Poise. Positive Perspective and Attitude. Centered. Sport-Life Balance. In my opinion athletes who demonstrate such attributes have my utmost respect. As the saying goes, sport can bring out the best and worst in all of us. In sport, like in life, “Circumstances do not make a man (or woman!), they reveal him (or her!).” (Dr. Wayne W. Dyer). In my experience and observations athletes at any level in sport can learn and develop a great sport-life perspective. My current Olympic favorite is Missy Franklin, who at 17 has already won gold in the 100m & 200m backstroke (a world record) and a bronze in the 4 x 100m freestyle in London and shows incredible composure, maturity and perspective on sport for her age.
On the other hand, for those who are still lacking poise and a positive perspective, here’s what I believe might be getting in the way…
1. You’re a sore loser. When you don’t win or perform to your (or perceived other’s) expectations, you’re good at coming up with lots of reasons and excuses as to why you didn’t perform as well as you believe you should have. Sometimes you even rattle off your excuses before the competition starts as insurance to protect your ego. Bottom line: It’s okay to admit that your best just wasn’t good enough to win or achieve your goal result that day! And that’s precisely what Clara Hughes said about her 5th place finish in the time trial event on Day 5 at the Olympics, “Yes I am disappointed…I have everything, it was not enough, but ultimately, they were better than me. That’s it.”
2. You’re even a sore winner! Even on the days you win, you’re quick to publicly proclaim all the reasons it wasn’t a good day for you, and all the things you could have still done better! While a true competitor is always looking for ways to improve, it may be best to keep such reflections to oneself on such days in respect for your competitors.
3. You believe effort guarantees results. You are sure that if you put X amount of dedication, time, energy, and resources in to achieving your athletic dreams, then you should deserve to get the results you want. Nothing is guaranteed in sport. Nor in life! Accept that fact and you can truly enjoy the journey and results! Furthermore, this type of thinking also translates in to the belief that the one who wants it the most should win. Consider this excerpt from a blog post by Maxime Boilard: (the entire blog is written in context of the the Canadian men’s 8 rowing team’s silver medal and can be found here in French)
“Many people think that the athlete who wants it the most on game day is the one who wins the Olympic medal, as if belief alone will make it happen. We need to change that way of thinking. An athlete has to be in touch with reality as well as the level of competition. The desire to win makes no difference at this level. Each athlete wants it every bit as bad as the next. The difference maker here is, to be able to free yourself from the self-imposed obstacles we have a habit of nurturing, for all kinds of reasons. Each athlete wants to have the race of a lifetime. For some, that translates into a gold medal. It becomes problematic when an athlete wants the gold medal, believing it will translate into the best race of their lives. The difference between the two cases is subtle. In the first case we end up valuing that which we control whereas in the second case we are valuing a result that we are not able to totally control.”
4. You truly buy in to the cliché: “I’m only as good as my last performance!” While competition results are by far one of the best indicators of how you stack up to the competition in your given sport, if you chose to base your self-esteem and confidence solely on how your latest performance went (in training or competition), then you’re in for a very rocky ride!
5. You put too much importance on your performance. People don’t care as much as you think. And you shouldn’t either! Even as we are in the middle of the Olympic Summer Games, during which the whole world is watching, even these performances will be fleeting memories for most of us as soon as a few months from now! This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care about preparing and giving it your best shot, it just means you keep it in perspective with the rest of life and your (hopefully many) identities outside of sport. And never take yourself too seriously! Fun and peak performance often go together! 🙂
6. The most obvious of all: you’d do anything to win, even if it means cheating. Chris McCormack sums up the reason people cheat nicely in his book, “You can’t deal with the fact that you’re not good enough, or you can’t get past the fear that you’re not good enough, so you cheat instead of finding a solution. To me, that is a direct outgrowth of our sport’s (triathlon’s) obsession with results.” (p. 222)
So what defines a positive perspective on performance results. Again, I will quote some thoughts from Chris McCormack, arguably one of the most successful triathletes ever:
“I’ve said I love the entire process of being a triathlete and of breaking down races. That would be true even if I didn’t win the races, because I enjoy the process of becoming the best triathlete I can be – the best person I can be. I love the process of finding the secret to winning a particular race as much as the win itself.”
“Our sport should be about more than winning races. It should be about overcoming limitations, conquering fears, and inspiring other people.”
“If all that matters to you is the result, what kind of person does that make you?”
The above quotes come from Chris McCormack’s book, “I’m here to WIN: A World Champion’s Advice for Peak Performance.” Read it and learn about how this amazing athlete has developed and learned over his long career, and ultimately has the mind of a true competitor balanced with a great perspective on life!