Be the Change

Preparing to be a champion isn’t limited to the effort you put in at the fencing club or in a gym. While mental preparation is often touted for its value, it’s important to recognize that creating and improving a champion mindset isn’t something limited to just the time set aside for visualization, meditation, and other exercises*. Champions are not only “champion-like” when they are at a competition. That mentality extends into their entire lives.

If your goal is to be a top-performer, then take note of your psychology in all of your activities. Are you passive or timid around strangers? Do you convey weak body language when you go into a store or walk down the street? Is the self-talk you use in your every-day world pessimistic or self-defeating?

The psychology we need to be successful athletes isn’t something that gets turned on and off; it is something that must be habituated until it becomes part of who we are. It has to become our “normal”. That means that we can–we must!–be working to improve our performance psychology in everything we do. Performance psychology isn’t really about changing our sports results, that’s just an effect. Performance psychology is about changing the way we understand and interact with the world: whether we’re in school, at work, on the street, or on the strip. The skills we need to effectively communicate with other people, effectively communicate with ourselves, and effectively deal with adversity are not limited to our sports activity–and if we wish to master these skills, we can’t expect to limit their application to sports. You can’t spend your whole week engaging in negative, destructive thinking and behavior (even if those thoughts and activities are not related to sports) and then expect to be mentally prepared for competition during the weekend.

Developing the optimal mentality for success is about building the right mental habits. Every moment of the day, we are either reinforcing positive mental habits or negative ones. If we want to be stronger mentally on the fencing strip, we must relentlessly work to make ourselves mentally stronger everywhere.

Some may react to this idea by saying, “But that’s just not who I am. I can’t change who I am.” Who we are is always changing–though we often fail to recognize it. We will not be the same person tomorrow that we are today. We can choose to passively wait for that change to happen or we can actively guide it.

Champions don’t passively wait to be successful.

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*There are now a lot of resources available to help improve performance psychology. The books 10-Minute Toughness,Mind Gym, and Lengthen Your Line contain exercises and insights that are easy to follow and perfect for the athlete looking to improve his mental game.