The Struggle is Real (part 1)
I see a lot of athletes get jaded by their long journey. They suffer stress, anxiety and all sorts of emotional highs and lows. Sport is meant to be fun.
Where do things go wrong?
Well, when athletes become good, many have a massive change in their expectation levels and their focus on winning becomes their #1 priority.
Fun becomes associated with winning and losing becomes a terrible ordeal. It is no longer about improving. Inadvertently they fail to notice entitlement creeping in with a mindset that says "I’m prepared to work hard as long as I get rewarded with wins. If not what’s the point?”
Their language and thoughts change to winning at all costs, to hoping others perform badly, to comparing, to judging themselves by results only … and the list goes on…...
I have a few harsh truths to share. On the surface my advice isn't motivational, in fact it could seem down right depressing. Delve a little deeper and you'll see a formula for being a happier person.
Rule 1: It's hard, and it gets harder.
Competition isn't easy. You are in a cauldron that will expose your mental deficiencies, continually test the quality of your abilities whilst challenging you physically to build a robust body and keep it healthy. Tough situations force you to find out about your character in the face of brutal defeats and the need for honest self-evaluation.
This pressure and responsibility is something that most of your family and friends may not grasp if they have never been involved at high levels of competition and nor should you try to make them - it's your journey and choice, not theirs.
The problems don't stop, as you get better they get bigger. This is a good thing.
The formula is easy!
- The higher you climb the greater the level of the opposition and the more difficult it is to win. This is normal.
- You have to find ways to win by keeping your focus on learning. Again it is simple - the better you get the harder you are to beat so you will win more. (Note as you go up a level you lose again until you get accustomed and improve enough to win at the new level)
- When it seems near impossible to believe you can get to the next level, remember the formula. It always seems this way before you improve enough to belong to the next level.
- You only ever have one job and that is to get better. No one starts life as a champion. Everyone has to learn, so why not relax and enjoy the process, which you know up front is hugely difficult.
- If you signed up to be good then sweet suffering is part of the deal. No avoidance! No moaning! No feeling sorry for yourself! No wishing it was easier! It is simply what it is - a wonderful invitation to get to know yourself and how good you can become.
Not only is it hard, it doesn't end. In boxing and other combat sports - each victory gives you the opportunity to face an even bigger, stronger opponent. There is genuine physical pain that runs alongside the mental challenge, so losing hurts on two fronts. Perhaps your pain is not so bad?
Rather than hoping for the day it's effortless, embrace the journey and realise that you aren't digging ditches or scavenging for food. Stop looking for easy answers and keep making things happen through your determination to get better.
Your problems are almost always of your own making and you are engaged in a personal struggle to bring the best of you consistently to the table. Do not feel unique because this is everyone’s struggle.
Who says struggle is not fun?
Who says it isn’t actually the most fun we can have?
Who says struggle and sometimes winning isn’t the best feeling in the world?
Who says struggle isn’t just another word for enjoyment?
Written by David Sammel
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