Six New Year’s Resolutions for Athletic Success
When you approach sports with the right attitude, you win.
Posted January 7, 2020
Happy New Year! Amazing that it’s now 2020 and we have another year of excitement, challenges, and progress ahead of us. After two weeks of no work during which I spent time with my family, I’m ready to get back to work with new blog posts and podcasts.
Given the new year, I thought I would begin 2020 with the often-maligned practice of setting new year’s resolutions, but for all of the athletes out there, not for me. I will share with you my six New Year’s Resolutions for Athletic Success. These resolutions are aimed at helping athletes at every level of sport to focus on what will help them to have the best season of their lives.
Resolution #1: I will accept the inevitable ups and downs of sport.
The fact is that competitive sports can be brutal and unforgiving. Not only must you face potentially formidable opponents, but you may also be confronted with difficult weather conditions and rough field conditions. You can be totally prepared to have a great performance, but things don’t work out the way you want. As the saying goes, “Sometimes you bite the dog and sometimes the dog bites you,” meaning some days you’re going to overcome the challenges you are faced with and other times those challenges are going to beat you.
But to continue to your journey as a athlete, in which you experience its many experiences (e.g., the struggles, setbacks, travel, and teamwork) and the lessons you learn (e.g., trust, determination, adversity, focus) that will serve you so well in every aspect of your future life, you must accept that sports have its ups and downs. And the short-term successes or failures don’t matter much. Instead, it’s your ability to persist and persevere in the face of those ups and downs that will determine your ultimate experience as an athlete and how it shapes your life.
This acceptance is grounded in having a healthy perspective about your sports participation. This positive approach includes realizing that each competition isn’t a make-or-break experience, but rather just one small step in your athletic journey. It also means that the uncontrollable nature of sports means that you will have as many difficulties and failures as you will have progress and successes. If you can embrace this perspective about your sports involvement, you will have an amazing journey.
Resolution #2: I will be patient.
There is no timetable for athletic success. For some, it is immediate and lasting. For others, it is immediate but short-lived. For still others, it is slow but lasting. And, unfortunately for most of us, success, at least as defined by our achievement culture, will never be experienced.
Ultimately, though, your willingness to be patient and to give yourself time to develop is the only way you find out which of the above category you fall into. If the first or third, bravo to you because you won the lottery (that’s how incredibly unlikely real success is in sport or anything for that matter). If the second or fourth, don’t despair because “failure” in sport often results in success in another avenue of life because of the experiences and life lessons I just mentioned.
There’s an old saying that ”90% of success is just showing up.” And the reality is that, after a few setbacks, most people quit because they become frustrated that success didn’t come quickly or easily. But if you can be patient, that is, knowing that “overnight success” is like a unicorn (they are magical and wished for, but don’t actually exist) and that success comes for those who continue to show up.
Resolution #3: I will be as prepared as I can be for every competition.
I said above that “90% of success is just showing up,” but the other 10% of success means showing up prepared. Think of it this way. If you are unprepared physically, mentally, or with your equipment, you have virtually no chance of achieving the goals you set for yourself. The only chance you have is to be sure that when you enter the arena of your particular sport, you have done everything you possibly can to set yourself up for success. Of course, many aspects of sport that are outside of your control don’t always allow that preparation to produce the performances and results you want. But preparation is the only chance you have to achieve your goals.
Preparation can be long term, for example, your off-season conditioning and mental training. It can be short term including your training and recovery in the week leading up to competitions. Preparation can be for competition day such as having a healthy breakfast, having a good physical warm-up, reviewing your competitive strategy, and sticking to your pre-competition routine. Preparation also extends beyond your sport including staying up on your schoolwork, getting sufficient sleep, using your technology responsibly, eating well, and minimizing the social drama in your life.
Resolution #4: I will focus on the process to get the results I want.
We live in an achievement culture where results matter. I don’t argue against that, but I do push back against the notion that focusing on results will lead to the results you want. In fact, to the contrary. If you focus on results, two problems arise. First, results occur after a competition, so if you’re thinking about results, you’re not focusing on what you need to do to perform your best from the beginning to the end of the competition. Second, many athletes get nervous before competitions. What are they nervous about? Well, the results, of course, specifically, failure.
The irony of pursuing the results you want is that by ignoring results and focusing on the process of how you can perform your best in a competition, you are more likely to get those desired results. Whether technique, tactics, conditions or mental stuff, if you focus on performing as well as you can, you have a better chance of getting the results you want and achieving your sports goals.
Resolution #5: I will “bring it” every time I compete.
So many athletes I work with are more concerned about not failing than finding success. This “fear of failure,” (which is epidemic in our culture and the number-one reason parents send their kids to me) shows itself on competition day in tentative and cautious performances. The problem is, as we all know, performing not to fail does not work in sports.
The fact is that for you to perform your best and achieve your athletic goals, you must “bring it” every time you compete. That’s my phrase for going all out, but other phrases include “send it,” “attack,” “charge,” “full send,” and “full gas.” Whichever words you use, the meaning is the same; you must take reasonable risks and simply put it all out there. The downside is that bringing it can sometimes result in mistakes or losses because taking risks doesn’t always pay off. The upside is that the risks will often pay off and the rewards in terms of great performances and victories will be all the sweeter.
Even if a competition run doesn’t work out when you’re going for it, you will certainly feel some disappointment, but, as the saying goes, “It’s better to go out with a bang than a whimper,” and that feels far better.
Resolution #6: I will have no regrets at the end of the competition season.
If there is only one New Year’s resolution you take away from this article it’s this one: have no regrets. This resolution is perhaps the one that I hold most dear both professionally and personally. Here’s one of my life goals: When I’m on my deathbed when I’m 156 years old (yeah, I dream big, don’t I?), I want to look back and acknowledge that things didn’t always work out the way I wanted—that’s just life—but that I left it all out there, I embraced every opportunity, I took every shot that presented itself.
That is my wish for you in 2020 as well. Whether a day of training, a competition, or the season, I want you to reflect back and, whether it was rewarding or disappointing, to be able to say: “I left it all out there.” Not only will you feel both pride and inspiration in having done so, but it also increases your chances that you find the success you strive for. And, in doing so, your sports participation becomes not only a wonderful and life-affirming experience, but it also sets you up for success in all of your life’s future endeavors.
So, here’s to a successful 2020 competition season!
It’s never too late to include mental training into your overall sport training program? Take a look at my online mental training courses.