Power of the Mind

TennisSports teach us a lot about the power of the mind. What sets two equally skilled players apart is often different mindsets and beliefs. Same goes for life. Whether we achieve something is often determined not by our skills or knowledge but by what we believe we deserve or what we can do. In other words, when we don’t achieve what we set out to do, it’s often because we limit ourselves.

That’s what happened on Monday night, when I lost a singles tennis match that lasted nearly 2.5 hours. I’m mainly a doubles player, and have never played singles as part of a competitive team. However, my team was short on singles players, and I didn’t want us to have to default on one of the five lines in the match. So, I traded my doubles spot in the lineup playing with a familiar partner for this new experience. I did so happily; no one pressured me to do so.

My opponent and I were well matched skill-wise. Even though she had more competitive court experience than I had, I knew what I needed to do to take that match—if I could construct the points accordingly and hit my shots right. It was definitely a winnable match, even if by a tight margin. In the end, I lost the match because I lost the mental game.

Here are the reminders about the power of the mind I got from this loss.

Reminder #1: Always focus on one step at a time

StepsAfter losing a tight first set that lasted almost 1.5 hours, I wondered at 8pm if I had it within me to come back and win two sets to win the match. With that doubt in my mind, I lost my concentration and willingness to engage in more long rallies, and the unforced errors came one after another. If I had stayed focused on one point at a time—instead of the daunting thought of a long night ahead with strong winds and chilly conditions—I actually had a fair chance of a comeback. That’s because, when I was focused and believed I could win the match, I was able to produce winners instead of errors, and was able to execute on the strategy I knew could yield a win.

I find that this mindset reminder most certainly applies to life. We need to have a clear idea of the big picture and our end goal, of our dreams. However, we can’t focus on how far that goal or dream is from where we are right here, right now, or how daunting the task is of getting from here to there. That’s when we psyche ourselves out, and the limiting thoughts start shutting us down. Instead, if we know what we need to do and focus on one step at a time, one stage at a time, we minimize self-doubt, and give our abilities and talents a chance to take us to the finish-line.

Reminder #2: Be mindful of self-pity

cheering

By the time we started our second set, all the other matches around us were done. It was dark, and the courts felt deserted to me, a very different feeling than when the match started. Then, several of the players from the opposing team gathered outside our court to give my opponent moral support. None of my team members were in sight. I felt abandoned and out-numbered, and that further fed my desire to finish the match quickly. Of course, that was all just makings of my own mind. I had a choice not to construct that story and let it further erode my concentration and fighter instincts.

How often do we construct stories of self-pity or “woe’s me” that unnecessarily limit ourselves? At any given moment, under any circumstance, we have 100% control over our own inner resources. Yes, it’s nice to be cheered on and have external moral support. But, in the end, the best cheerleader we have is ourselves, and what we need to remember is that we have what it takes to get the job done. To focus on what’s going on outside ourselves is to give away the magnificent power we have to achieve what we set out to do.

Reminder #3: It really is about the experience, not just the outcome

journeyMy opponent was a truly gracious lady, and I really did have fun playing that match, even though I lost. It could easily have been a very different 2.5 hours if my opponent wasn’t as nice. Throughout the match, we complimented each other on great shots we hit and how we both had pretty good wheels on us. After one particularly tough point, I told her that I was there for comedic purposes as well, not just to play tennis, and we had a good laugh. One of her team members even commented later that she could tell we were having fun. Sure, we all want to win, but it’s more important to have fun. Otherwise, what’s the point?

I feel that’s a good mindset for life, too. Yes, we want to challenge ourselves. Of course, we want to win for our team at work. Who doesn’t want to have results to show for our efforts? However, if results are all we care about, life would be pretty dreary and empty, don’t you think? After all, isn’t most of life objectively spent in the process of getting to the next desired outcome? If we don’t enjoy the process, the full experience, but only the outcome (however long that may last), how much joy is there really in life?

So, the above are the mindset reminders I gleaned from my loss on Monday night. Whether or not you play tennis or any sport, what do you think about the three reminders above? Have your own mindset reminders to share? Would love for you to do so in the comment box below.

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About Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Dr. Alice Chan is passionate about developing conscious leaders and organizations. Her path to serve her life purpose has included being an award-winning Cornell professor and a leader in the corporate world for nearly 15 years. She’s the author of the book, REACH Your Dreams: Five Steps to be a Conscious Creator in Your Life, and creator of the program, 30 Days to Living Your Best Life. All content on this blog and website is her own, not the opinions of her employer.

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12 comments
valdiviajovani
valdiviajovani like.author.displayName 1 Like

Great Post... Yes, the mind is very powerful. We can create anything we desire

just by letting the mind do what it was created by God to do. We can obtain

anything we want in life and live life to the fullest.

Sincerely,

Jovani

DrAliceChan
DrAliceChan moderator

@valdiviajovani Absolutely, Jovani, we can create anything we set our mind to do. The only limits are the ones we place on ourselves. Thank you for reading and commenting!

Deone_Higgs
Deone_Higgs like.author.displayName 1 Like

Splendid post, Alice! This is exactly what I needed to read at this very moment. As I draw closer to completing my book, it reminded me that the race is not given to the swift or to the strong, but to the one who endures to the end. Each reminder was spot on! I loved the message, and couldn't agree with you more on our need to give the utmost attention to the mindset we possess. In the end, it's really what gets us closer to the finish line, isn't it. 

Excellent post, beloved. :) 

DrAliceChan
DrAliceChan moderator

@Deone_Higgs Thank you, Deone! Congrats on the near completion of your book! Recently, I read "You Can Create An Exceptional Life," which I referenced in a previous post. One of the insights that really stayed with me is that things take time, often more slowly than we want, especially for us recovering Type As! So, your comment about the importance of endurance is spot on. And, yes, few of us really embrace fully the power we have around cultivating the optimal mindset. It really creates the reality for us as we experience it. If we believe we can, we do. Thank you again for joining in this conversation!

dendo6192
dendo6192 like.author.displayName 1 Like

Good points, Alice.  And these remind me that as those 'mind distractions' come up, it takes us out of being in the PRESENT experience, focusing on 'this shot.'  Thank you for sharing the lessons with us.  Diane

DrAliceChan
DrAliceChan moderator

@dendo6192 Thank you, Diane! Yes, it's so very easy to be distracted from "the shot," which takes away from being in the present with each point. That's why sports provide such a great case for learning about the power of the mind. Grateful to you for taking the time to read and comment here - thank you, Diane!

ThinDifference
ThinDifference like.author.displayName 1 Like

Great topic, Alice, and great reminders on how to keep our mind focused on the right things. Another reminder is embedded in what you wrote about. In your tennis experience, you learned something about the experience. We always need to look for the lessons learned as well as exploring topics that keep our minds fresh and growing in perspective. Healthy mindsets are growing ones. Thanks for writing about this important topic! Thanks. Jon

DrAliceChan
DrAliceChan moderator

@ThinDifference Thank you for adding your insights, Jon! Yes, it's good to review experiences and capture the lessons learned. Life is an organic learning laboratory, so there's always something valuable to be harvested in every experience. Maintaining a healthy mindset is an important practice, as you pointed out. So, thank you for adding this reminder to this discussion. Appreciate you, Jon!

cap99
cap99 like.author.displayName 1 Like

HI Alice - 

Thank you for bringing this important concept to my conscious mind!  I will use it today!

Carol

DrAliceChan
DrAliceChan moderator

@cap99 Thanks, Carol! We can all use regular reminders of managing our mindset. Have a great day!

minutemindset
minutemindset like.author.displayName 1 Like

Wonderful post Alice! Our mindset is so important - and nothing teaches us that faster than a physical challenge. Running teaches me this lesson every time I head out the door. If I don't work on my mindset before I start, I struggle through the entire run. I love each of your reminders - especially "it's about the experience, not the outcome." Getting my mind to let go and enjoy the moment is so worth the effort! Thank you!!

Karen

DrAliceChan
DrAliceChan moderator

@minutemindset Many thanks for sharing your own mindset experience with running, Karen. Our bodies take directions from our minds. If we "program" the experience to be enjoyable, it becomes that. The reverse is also true. Letting go and enjoying the moment is something about which we can all use regular reminders. Thanks again for sharing, Karen!

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  1. […] few weeks ago, I wrote about a tough evening of tennis partly because of the really strong wind. While we were still warming up for the match, one of my […]

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