During Super Bowl 2017, we witnessed the New England Patriots being down by 25 points. As improbable as it was, they scored 19 points in the fourth quarter, including a couple of 2-point conversions, to beat the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in overtime.
In 1993, then world’s No. 1 tennis player, Monica Seles, was stabbed in the back, which led to a 2-year physical and emotional rehabilitation. In 1995, in her first tournament back, she wins the Canadian Open, followed by winning the Australian Open in 1996 and 19 single tournaments before retiring in 2008.
We all know stories of remarkable individuals who, despite all odds, demonstrated supreme mental toughness to bounce back displaying a mindset to never give up. What makes them apart from others? How were these individuals able to bounce back? And, what can we learn from their experiences?
1- Positive Mindset
Athletes do not approach their games wanting to fail or perform below their skills. However, they tend to underperform when their minds get distracted by negative thoughts or by circumstances that distract their minds. A positive mindset is like having control at the wheel. It allows them to take full charge of where they need to put their attention to while navigating around the obstacles that come along the way. Rather than being affected by distractions, athletes constantly shifts their attention into actions that will guide them to achieve their goals.
By no means their minds will not get distracted. On the contrary, they understand that distractions are bound to happen. Unfavorable referee calls, unexpected comeback from the opponent, and falling behind early in the game are situations that athletes have not control over. However, a positive mindset accepts these situations as part of the game by just focusing on controlling what is controllable.
Also, a positive mindset relieves athletes from carrying the additional pressure of needing to do well. All the preparation leading to the performance is behind. By fully trusting in a positive mindset, it allows athletes to face competition and all its challenges head on rather than carrying on their shoulders the unrealistic expectation of having to win or else. Instead, it allows athletes to trust in their skills, be more focused, and fully present.
Resilience is seeing the glass half full rather than half empty. Athletes know that success is achieved by embracing all the experiences that take place along the way. Just like they fully enjoy celebrating winning performances, they also embrace failing. They understand the greatest source of knowledge comes from those experiences where they did not achieve their goals. Instead, they use those opportunities to analyze what happened in order to make necessary changes that will give them a greater opportunity to achieve success next time. Each opportunity is food for thought.
Success does not happen while navigating on a straight line. Instead, it is an up and down road that brings challenges along the way. Some of those challenges will test your mind, body, skills, stamina, commitment, and perseverance. Along the way, disappointments will be experienced. As disappointing as it is to achieve below expectations, top performers shift their focus to capitalize on strength and improve on their weaknesses. In so doing, they are true to themselves, which may lead to the realization that changes need to be made to elevate their game.
Resilience as an adaptation game. Each time a realistic goal is set, set your mind to achieve it. Put your full commitment and trust to achieve such a goal. If it is not achieved, rather than punishing yourself, take the time to understand you. Be honest with what you need to change and commit to making those changes next time. As Teddy Roosevelt once said, “courage is not having the strength to go on; it is going on when you don’t have the strength.”
Verbalizing what you want to achieve is only the beginning; however, commitment to pursue your dreams will ultimately lead you to achieve them. Commitment rests on having self-belief. It is the notion that the goal will be achieved no matter what challenges need to be faced. Many athletes dream big and fantasize having a glamorous life style, but failed to achieve their goals. Athletes that are fully committed to achieve perseverance and focus ultimately reach their dreams.
Commitment starts by identifying what one wants to achieve. The clearer, time-specific, and realistic expectation is identified, the more focused one will be to steer the attention towards those goals. As a consequence, the better the focus and commitment, the more likely improvement will be achieved. On the other hand, not being fully committed or focused on your goals will most likely lead to falling short of your true potential.
Einstein said, “genius is 1% talent and 99% hard work.” Those who achieved superb goals truly committed themselves to taking one step at the time while envisioning what they wanted to achieve. They understand that failing, not failure, is part of the journey. They remained positive despite all odds and used their experiences, both good and bad, as a continuous learning tool.
“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” Nelson Mandela
Alex Diaz, PhD
Sports Mental Edge