When athletes and performers engage in a mental skills process to help them work on themselves and their mind game of sport or event they are making a commitment to excellence. One of the more important and essential elements is that the commitment to actually doing the things required to coach the mind is not easy or light. So much of sport psychology and so much of what I do to help athletes and performers reach their true potential is lost if they simply “go through the motions” or lack that commitment. It is a commitment to the self. Without giving the effort and time needed to understand these personal mind skills, the true potential (whether that is Flow-state, a championship, personal records, or enjoyment) will likely evade you.
All Your Effort
Additionally, nobody, and I do mean nobody, will ever know if you gave 100% of your effort to an activity — except you. The sport psychology skills — awareness, goal setting, focus, self-talk, imagery, intensity regulation, confidence, motivation — are all things that can be done without 100% effort. They can be executed merely to a degree, and any observer would guess that you committed your all. ONLY YOU KNOW IF YOU DID. There are some methods I have developed over the years to observe whether someone is truly engaged and committed to what they are doing and whether they are just selling it really well. Even after years of experience, with virtually every type of athlete or performer you could think of, I can still say (with absolute certainty) that I do not know whether someone is truly engaged and 100% committed. Perhaps a caveat to this phenomenon is the athlete’s response to their performance (positive or negative) will usually inform the observer; not in the moment of the event but in the moments following.
The progress, efficiency, self-growth, and performance improvements are second to none when the skills are implemented with the effort that comes from commitment. It is statements such as “Is this supposed to work this quickly”, “I feel like I just learned who I am”, “I can’t believe something as simple as breathing can have such a profound impact”, “Why didn’t I start doing this years ago”, etc. that usually result from that commitment.
A Continuous Process
This is an ongoing process. You don’t just get to be done with these skills, mastering them as you master more of yourself/sport/event will reveal greater challenges and greater levels of mastery. It is similar to evolving yourself to meet your values in varying environments and situations. Being true to yourself means you are never done with personal values. You are never done with grit — you don’t really get to say, “Ah, I really put in all my effort when things got really hard and I was tested to my limits. Now I can just sit back and do nothing, come what may.” You wouldn’t be yourself if you did. You wouldn’t be happy. You wouldn’t accept that you were anything but a fraud. Lying to yourself also results in a lot of self-pain, self-doubt, and unhappiness.
Your True Potential
Committing to the process of sport psychology and living by your values will result in everything you want it to do for you — reaching the highest level of your own potential. Working through the process of self-development and excellence will not guarantee that you will succeed, be victorious, or win but you will be happy, satisfied, proud, and aware of yourself. Additionally, it is the challenge of facing limitations and the prospect of failure that makes it interesting and exciting. Similarly, if you commit to the process and become your best self, you will know with absolute certainty that you gave your everything and committed to pushing yourself to your limits. The result is learning what you were capable of achieving with everything you had to give. Winning is the top payout for the efforts and work put in but not the only payout. Coming up short when you gave it your everything does not feel crushing (although it might in the moment; you have to distinguish between the judgement of your ego and the awareness of your true self). Coming up short can result in focus on self-reflection, persistence, improvement, and consistent effort. The commitment to be your best self also results in a mentality that creates a core (or certainty) within yourself that breeds confidence, acceptance, and ultimately happiness (or at a minimum feeling content).
Again, this is not easy, and you have to be willing to put in the time and effort. None of this can be accomplished by merely “giving it a try.”