Mentally flexibility, then, is giving yourself permission to unravel and understand your unique potential.
It's not about glossing over the losses and becoming more callused and mentally tough. Rather, as Josh puts it, it's the losses that define you.
It's giving yourself the time and space to learn how to be honest with yourself and to accept whatever may be happening on the surface.
Before moving on with your day, pause.
And remember to be flexible
...embracing the opportunity to grow when meeting a new challenge
...BENDING WITH THE WIND
...and excelling in the deepest and most profound ways.
In loving memory of Dawn Trent Banks
The mind game consists of the tricks your mind plays on you
The most important thing I've learned as sports psychology coach is that:
Any trick of the mind
can be defeated by
becoming aware of the trick.
AWARENESS = POWER
The AAA Approach to Awareness
ACKNOWLEDGE your reaction to the situation.
When you face a challenge, mistake or setback, tell yourself:
"This is me reacting to the situation, the situation is a blank experience."
The situation has no meaning until you personalize it.
You can acknowledge what’s going on in the situation by
LABELING your experience as X, such as frustration, confusion or not being good enough, and say to yourself:
When you accept without judgment, what happens?
...You become relaxed, centered and gain an open perspective.
The more centered and accepting we are,
the more positive energy we bring to the situation,
which eases the heaviness of a difficult moment
and boosts our performance.
After saying, "I am experiencing X", immediately say:
Next, take ACTION.
In every moment, we have a choice.
The choice to embrace our power or to give it up.
There is no BETTER WAY to
develop your awareness and
harness your power than to
redirect your attention to a better outcome for yourself in any situation.
Ultimately, the choice in how you react is YOURS.
...No one can carry your burden for you.
How do you want to move forward?
***THIS IS HOW WE WIN THE MIND GAME***
When you ACKNOWLEDGE and ACCEPT where you’re at and
CHOOSE an ACTION of where you want your story to go
...you are centered and engaged.
You are no longer wasting time
because you are experiencing being here
–nothing more –nothing less.
From this CENTERED PLACE
you’re positioned to
use your skills and strengths to the utmost
–as an athlete, parent or passionate professional.
And the POWER of PERFORMANCE is born.
Next time you’re mind tries to play tricks on you like,
"I'm not strong enough to do this" or
"My achievements aren't as good as others,"
And WIN the mind game with 3 Short Statements...
1. I am experiencing X.
2. It’s okay to experience X.
3. I choose to ___________.
If you're looking for more tips, tools or tricks to win the mind game, I invite you share it with me in the comments below. I'd love to hear your story.
Sometimes in sports things go wrong.
Sometimes it’s because we’ve lost sight of what’s important to us.
Sometimes it’s because we fear failure.
However it happens, there’s a certain amount of mental misery that can occur. It can leave us feeling confused, hopeless and downright pissed off.
The questions we ask ourselves in these moments shapes everything.
Too many times I’ve seen athletes, including myself, stew on questions like, “WTF happened?” or “What’s wrong with me?” Or “How can I fix this?”
Rather than sliding down the slippery slope of negativity, I suggest taking a different approach.
Ask yourself: How is this perfect?
If things have gone wrong...
there’s a good chance that there’s something you didn’t see.
Maybe it was something in yourself …like losing focus because your mind was dwelling on a mistake you made a minute ago.
Maybe it was something in the environment …like a distraction from the opposing team or bad weather conditions.
When things go wrong, it’s uncomfortable. It hurts. And sometimes we suffer. We instinctively put our blinders on and try to move through it as fast as possible.
But before breaking into a problem-solving sprint, it’s usually a good idea to slow down, take off your blinders and open yourself to different possibilities.
It’s worth setting some time to ponder on these sticky situations because it brings about greater self-awareness.
With awareness comes transformation, freedom and a higher level of performance.
EXERCISE: How is this perfect?
Set aside 5 minutes with a pen and paper to better understand how your situation is perfect.
This question is NOT interested in making you feel shame or faulting anybody.
This question IS interested in helping you to see what you haven’t seen before. Look at your situation and ask “How is this perfect?”
Try it now.
(It’s important, I’ll wait…)
Now, let me ask you:
-->Did you learn something new?
-->How likely will you make the same mistake again?
-->Will you be a better player or person the next time this situation comes up?
Pretty powerful, right?
Next time when something goes wrong in sports, or in life, remember to take some time to slow down, take off your blinders and reflect on these 4 words: How is this PERFECT?
Being a champion is a lifestyle…not a part-time job.
You got to have
…a twinkle in your eye
…an ambition in your heart
…and discipline in your teeth to be focused at being the best you can be.
It’s about becoming the best you can be and, thus, becoming a champion in sports and all walks of your life.
That's why I believe that sport is played with the body, but won in the mind.
As a result, I get really excited to share with you the tools and habits to be who you are, to never doubt your ability and to excel in your desired dreams.
To get started, I believe that understanding your motivation is the foundation for excellence. To jump start your motivation, take a moment and answer the following questions:
If you look at your answers there are a variety of internal and external reasons of why you enjoy your sport. Those who excel at the highest level, athletes like Shaun White, Carli Llyod and Micheal Phelps, speak to the important role that fun, joy and passion plays in freeing them to excel.
As you review your answers, remember to connect to the bigger reasons of why you do what you do. These deep, internal motives allows us to have more control and confidence in our athletic, and life, pursuits. When we have control and confidence, we begin to see all the choices that lead to the path of performance and personal excellence.
Despite being a pretty optimistic person (nickname Bubbles), I tend to be hard on myself. Mostly, I struggle with being an overachiever. I worry about doing my best, over think minute details and try to be excellent at EVERYTHING.
If you’re anything like me, this pursuit of excellence can be exhausting.
That’s why I WORK HARD at...
And being mentally tough.
By NOT being HAPPY 24-7.
Sure. Happiness can make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. But, I think the majority of people don’t talk about the DARKER SIDE of emotions because expressing fear, anxiety and disappointment OPENS you up to feeling vulnerable. It exposes your weaknesses (if there is such a thing).
Rather than adopting my typical SUCK-IT-UP mentality, INTERNALIZING my fears and PUSHING forward, I recently started scheduling a time to...
And ALLOW myself to feel my raw and often times confusing emotions.
Carrying unneeded negativity inside of you is incredibly draining.
It takes up precious energy (which is a finite resources…when you run out, you run out) that could be better spent on things you really enjoy –like running, racing or reaching your peak potential.
Research (Csikszentmihalyhi, 1990; Thelwell & Greenless, 2006) shows that people who learn to manage their inner experiences feel
…and at the peak of their abilities.
Living and performing your best, then, are something YOU can make happen.
Well, you CAN'T BE YOUR BEST until you let go of your shit. Honestly. You can try to suppress your fears, doubts and frustrations, but you can’t avoid it forever. Trust me, I tried for several years. What I learned is that I can learn all the positive skills in the world, but it wasn't until I was brave enough to explore why I was afraid of the dark that I really started to excel.
You got to understand what’s holding you back and release it.
This is peak performance.
This is fully experiencing health and happiness.
FACE YOUR FEELINGS EXERCISE:
Grab a pen and paper. Set a timer for 1- to 15-minutes and feel into your fears and frustrations. Listen to the silly, self-sabotaging voices in your head. Then, give it a voice by writing it down. Free form. No holding back. Try starting your statements with a feeling (mad, sad, etc). You might be surprised how peaceful you feel when you’re done.
Here’s how I write my statements:
We often think that holding back and holding it all in makes us STRONGER. But learning how to acknowledge and let go of negative emotions as they arise FREES us from any perceived obstacles or struggles that are in our way (fear of not performing up to our expectations, afraid of what people think of us and not being accepted).
With practice, you begin to see that undesirable thinking and feeling is NOT BAD. It’s not a weakness. It doesn’t characterize who you are. It just is.
Plus, if you didn’t feel the ups and downs of your thoughts and feelings, then sports –and life would be pretty damn boring.
As Mihaly Csikszentmihalyhi (1990) said in his book Flow,
““The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something we make happen.”
Let’s make it happen!
ALLOW yourself to let go of all the layers that KEEP YOU from living and performing your best by acknowledging and accepting your thoughts and feelings.
Then, share your experience with me. Take the courageous plunge and make a comment below or send me an email and tell me all about it. I look forward to hearing from you!
When the national anthem started to rumble at the 2014 NFL season opener last Thursday night I made a comment that puzzled my friends.
I said, “I’m nervous”.
I wasn’t nervous that my Green Bay Packers were playing on the home turf of last years NFL superbowl champs, the Seattle Seahawks. I was nervous because hearing the Star - Spangled Banner sparked anxiety.
In my experiences competing as a gymnast, a boxer, and a long-distance runner, the Star - Spangled Banner meant it was GAME TIME.
That’s why I love sports.
Game time is an inescapable feeling of anxiety AND excitement.
Competing in sports, or getting back into fitness, are ways to accept a physical challenge. Enjoy it. And learn more about yourself.
I believe that through the magic of play the world lights up.
You become more open, more receptive and more alive than ever before.
It’s a place where the boundary of in here and out there disappears.
Your internal experience turns to an outward expression.
And you enter a state of self-fulfillment, pride, and joy.
You flow without boundaries.
But, because of FEARS surrounding the pressure to perform well in sports, and everyday life, game time can feel anything but playful.
Helping athletes move from fear to flow gets me jazzed.
That’s why I’m excited to share with you a pre-performance poem to help you unleash your power through play. It’s still a work in progress, but I wanted to pass it along because just like in competition --you have to place your best foot forward with what you got right now. Here's what I got...
Performance is a time to light it up.
Be bright and full of might.
Radiate with luster and glow.
Show up and Ignite.
Burst into flames.
Explode into your joyful performance flow.
Remember, you’ve logged long, hard hours.
So, you deserve success.
You deserve to dazzle.
You deserve to show your strengths and powers.
As you huff and puff,
Believe that you are good enough.
Trust me, you are powerful beyond measure.
This is what you need to treasure.
Let fun be your guide and you’ll do fine.
Now, go out and play…it’s Time-To-Shine.
It's my hope that this manifesto aids you in reaching a higher level of performance and personal excellence. My goal is to help as many people as possible live and perform to their unique potential. So if you liked this little manifesto, please share it with your team and friends.