STRATEGY #1: “GET REAL!”
WE CAN ONLY CHANGE WHAT WE FIRST ACCEPT
The key to improving any shortcoming or limitation is to first understand and accept our own limitations. Increasing self-awareness takes courage and patience, as it is not always easy to look at one’s own shortcomings or admit there are “areas to improve”. Identifying areas for improvement is necessary to have the full power and ability to adjust and enhance both, your tennis and your life.
- Tip for practicing acceptance and self-awareness
Implement a “Daily Inventory” Habit = Every day, write down at least one accomplishment or achievement for the day and one area where you recognize a need for improvement.
This practice recognizes the positive things you’ve accomplished, while allowing for an honest inventory of what needs improvement and to clearly identify the areas in tennis (or life) that you haven’t yet mastered. Additional questions to ask yourself: “How might I do this better next time? When I am functioning as the best version of myself (on or off court)? How would this part of my life/game be different?”
“I think self-awareness is probably the most important thing towards being a champion.” -Billie Jean King
STRATEGY #2: “NO GRIT, NO PEARL”
PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT FRUSTRATES YOU
When something irritating happens, in tennis or in life, we must make a choice…we can become angry and distracted by the irritation (which often causes a decline in functioning/performance) or we can choose to embrace the irritation, adapt to it and learn from it. In nature, a beautiful pearl forms as a response to an irritant (usually a parasite) within a mollusk, due to the organism’s ability to embrace the irritant and transform it into something beautiful (rather than deadly). In high-performance athletics, it is important to pay attention to what frustrates you and practice honoring this irritating event and allowing it to be your teacher. Allowing irritations and setbacks to empower you, thereby strengthening “grit” in your tennis and your life.
Grit is defined as the ability to persevere, overcome and keep moving forward in the face of adversity, failure, rejection and obstacles; with increased grit, you can work hard for a long period of time toward a goal. Success doesn’t happen overnight, anything worthwhile takes time to build. Along the way, you will face countless challenges, failures and setbacks that will become roadblocks unless you persevere to find a way forward. Elite performers and athletes build and maintain grit which empowers them to find a way to navigate the roadblocks (or run through them) to move closer to their vision and goal. Without grit, there are no pearls.
Strategy #3: “Unplug”
take a break from technology
This strategy is simple: Take a break from your phone, computer and social media.
We live in a world with endless digital input that can often be compelling but also mentally exhausting. Constant distraction by technology leaves little room for cultivating connections with people we love and decreases time/space for the mental rest and recharge necessary for optimal brain and body functioning and performance.
- Tip: Create a “tech-free zone” in your home environment (example: no phones at dinner table or no laptops in bed); Turn your phone on Airplane Mode when wanting to exercise or listen to music without added distractions.
Reduce Stress: Taking mini-breaks from technology allows the brain and body to recharge and rest which decreases overall stress and anxiety.
Improve Cognitive Benefit: Consciously taking regular “pauses” from technology is an excellent strategy for preventing “mental burn out” allowing the mind to reset and to be more receptive to new learning and mental absorption, both on and off the tennis court.
Strategy #4: “Daily Practice of gratitude”
“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude.” -Dennis Waitley
It’s easy to get caught up in thoughts like: “If only I could be prettier, win more matches or make more money, then I would be happier.” People often do not realize that happiness isn’t something external, it must be established and nourished from within. Gratitude is the key to nourishing an inner sense of contentment and happiness in life and in sport.
Those who are the happiest are not happy because of how much money they make or how they look but instead because they are grateful for what they do have. Your attitude and outlook determine your outcome, and your outlook is greatly impacted by the amount of gratitude you practice. Life and work satisfaction (i.e. happiness) increases when you engage in the simple practice of paying attention to what you are grateful for in your life.
- Tip: Establish a routine of “daily gratitude” journaling. Every night write 3 things you are grateful for (these can be little or big things) to build your sense of contentment and appreciation for what you have in your life.
Strategy #5: “Get Curious”
allow for expansion, curiosity and creativity
A champion thrives when there is room to push beyond the emotional and physical “comfort zone”. Curiosity provides an athlete the ability to create improvements in life and in sport. New discoveries about oneself and one’s abilities can be exhilarating and rewarding but it requires a willingness to get curious about one’s actions, choices and even the surrounding environment. Elite athletes will often exercise a healthy curiosity by asking questions such as: “Is there a better, more effective way for me to mentally or physically prep for my match today?” or “What thoughts am I believing today that either help or hinder me from reaching my next goal?” Allow curiosity to fuel your creative approach toward growth and expansion in your life and your tennis.
Strategy #6: “Diversify your identity”
broaden your sense of self to enhance psychological stability
There exists an old proverb: “Don’t put all of your eggs into one basket” - which is a simple way to describe this strategy. A healthy financial portfolio includes diversification of assets to protect our financial well-being. Similarly, it is wise to adopt a practice of “diversification” as it relates to constructing a well-rounded sense of self and identity. Driven individuals often devote years and decades, with intense focus on one specific area (becoming an elite athlete, for example) which can naturally lead to the underdevelopment of other important areas of one’s life and aspects of identity. To protect and enhance psychological stability, it is important to nurture interests, talents and relationships that exist outside of the sport or profession you’ve chosen.
- Tip: One excellent way to broaden a sense of self is to identify all of the parts of self that create the totality of you and your identity. For example: Elite Athlete; Sister; Scholar; Book lover; Adventurer; Hiker; Interior Design Artist; Daughter; Romantic Partner; Music Lover; Car Collector; etc. Recognize the various parts of you that exist and then evaluate how much time and energy you wish to devote to nurturing each part of yourself. This ensures that you have greater psychological stability, balance and a broader sense of self.
Strategy #7: “name it before you claim it”
Living with intention and purpose
You must be clear about what you want before you can fully manifest it. Performance increases when you become clear about your intention and purpose.
- Tip: When creating personal goals in life and in sport, identify the intention beneath the goal: “Why does this matter to me?” and possibly: “How can this contribute something good to others?”
APPLY THESE HABITS TO YOUR DAILY ROUTINE AND DISCOVER THE RICHES THAT YOU’LL GLEAN
The contents of the Health site are for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, psychiatric, psychological, health care or health management advice. The materials herein are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this site. Reliance on any information provided herein is solely at your own risk.
Thank you to WTA Athlete Assistance Department, Jessica Lidner, PhD, Sports Psychologist