Nothing is going right. Your confidence is shaken.
You feel like a salmon swimming upstream against the current.
Do you feel like you’re fighting a losing battle? Ready to give in?
I’ve been caught in that riptide too. But I want to share some hope with you.
Professional athletes use 3 simple mind hacks that you can use to turn things around.
These hacks also work in art, business and life.
Want to know what they are?
Wimbledon. 2016 quarter-finals. Centre Court.
Tennis great Roger Federer was down 2 sets to love against the powerful 6’6 Marin Cilic.
It was match point for Cilic, who was on a roll.
Do you think Federer was thinking back to their previous match in 2014 when Cilic crushed him?
Federer focused on other times when he had come back from a two-set deficit to defeat other opponents.
“I thought of the Tommy Haas match after I saved those breakpoints, went up 4-3, I think. I thought of the Tommy match from the French when I was saving breakpoints there, as well. I think that was four, three breakpoints, something similar. So, yeah, I did believe in that moment, thought about it at that moment for that moment.” – Roger Federer 1.
He knew he had been successful in the past so he could be again. It might not have been exactly the same situation (e.g. different opponent, different venue, etc.) but he drew from his experiences of success, rather than focusing on his previous failure against Cilic.
We’re too quick to remember past failures instead of past successes.
Do you have any past successes you can draw from?
Perhaps you are struggling with your writing? Look back on your most popular blog post.
You’ve had several bad agility trials in a row? Focus on a great agility run from the past.
Or maybe you’ve been successful in something else that you can draw a parallel to?
Use it to remind yourself you know how to be successful.
Can’t think of anything? Let’s go to hack #2.
Maybe right now you don’t feel you have any experiences to draw from.
But that’s not true.
Problems and mistakes are a form of experience. And I’m not talking about seeing the glass as half-full.
Where there is weakness, there is also strength.
In 1999, Steffi Graf was playing in her last French Open final against the World No. 1 Martina Hingis. By tennis standards Graf was old (especially when compared to the teenaged Hingis) and hadn’t won any majors for three years due to injuries. Hingis had the match well in hand.
But Graf had one thing on her side. Experience. When Hingis lost her head over a bad call, Graf was able to capitalize on the teenager’s loss of focus…and come back to take the grand prize.
Age became the asset, and youth… the liability.
Flip the problem on its head.
Find the opportunity. Use it to change directions, to look at your circumstances upside-down.
In dog sport, do you think it’s a disadvantage to run first at an event? To not see other handlers run the course first? Turn it into an advantage by laying down the first great run. Other competitors choke under the pressure.
If you are a writer, do you lament not having enough time to nurture your “muse”? Many writers produce brilliant work because they use time constraints to focus intensely.
Make the disadvantage an advantage.
Turn things around in your mind so that you act with confidence and intention.
Have you ever felt mad enough to prove someone wrong? Or tried some “role modelling” because it sounded like a scientific way to learn new behaviour? Or you used the “fake it until you make it” theory? All have some validity.
But it’s the adult version of telling yourself a story.
As adults, we don’t use our imagination enough.
Good stories trigger something in us called “the willing suspension of disbelief”. We are willing to go along with the story, no matter how fantastical it seems.
As a bonus, your brain can’t tell the difference between something vividly imagined and real life.
So if you can’t pull from any previous experience, create the experience.
Let me tell you a story about the power of imagination.
As a kid, I used to play basketball in my backyard for hours.
I would pretend the clock was ticking down in the national final and I had the ball for the last shot.
“3, 2, 1…”, and I’d shoot the ball from anywhere and everywhere.
When the ball went in, I’d celebrate for real. I’d jump around, hearing the crowd cheering wildly, team rushing to lift me on their shoulders, cutting down the net (in my imagination, my parents would’ve killed me if I’d really cut it down).
If I missed the shot…
I had been fouled, of course.
I went to the free throw line to take the winning shots.
In my backyard, I never lost.
Years later, in the national final of an undefeated university basketball season, my team was in trouble. I had the ball on a key possession.
What do you think happened?
Sure, I know there’s no guarantees. But stories are powerful.
Believe even before you have your first success.
Mohammad Ali said:
“I am the greatest. I said that even before I knew I was.”
So have fun with it. Use your imagination. Start telling yourself stories now.
You never know when you might need to believe it. (And yes, I made the shot.)
Knowing how to turn things around in your head helps you to keep the faith.
To hang on and thrive in the face of adversity.
To create something new and beautiful that you’ve never done before.
Trust your past success. Look for the opportunity. Write your own story.
Can you hear the crowd cheering? You got this.