Sometimes I look back on my competition days, training day in and day out and often think: “I wish I knew then what I know now”. I used to hear my coaches say this and now I understand why because I catch myself saying it too!
As we continue to learn and grow each year and our experiences teach us new things about ourselves it’s like we’ve gone through these modules from the checklist of life: at some point we learn determination, empathy, acceptance… But it’s a curriculum designed specifically for each person and their distinctive path incorporating the appropriate use of one’s unique strengths and weaknesses. Everyone has the opportunity to learn the same lessons and succeed at what they want; it’s only a matter of whether or not our perception allows us to see these opportunities when they arise.
That being said, the first thing I wish I understood better as an athlete is self-awareness – a deep understanding of my emotions, how I react in particular situations, and how I handle them. From here I truly believe that an athlete at any stage (from beginner to elite) would have the most confident grasp on all the following points.
Here are six things I wish I understood better while I was competing:
1 – Goal Setting
While I was competing, my goals often seemed to feel somewhat far off in the distance. They were things that I would hopefully achieve one day if I were lucky.
Having a clear vision of what you want to achieve, what it would feel like, and a plan to get there is the fastest way to success. Writing your goals out on paper allows you to see and fill in the holes that could potentially stray you away from what you truly want. Goal setting keeps you on track when the going gets tough. You are more likely to hold yourself accountable and take the necessary steps required to achieve what you’ve set out to do. Putting your goals on paper programs your subconscious computer to act in alignment with your goals, you are more likely to see and take the right opportunities when they appear. Furthermore, designing your own path and how you want to get to where you want to go is fun and exciting! – It keeps you motivated. And if that’s not enough to get you started, the rate at which you achieve each new goal becomes exponential. You become better and better at knowing how to create appropriate goals for yourself and knowing the timeframe it might take to accomplish them. #GoalDigger
Goal Coaching is my number one passion, check out my packages for developing your mental training!
2 – Holistic Health
Balance, I see this word a lot these days. I hear it in conversations with my friends, I read it in health and wellness articles, and I use it when I’m teaching my students at school. Currently, there’s a clear desire for people to feel balance in their lives no matter what they are doing. When I talk about balance I mean an equal weight or amount of attention and energy given to the various parts of our lives, i.e. career, personal, and health. The reason I personally believe so strongly in balance is because I actually perform better at any given task when I distribute my energy to these different facets. This holistic approach to living naturally generates all the right ingredients for success such as time away, clarity, grounding, renewed vision, and drive.
Taking the time to properly nourish the different aspects of my life while I was training would have taken some of the pressure off and enhanced my performance as an athlete.
3 – Yoga
Yoga is one of those things like black coffee, or green tea, or Taylor Swift songs, or even man buns. As in, it’s an acquired taste. You try it at first because you know people who are obsessed with it and you think you like the idea of it. But after a few more times you start to understand the unexplainable way that yoga leaves you feeling all at once warm, relaxed, energized, focused and wanting more. Not to mention the way it sculpts, tones and stretches each muscle, while improving your posture and body awareness down to the finest detail.
If yoga had been incorporated into my off-ice training regimen I know 100% that my day-to-day practice execution on the ice could have augmented in quality and efficiency tenfold. I strongly believe that all athletes would benefit from yoga as part of their cross training.
4 – Support Systems
When I was competing, I didn’t quite realize the value of having a good support system. Identifying the family members, friends, and coaches who are always rooting for you no matter what gives you more freedom to fly and take chances.
Had I been more aware of the fact that I had people who love and support me anyway, my falls might not have felt so catastrophic and losing might not have felt so fatal. Also, my wins might have felt that much greater!
See post: “The Importance of Having a Good Support System”
5 – Failure is good and necessary
All too often the concept of failure is automatically laden with negative connotations. Yet failing first is really the only way of carving a path to success. It would better be seen and valued as our best teacher. Failure forces us to look more closely at things we might be missing; it redirects our perspectives, our efforts, and our focus to something better and more appropriate for our goals.
If I had been able to see failure through a more positive lens, rather than something I was afraid of I would have been much less likely to have held myself back from trying things out that were different or from pushing myself a little further.
6 – We have our own unique strengths
“Be yourself, everyone else is already taken” ~Oscar Wild
“Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else” ~Judy Garland
These quotes really drive the point home for me. When I was a competitor I was often trying to emulate my favourite elite skaters. And although this can at times serve as motivation, it can also limit your potential. Everyone has a unique set of innate skills and strengths. When you focus on your personal strengths you can capitalize on them and stand out from the crowd.
All in all, I actually think every athlete is successful no matter what simply because they train hard, they are disciplined, and they strive for something more. These qualities alone, to me, define greatness.