The Internet’s been flooded with memes featuring Michael Phelps. No one, it seems can get over that fierce game face he pulls while prepping for his swimming event at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
But as we laughed, he walked away with gold medals (four in a row at Rio 2016), bringing his tally to a world record-setting 22. Pulling on his game face, and getting into the zone, has definitely made him a winner.
Damn, Michael, have some chill!
Of course, every time a world record is set or smashed, we hear so much about the peak physical condition that these athletes are in and the training they endure. But there’s a lot to be said about their mental fitness levels, andtheir commitment to being the very best that they can be as well. Losses are generally explained away with “the pressure got to him,” “her opposition got into her head,” and “he got psyched out by the occasion”. Most top athletes and coaches focus on the mental side of the game- they consider as crucial to success as physical training.
The mental side of competition needs to be acknowledged as being fundamental to success by everyone; we owe it to ourselves to be the best that we can be in everything that we do.
Gayatri Vartak, a former international badminton player, is the co-founder and director of Samiksha Sports Pvt Ltd, one of India’s first sports consultancies, which deals with the mental aspect of sport. She currently works with several top sports organisations, such as the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), to help their athletes develop that mental edge.
We got Vartak to help us identify three core areas we should develop to win at sports – and in real life. It’s time to get your game face on!
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It may sound like something we’ve heard all our lives, but there’s a reason these words are so often repeated. “For you to do well in anything, you have to have the passion to work hard towards it. You can put in effort only when you believe that you enjoy something,” says Gayatri.
If you can’t build up enthusiasm for the exercise/task at hand, here’s a mental hack for that – focus on your achievements. “Think about what you have achieved or done well at. Having small incentives and then meeting them is something that really helps you enjoy exercising or competing,” is Gayatri’s first pro tip. The important thing to remember is that without that passion for what you’re doing, you’re unlikely to push yourself to limits that even you may not be aware of yourself.
You are your own #1 fan. Remember that it all starts with you. “For any individual, it’s very important to have a lot of self-belief when performing an activity. There’s no point in comparing yourself to anyone else because everyone has a different story. You have to focus on being the best that you can be,” stresses Vartak. Now, it may sound very superficial to say ‘Just believe in yourself,’ but you didn’t think we’d just leave it like that, did you?
“Goal-setting gives you direction and a way forward. But the real trick is to keep reviewing your progress, and to check whether you’ve achieved your goals at a regular interval. Most people make the mistake of never reviewing whether their goals are being met, but a regular review will let you know whether you’ve overshot your targets or fallen short of them,” says Gayatri. The key lies in setting realistic targets for yourself and then ensuring that you adjust your targets depending on your achievements.
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