It's Worth The Risk
Updated: Oct 8, 2021
Back in high school I was determined, stubborn, driven, while also scared. The fear was very specific though. As a student-athlete, I was well on my way to pursuing goals, managing my time, and making sacrifices. At a critical point in my athletic development, I ran into the brick wall of uncertainty. The uncertainty for me was created with some struggles I felt around a plateau with my endurance. When I experienced that difficulty, I had no idea what to do. My teenage attitude kept me from asking my coach for guidance. My stubbornness that had helped me get better now kept me from asking others for help. The seed of doubt was planted. Was I good enough? What if I wasn't? Who was l if not an athlete? That seed of uncertainty grew into a fixed mindset for me. I see this in so many of the young athletes I work with as well.
When I reflect on that time now…I wish I knew what I know now. I wish I had known that a little doubt about the struggles wasn't a reason to pump the brakes. I wish I had known that a little work on my mindset and thought process would have shifted my focus - which would have unlocked progress via my behavior. I wish I would have known that mental work would have been worth the risk. I wish I had known many athletes experience doubt about their skills and abilities. I wish I knew how many other athletes were asking themselves, “Do I belong here?”
So, most of my work now is with athletes who are achieving great things. They are highly skilled, determined and driven athletes. Then a seed of doubt is planted from injury, or innocuous feedback from parents, coaches, or teammates, or even the normal teenage doubt that creeps in. When athletes lack the cognitive skills to isolate that seed, it's allowed to grow.
The good news is there are ways to train the brain to minimize the focus on those doubts. These are proven to work and can easily be adopted to each individual athlete. The choice is still in each of us to choose what thoughts to focus on. Doubt does not have to be in control.
To begin to re-train your brain, follow these 3 steps:
1. Work to isolate the triggers for self-doubt. Track your thoughts for several days to determine what activities or situations trigger those thoughts. For example, if you find a trend in thinking “What if I can’t do this” for a new skill, notice that practicing new skills are likely to trigger self-doubt.
2. Actively search for evidence to support confidence thoughts. Write down the evidence you find. With the example of doubting ability while learning a new skill, search for evidence of the small ways that you are improving with the new skill. Track the evidence for several days as well.
3. After several days of tracking, take a few moments to look objectively at the evidence. Make a chart that captures evidence supporting that you can not do the new skill as well as the evidence to support your progress in the new skill.
When our brain is confronted with evidence contrary to our self-doubt, over time our brain begins to see the picture differently. This is how brain training works. You bring awareness to the current way of thinking, then work to find ways to change the way your brain habitually thinks. If this process seems overwhelming, reach out to a Certified Mental Performance Consultant for guidance. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org