“What’s more, obsessing about winning is a loser’s game: The most we can hope for is to create the best possible conditions for success, then let go of the outcome.” Phil Jackson
I was reflecting on what the girls I grew up competing against at National tennis tournaments were like, and we all had a few things in common. Those of us at the top were obsessive, anxious and perfectionistic. These qualities may have motivated me, and contributed to my success, but more than anything, they left me stressed, burned out, and alienated. I then took all these qualities into my academic career, leading to even more anxiety, fatigue, and isolation.
I teach the athletes I work with now how to practice Mindfulness and Self-Compassion. I train their attention and their awareness. They need to learn how to observe their minds, to notice when they are caught in obsession, anxiety or perfectionism. They need to notice when their mind is future tripping, and learn how to quickly bring it back to the task at hand. I teach them how to breathe, to drop into their bodies, to let go of what just happened in the game so they can be present to what is happening now. They learn how to forgive themselves for mistakes, and to relate to themselves, and their teammates, with kindness and compassion.
You have to meet all your doing with a little bit of being. Take your recovery as seriously as you do your training. Slow down, notice your breath, scan your body, watch your mind and pay attention to what’s happening now.
If you practice obsession, anxiety and perfectionism, you’ll eventually find yourself stressed, burned out and miserable. Maybe it’s time for practice to look a little different.