What does ‘performance’ truly mean? If the current state of the world has taught us anything, it’s that performance goes well beyond squats and burpees. Knowing that, we’ve used this time to pause and reflect, to explore what it takes to perform. And in doing so, we’ve found that athletes might be in more familiar territory than expected. It’s all about embracing an athlete performance mindset.
Living with uncertainty
These are uncertain times we’ve been living through. That’s what they keep telling us, right? On the news, online, in TV ads – it’s the sound bite of choice that’s come to define the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. The open-ended timelines, the overwhelming number of variables, the abundance of misinformation and the lack of good answers. How will we know when it’s over? When can we get back to work, to school, to the more predictable patterns of life?
Humans actually need those patterns of predictability. What we’re experiencing now during this crisis is tearing down all those constructs of day-to-day predictability. What we have come to count on in our everyday lives has been shattered. To say it’s been an uncomfortable experience would be a gross understatement, but as a French philosopher once said…
Perhaps we should ask ourselves: When has life ever been certain? Every moment in life presents us with a new, often unforeseeable challenge or opportunity. It is up to us at each of those moments to decide how we respond.
Athlete performance: uncertainty is part of the game
As athletes, we understand this concept more than most. Athletes are extremely familiar with uncertainty; we need to be. We understand that victory is uncertain. Success is uncertain. In some ways, uncertainty is the game.
Pit two athletes against one another. Both of them come ready to win. This is the athlete performance mindset. They both believe they will be victorious, but the truth is that they can’t both be right. In the end, what separates the two is how well they’ve prepared themselves to respond to the demands of each uncertain moment they face.
The weather, the crowd noise, the officiating, the missteps and mistakes, illnesses and injuries, bad luck and good – athletes can’t predict any of it. But we can prepare so that we can perform in spite of these things.
Deliver what the moment demands
As athletes, we face the uncertain demands of our sports because training has given us the confidence that we can deliver what the moment demands. When we are faced with fatigue, we look for inspiration to get us moving again. When we are feeling distracted, we change our approach and imagine a new, better way to do something. When we are wrought with self-doubt, we obsessively train to build back our confidence. When we are afraid of failure, we lean on our team and find the courage to try.
These strategies don’t just help us deliver what the moment demands in sport, but deliver what the moment demands in life. And that – we believe – is performance.