Sometimes in sport— and in life— things don’t go always go as smoothly or easily as we’d prefer. We’ve been experiencing A LOT of that lately. From unexpected pandemics to wildfires, many people have had major wrenches thrown into their original plans.
Things don’t always play out the way you expect them to. When expectations meet reality and the two don’t match up, it can throw you completely off your game. When you are faced with this kind of challenge— do you throw in the towel, or do you regroup? Do you give up, or do you adjust?
And believe me, I know you’re sick of adjusting. I know you’re tired of having to accept things as they come and pivot at the last minute (and I know you’re also sick of the word “pivot”!). I know you’re over trying to be resilient and using this time as an “opportunity”. I know you feel exhausted and done.
In the sports arena, people face challenges all the time. You’re constantly being faced with needing to perform under pressure— and at the highest levels of competition, the athlete that comes out on top is the one that was able to handle the unexpected setbacks along the way. That becomes a necessary skill for success.
In addition to your athletic life, there are times when you will have to face BIG life challenges, and it will feel like moving a mountain. You come up with a game plan, commit to the plan, attack the challenge with everything you’ve got, and then the mountain doesn’t move. You try to push the mountain again— and nothing; it won’t budge.
“The man who moved a mountain was the one who began carrying away small stones.” Chinese Proverb
This time you turn around and try to push with your back. As you try to force the mountain to move, you happen to look down and see that the mountain is made of these smaller stones, but you stick to your original plan trying to force your expectations to influence reality. You keep pushing against the mountain because when you look down at those stones, they make you angry and then they make you want to cry. You don’t want to go to Plan B.
We don’t like having to change our game plan. One of the distractions that can shift your focus from where it needs to be is this idea of “fighting against the present” or “butting heads” with what’s happening (I talk about this in my book On Top of Your Game). You can get so caught up not wanting things to be the way they are, that it can be really difficult to shift your focus to where it needs to be; shift it to where it will be more helpful to your mental, emotional, and physical health. If you find yourself overcome with worry and have a hard time dealing with unexpected changes, here’s what you need to work on:
Hardiness comprises three aspects: commitment, control, and challenge.
◆ Commitment refers to the ability to persevere — to keep putting one
foot in front of the other even when faced with difficult times. You
stay involved, seeing things through to the end despite any obstacles
you may encounter.
◆ Control refers to the ability to not feel helpless when faced with
difficult times. You believe you are capable of influencing the
circumstances of your life, understand that certain things are out of
your control, and take action to address the things you can influence.
◆ Challenge is the inclination to view stressors as a normal and ongoing
part of life. You know that setbacks are not threats to your safety and
security but, rather, challenges and opportunities for deepening your
understanding and growth.
You tried to move the mountain the way you originally planned, and it won’t budge. You can be angry and feel stuck, or you can shift your focus to what is still in your control. You can be stubborn and try again, or you can accept you have to find a different solution. You can quit— or you can pick up a stone. This is hardiness. People that are higher in hardiness cope with stress more effectively and are more likely to experience stress related growth outcomes.
You will still have a moment before acceptance where you will feel confused, angry, frustrated, sad, annoyed, and utterly disappointed. It’s important to honor that and allow yourself to feel those emotions. And then you take a deep breath and let persistence keep you going. The key to persistence is being able to adjust. Being able to change your game plan and not see that as failure. Persistence means that you keep going despite the difficulty surrounding the task. Persistence means if you can’t move the mountain all at once then you start picking up stones. And one of THE MOST incredible parts of this journey— is that sometimes you realize that Plan B should have been Plan A all along. Sometimes when you are forced to adjust, you actually find a better solution.