Sometimes, our mind is a difficult beast to tackle. “You are not good enough.”, “You are not working hard enough.”, “Look at you, you are fat. Have you been lazy?”, “Do you really think that is the best you can do?” If we imagined that negative and mean side of our mind as a person, we definitely would not be friends with them, we actually would not even speak to them at all. But our mind can also be the biggest driver for our success. If you can dream it, you can do it. Why do we forget about this positive mindset so often and let this negative voice in our head take over?
When I trained for tennis tournaments as a teenager, my trainer always said: “Tennis is 1% talent, 4% technique, 45% hard work, and 50% is in your head. If you focus on the small wins and tell yourself that you can do it, you will get there.” I knew I had the talent, most of my technique worked as well and I definitely put in the hard work. During the trainings, I crushed it. When others watched me, they told me how strong my game was. And when I told myself that I was crushing it, I really did and won and won and won. But there were also days when I left the court utterly disappointed after really bad matches. What had happened? Of course, some players are stronger and better than others. But when I look back at the matches which I lost big time, it was because of my mindset. In my mind, I had already lost even before even stepping on the court.
I will never forget when I played against the regional number 1 in my age class for the first time. I was a rookie, my trainer told me to go in there, be aggressive, because I had nothing to lose. I should see it as practice and tell myself I could win, just like I did when I trained with him. But instead of fighting and making good points and at least closing the gap a bit, I had already given up the minute I stepped onto the court (or even before that). My mind had told myself that this is the number 1 and that I would lose. I did not risk anything. My strong backhand was gone, my serves were embarrassing. I was so scared of making mistakes that my game got worse every minute. To this day, I remember that match. Not because I lost, but because my mind had played tricks on me so that I did not even try to give my best and make at least some points. I lost 0-6, 0-6.
If I am being perfectly honest, my mind is probably my biggest critic. Not a single day goes by where I tell myself some of things I listed at the beginning of this article. It is something I am trying to work on, but it is very hard to make this negative voice shut up. I recently started to exercise with a personal trainer. I have never done that before. At first, I was skeptical – why should I pay someone to teach me the same things YouTube does for free? But during the sessions, I realized why.
For the longest time, I have avoided planks. (This is when you lie on the ground and hold your body in a kind of bridge by pulling your abs in tight.) Planks are just hard, and usually after 20 seconds, I feel exhausted and give up. During our first session, my trainer made me plank for 30 seconds. And guess what? Because I told myself I have to make it through, I managed to hold it longer than usual. Today, he made me do four rounds of 30 seconds. I managed to do all of them. And then I remembered my tennis trainer: 50% is in your head. While I was on the floor with my legs shaking, I did not tell myself “You can’t do it, loser”. I told myself that I could do it, that I am not a quitter, that I am strong.
Why I am telling you these trivial stories from my (very limited) experience in the world of sports? Because what works on the tennis court or at the gym also applies to anything else we want to achieve. 50% is in our mind. Instead of trash talking ourselves and making ourselves feel small and weak, we need to constantly tell ourselves that we can do it, that we are enough (actually more than just enough) and that we will crush it.
When ski champion Hermann Maier came back and won again after his accidents, he did not achieve this because he felt sorry for himself or because he felt inferior to his competition. He had to train his mind as much as he had to train his body. Similarly, do you think Lewis Hamilton is currently trash talking himself after losing the world championship to Max Verstappen? I am sure he is not. He has probably put that behind him and is telling himself that this year, the championship is his, that he is the best driver and that he will crush it. He cannot win with a head full of negative thoughts.
So, let’s take some inspiration from the world of sports. The next time when your mind tries to plays tricks on you and brings out the worst instead of the best, make it shut up. Focus on where you have come from, what you have achieved and all the small wins you have made so far. Go get it, you can do it, even if your legs may be shaking a bit!