The longer I do this work and the more insight I get into people’s challenges, hopes, obstacles, and personal breakthroughs, I also find myself experiencing more empathy and understanding for the universal barrier we all face when it comes to success and performance.
What is it? Fear with many faces.
Fear of your own disappointment if you lose to someone you feel you “should” beat.
Fear of what other people will think or say if you lose to a lower ranked player.
Fear of not living up to your expectations.
Fear of not getting in to the college you think would reflect a positive self-image in your eyes or the eyes of others.
Fear of being dropped off the team.
In other words, tennis, success, life are all riddled with the same uncertainty. To stay focused in the performance arena, on any given day, you don’t know if you will win or lose. Guess, what? Neither does Federer, Djokovic, or even Rafa. Do you think Novak knew he would win Wimbledon this year? Not a chance. What about the U.S Open? Nope. Did he believe he could win; that he was capable of winning? Absolutely.
In the end, what do you need to succeed or perform at your peak more consistently and win more? You need to COMMIT. You need to commit to HOW you want to play. And you need to be specific and STUBBORN about it.
What if you feel nerves before the match? COMMIT. See yourself playing on your terms. Do you know what your terms are? You need to know them.
And after you COMMIT to HOW you want to play, guess what? Your body, at times, may decide to NOT commit. In fact, it will by itself just back off, hoping your opponent misses. It’s natural.
So, again, what do you need to do? What does this mindset require? You need to be STUBBORN. You approach the same match, the nerves, the challenge from a different point of view. You do it differently.
You become STUBBORN about this. You become stubborn about coming over your backhand despite the nerves. You become stubborn and remain positive despite losing the second set after losing your own set points. You choose to not not doubt, but believe in possibility. You choose to swing through the ball to your target when closing out a lead. Being stubborn is the secret sauce to your best days.
You have to take the plane (you) off automatic pilot put yourself in the cockpit because do you know who you allowed to fly your airplane? FEAR.
That’s right. Fear is flying the plane because you went on autopilot—habit, anxiety, hope, comfort zone all put the plane on auto.
And here is where massive confidence can enter. You DECIDE to put yourself in the cockpit and COMMIT to playing on your terms—stepping in to your returns, focusing on everything relevant other than the importance of the score, which is not your guide. Let me say this again. The score is NOT your guide. Your “terms” are the guide.
Here are my terms every match I play to name just a few:
- Loose and aggressive
- Eyes focused on the court, very disciplined with my eyes
- Feel my feet/body and VERY little in my head
- Move the ball around like crazy
- Let go of the last point quickly—radical acceptance
These are now built in. I rarely find myself lamenting over lost point and games. I don’t want to be a VICTIM of my mind. I refuse to be a victim and let my “little mind” fly the plane. No, I want my “wise mind” to fly it.
But, who is going to do this for me? My parents? Coach? Friends? Not a chance.
YOU must do this for yourself.
My advice to you is please put FEAR in the back of the plane, recognize that you have a CHOICE and KNOW that you can loosen up, commit to your shots and play on your terms.
It feels amazing, and ironically, you will win more than you ever imagined.