QUESTION: “So, if I do mental toughness training, and I really, really work at it, will I be able to consistently perform at my very best?”
ANSWER: Well, if you truly commit yourself to working on the mental side of your game, then you will certainly have more success than you currently do. Furthermore, you’ll even become a smarter, mentally tougher performer in the process. However, no amount of mental and/or physical training will ever get you to the point where you consistently play at your very best! Why? Because that’s not how life and/or sports really work! No one can always be at their very best and very few athletes can say that they consistently play at their potential. Life and sports are just way too complicated to be simplified in that kind of a way!
Now hang on before you start freaking out and saying, “Dr. G is a “Negative Nancy!”
I’m not trying to be negative here. I’m just trying to be REALISTIC. The one thing that you can always count on in sports and life is that things always change. Sometimes they change for the better and you go through a period where you’re developing strength, endurance and adding to your skill set. You’re getting faster, stronger and more talented! These are wonderfully inspiring times and leave us flushed with feelings of motivation and self-confidence. We’re on a winning streak, life is just grand and we think, “Finally, things are going exactly the way that they are supposed to go!”
At other times, things change for the worse. We get injured, again and again, lose our stroke or that all-important feel and then everything starts to go down the proverbial tubes! We go on a losing streak, get mired in a slump or blocked by fears, we’re outplayed by weaker opponents or just can’t seem to get over that performance hump. Our self-confidence takes a major hit, our motivation sputters and then we begin to question whether we even have what it takes to make it! When the clouds of disappointment and bad luck roll in and darken our skies we think, “Why does all of this crap always seem to happen to me?! How come nobody else has to deal with this garbage? This is NOT how things are supposed to be for me!”
What we all tend to forget is that these ups and downs, heartbreaks and triumphs, setbacks and advances are all a normal and integral part of life. There are good times and bad ones, times when we’re moving full speed ahead and just cruisin’ and other times when we’ve completely hit a wall and we’re brusin.’ You may not like it very much when things go south on you, but don’t be surprised by it. Don’t waste your too valuable time and energy cursing the Gods of Sport for the fate that they’ve dumped down upon you. Don’t hold a pity party and wish it was otherwise. What we all need to learn to do in life is to deal with the hand that was dealt us, with what IS. You don’t necessarily have to like what IS very much. But ultimately you have to learn to master it.
It’s the process of going through these setbacks, injuries and disappointments that shapes our character and ultimately determines our strength and success in the world. The life lesson here is to learn to accept whatever may come your way, both good and bad, and then to do all that is in your humanly power to make the very best out of it. This is far from an easy task. In fact, mastering this might take an entire lifetime. Nevertheless, that is the only thing that we can do when life and/or our sport throws us a nasty screwball!