by Lauren Heckley, Performance Enhancement Consultant
Being a competitive athlete has its challenges. You are constantly putting yourself in situations where you are demanding the best from yourself, which can either bring success or not. The most amazing feeling is when you have given it your best shot, when you push yourself to your absolute capacity, and you succeed; Superman could not have paddled harder than you did. That is incredible!! You’re amazing!! That feeling is indescribable; you feel it throughout your entire body. Bliss.
But when you don’t succeed after putting in the same amount of arduous effort under the same demands, it can lead to disappointment. Feeling disappointed can be a dangerous place. It’s not a comfortable feeling, and naturally we want to avoid it.
Sometimes, extreme measures are taken to avoid negative feelings and an athlete may not do their best because of the fear of disappointment. Psychological blocks are put up as protection: if you never put yourself out there then there is no disappointment.
Athletes in this state may come across as uninterested or overly anxious. This can stem from different origins depending on the athlete, but it is important in this situation to understand that the athlete places a great deal of importance on their performance. This is the kind of importance that you want, the kind of importance that fuels Olympic-bound passion, but only if fostered in a positive way. These athletes just need to be taught a simple tool.
The solution is "It's Going to Be Okay Because..."
The solution to this situation is called the “It’s Going To Be Okay Because” factor. The “It’s Going To Be Okay Because” factor is a short but efficient mental exercise. The benefits of this exercise are considerable. One use is to develop an understanding that the worst possibility is not nearly as terrifying as imagined. Catastrophizing is a common negative psychological pattern in athletes, but it can easily be corrected. Another use is to prepare the mind on how to deal with these situations if they do occur, realizing that the world will not end in spite of what our mind might say.
How to use it...
How to use the “It’s Going To Be Okay Because” factor is simple. The athlete should take a minute to look fear in the face, some time before an event, and picture their biggest fear.
- What would disappoint them the most?
- Coming last?
- Coming second?
- Flipping the boat?
Then they take a minute to figure out why it would be okay if this tragically horrible incident occurred.
- Is it going to be okay because they love paddling, and at the end of the day that is all that matters?
- Is it going to be okay because they tried their hardest, and that’s really what matters?
This factor is a way of reminding us why we’ve come this far. It reminds us of what is truly important. It forces us to dig down to our roots, to find the pure meaning of why we push ourselves, why we compete, why we train. Races are unpredictable; you never know what the outcome will be. If you don’t beat your personal best this time, why is it going to be okay? If you come dead last in the next event you compete in, why is it going to be okay?
Knowing why everything is going to be okay isn’t just a tool, it’s an advantage. All of a sudden the fear of disappointment will be less debilitating. Knowing why it’s going to be okay if the worst outcome takes place means there is every reason to give it your best shot. Try your hardest! Make it hurt like you’ve never felt before. You CAN do it. Always remember what really matters to you, and it will all be okay.
So do it. Without fear, let’s see your best.
Throughout high school in Canmore, Alberta, Lauren (pronounced Laurenne) Heckley did competitive biathlon and cross-country skiing. In biathlon, she medalled nationally and had opportunities to compete internationally. At the age of 17 Heckley decided to pursue her education rather than athletics, and quickly discovered a passion for sport psychology. Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario is the only university in the country offering a sport psychology undergrad, and in 2015 she graduated with Honours from this program. Since then Heckley has worked as a Mental Skills Consultant, an interchangeable term with Performance Enhancement Consultant. She works with many athletes and teams on managing anxiety, building confidence, sustainable positivity, and all of their correlations with optimal performance. Heckley is also coaching the Nelson Kayak and Canoe Club; is the head coach for the Nelson Nordic Ski Club; and does as much Performance Enhancement Consulting as she can.