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Performing Through Adversity

By Hans Skulstad, Center for Sports and the Mind, 04/19/16, 5:00AM CDT

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Great athletes and great performers in all walks of life perform through adversity.  In our ‘Sports Center’ world we often assume that these performers were “naturally” born with a set of skills that allows them to stay poised and thrive under pressure.   Although some truth exists in that belief, the best performers know the importance of devoting time and energy to the mental part of their game.

Performing through adversity requires you to take the time to learn the skills you need to maintain an outward confidence and be internally composed.  Although this may seem obvious, my high performing athletes often say “Easy for you to say, harder for me to do.”

The first step of the “how” starts with your mindset.  Our athletes know the pillars of what we call the “Developmentally Competitive” mindset.  This mindset requires the following; 1) Challenge Yourself and compete with your last performance. 2) Be self-forgiving. 3) Learn from others. 4) Plan/Problem Solve/Adapt. 5) See failure as a learning opportunity. 6) Be comfortable with being uncomfortable and the unknown. 

Each of these requires skill building and strategies to help you develop your mental conditioning.  Certain exercises can help you build specific muscles.  The same goes for your mental conditioning and toughness.  Most athletes struggle with one of these.   I am going to talk about how to learn to be self-forgiving because as I have watched the high performance events and coached kids through it, I have seen players struggle with this skill often.  It is almost always easier to forgive others than it is yourself.

Step 1 - Identify Brutal Realities

In order to develop a skill, you first have to identify areas of challenge and obstacles to its development.   I call these brutal realities.  The brutal reality that often interferes is confusing self-forgiveness with a lack of accountability.  In fact, the opposite is true.  Forgiving yourself for a mistake means you have to take responsibility for it and learn from it.  If you hold onto to a mistake, you will interfere with your ability to focus on the next shift.   

Step 2 – Make A Decision.

Make a list of all the people that care about you.  Write them down.  Now ask yourself: if I made a mistake or disappointed them, what is the process they would go through to forgive me?   Most of us when forgiving others realize it was not meant maliciously and that you they were doing the best they could at the time.  We make a conscious decision to let it go.  Develop a phrase that symbolizes the same for you.  For some this involves a trigger word or physical routine to “reboot” you brain.  Examples may be deep breathing, taking a drink of water or counting down from 200 by 7’s.

Step 3 - Practice it.

Each and every day we make mistakes.  Some rattle us more than others.  Figure out which ones are the hardest for you to get over.  (Hint – these are the ones that you keep rethinking over and over).  Implement the process you identified in Step #2.   When practicing specific physical hockey skills, find ways to put yourself in pressure situations where you are likely to commit a similar mistake.

One drill I have found helpful for our players is to take a mousetrap and practice setting it.  Once you have that mastered, try setting it blindfolded.  Once you have that mastered, try setting it blindfolded in a limited amount of time.  Compete with someone. 

Notice how you handle losing or making mistakes.  Notice when you forgive yourself and when you don’t.  As you challenge yourself through the process, you will learn about your own process.  Even though there is not as much at stake as there is in a game, part of what it will reveal for you is what you need to practice to improve on this skill.

To find out more or to get tips throughout your high performance experience.  Follow us on Twitter @2ChallengeMind or go to centerforsportsandmind.com and check out our mindset assessment. 

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Great athletes and great performers in all walks of life perform through adversity.  In our ‘Sports Center’ world we often assume that these performers were “naturally” born with a set of skills that allows them to stay poised and thrive under pressure.   Although some truth exists in that belief, the best performers know the importance of devoting time and energy to the mental part of their game.

Performing through adversity requires you to take the time to learn the skills you need to maintain an outward confidence and be internally composed.  Although this may seem obvious, my high performing athletes often say “Easy for you to say, harder for me to do.”

The first step of the “how” starts with your mindset.  Our athletes know the pillars of what we call the “Developmentally Competitive” mindset.  This mindset requires the following; 1) Challenge Yourself and compete with your last performance. 2) Be self-forgiving. 3) Learn from others. 4) Plan/Problem Solve/Adapt. 5) See failure as a learning opportunity. 6) Be comfortable with being uncomfortable and the unknown. 

Each of these requires skill building and strategies to help you develop your mental conditioning.  Certain exercises can help you build specific muscles.  The same goes for your mental conditioning and toughness.  Most athletes struggle with one of these.   I am going to talk about how to learn to be self-forgiving because as I have watched the high performance events and coached kids through it, I have seen players struggle with this skill often.  It is almost always easier to forgive others than it is yourself.

Step 1 - Identify Brutal Realities

In order to develop a skill, you first have to identify areas of challenge and obstacles to its development.   I call these brutal realities.  The brutal reality that often interferes is confusing self-forgiveness with a lack of accountability.  In fact, the opposite is true.  Forgiving yourself for a mistake means you have to take responsibility for it and learn from it.  If you hold onto to a mistake, you will interfere with your ability to focus on the next shift.   

Step 2 – Make A Decision.

Make a list of all the people that care about you.  Write them down.  Now ask yourself: if I made a mistake or disappointed them, what is the process they would go through to forgive me?   Most of us when forgiving others realize it was not meant maliciously and that you they were doing the best they could at the time.  We make a conscious decision to let it go.  Develop a phrase that symbolizes the same for you.  For some this involves a trigger word or physical routine to “reboot” you brain.  Examples may be deep breathing, taking a drink of water or counting down from 200 by 7’s.

Step 3 - Practice it.

Each and every day we make mistakes.  Some rattle us more than others.  Figure out which ones are the hardest for you to get over.  (Hint – these are the ones that you keep rethinking over and over).  Implement the process you identified in Step #2.   When practicing specific physical hockey skills, find ways to put yourself in pressure situations where you are likely to commit a similar mistake.

One drill I have found helpful for our players is to take a mousetrap and practice setting it.  Once you have that mastered, try setting it blindfolded.  Once you have that mastered, try setting it blindfolded in a limited amount of time.  Compete with someone. 

Notice how you handle losing or making mistakes.  Notice when you forgive yourself and when you don’t.  As you challenge yourself through the process, you will learn about your own process.  Even though there is not as much at stake as there is in a game, part of what it will reveal for you is what you need to practice to improve on this skill.

To find out more or to get tips throughout your high performance experience.  Follow us on Twitter @2ChallengeMind or go to centerforsportsandmind.com and check out our mindset assessment. 

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