When you walk to the edge of all the light you have
And take that first step into the darkness of the unknown,
You must believe that one of two things will happen:
There will be something solid for you to stand upon,
Or, you will be taught how to fly
The Leaning Tree
Have you ever had the experience of feeling confident in yourself, in the decision you made or the action you're about to take, and then right when you get to it, it's like a switch has been flipped and your confidence is gone. It's like being ready to jump into a pool, totally committed, and then as you approach the end of the diving board something happens – you have a moment of hesitation and now instead of jumping you’re staring at the water and thinking up several great excuses about why you shouldn’t jump.
Here are the top 2 reasons why athletes experience a sudden drop in confidence and fail to seize an opportunity:
You’re afraid of making the wrong decision
Your fears stir up the dreaded “what-ifs” …
“What if I _________ and then __________?”
Or more to the point it looks like this:
“What if I _______ (fill-in-the-blank with your decision/action) and then _________ (fill-in-the-blank with your absolute nightmarish worst-case-scenario)?”
Often athletes hold back because they aren't sure if listening to their guts will lead them to making the “right” decision. The decision that keeps you from failing, from making a mistake, from being embarrassed, from having your coach or teammates being angry with you, etc.
You need to redefine what it means to make a mistake. Give yourself permission to make wrong decisions. If you never risk making mistakes you'll never perform to your potential. Mistakes help you refine your skill and push to new heights – but only if you find it acceptable and even celebratory to make them.
You’re thinking too much
Athletes who over-analyze a situation will hesitate and miss the opportunity. Elite athletes with more competitive experience are more likely to tune out irrelevant distractions and go with their gut. They’re not thinking about the end game, they’re thinking about what they need to do right now. When you have that feeling in your gut that tells you that an opportunity might be presenting itself, that instinct doesn't come out of nowhere. You have picked up on an external cue and your brain has quickly run through your past memories and experiences and presents you with a feeling in your gut to let you know that something's up.
Stop thinking too much and stop thinking too far ahead. During a race or a game, you don't have time to weigh out the pros and cons of a decision. You need to practice listening to your gut. You may simply be out of practice when it comes to listening to and trusting your instincts. In fact, when you hold yourself back, you are practicing not listening to your instincts. The fact is you may one day seize an opportunity and watch it fail miserably, but as an athlete, being able to trust and listen to your instincts is something you have to be prepared to do. If we didn't have the capacity for a gut reaction, we would weigh out the pros and cons forever and never be able to take action.
You can do this. Sometimes you have to jump and trust that you’ll grow your wings on the way down. Benjamin Mee, author of the book We Bought a Zoo says; “You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.” Your first few landings might be a little rough, but pretty soon you'll be taking running leaps and soaring on your way down. Trust. Believe. Jump!