In the past we’ve taken it for granted that athletes are mentally tough and don’t have any vulnerabilities. But of course they’re human, so need resilience just as much as us to persevere, overcome setbacks and bounce-back. So how do elite athletes build resilience and can you use the same principles in life? Here are six ways that work for both.
1. Nobody’s perfect – In life we want to do things perfectly but athletes usually work towards personal bests or PB’s, so, although they put in 100% and are aiming to improve their personal best, they are not achieving perfection. If we used this in life, we could be constantly improving and more likely to ‘have a go’ at something rather than standing back because we don’t think we’ll meet our idea of perfection.
2. Get help – The most successful athletes and teams have a large number of people such as physiotherapists and psychologists behind them to help them to reach their targets. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of confidence and strength so use the support availability to you – people who can help you with technical advice or socially to make you feel better when times are tough.
3. Take control – Focus on what you can control and not on what you can’t change. Don’t allow the remarks and actions of others impact on you or make you feel a certain way, especially if they are being unhelpful or judgmental. Take control and responsibility for your feelings, thoughts and behaviours and avoid playing the blame game. Externalising problems is unlikely to help you in the longer term.
5. Focus on yourself – We often compare ourselves to other people and view ourselves by what they’ve achieved. Try not to spend too much time worrying about what other people are doing, just increases stress and a fear of failure. What someone else has achieved in life may not be right way for you. The only thing you can control is yourself and your own performance so that’s what you need to focus on.
6. Growth not setbacks – Difficult life experiences can provide valuable lessons that can help you cope with the physical and mental pain situations bring. You can also gain strength from these experiences and then take what you’ve learnt into other challenging situations. Look at setbacks as opportunities for growth. Ask yourself what you’ve learnt and what you would do differently next time and remember that you can cope with adversity when you need to.
These resilience principles are used by elite athletes to help them mentally strong and at the top of their game but they would work equally well in your work and personal life. If they work for elite athletes, why not you?