I am studying English and linguistics and I love how letters and the building blocks of sound can form words, units that grow into chains of resonance. I love how meaning can accumulate, start somewhere and layer extraordinary interpretations. Nothing is more satisfying or mind-numbingly beautiful as creating our own circumstances, and this is something we can do with language and the mental processes that accompany sports.
The world is so full of magic. We cannot forget this. When your sport is dominating you and putting you down, look outside the window, out past the markings of the field or the court. Know that there is escape and beauty and chance — things that make life lovely. On the ice, I would circle the perimeter 5,000 times before I worked up the nerve to pop (not rotate) another jump. It was aggravating. My coaches used to have me do laps, look out at the boards, try to get my mind off of the brutal frustration. Inhabit another world and give myself a fresh start.
I mentioned in my first column how identity plays a large role in the developing of mental illness surrounding athletics. So often we get locked into patterns and habits and all we need is a quick fix. But we psych ourselves out — listen to things like instinct and the voices in our heads. Our thoughts can take over our actions and control more than might be obvious.
Yet, we can harness our thoughts with the mental technique of visualization. How cool is it to construct your own circumstances, to see yourself do exactly what you want. It’s a fantastical play world where possibility is the only implication. Imagining past situations or future optimal ones can take on a variety of forms — visual, kinesthetic or auditory. Whatever the mode, constructive mental thoughts can impact performance.
Novak Djokovic, the world’s No. 1 ranked tennis player, claims his mental game as one of the greatest assets to his performance. Dubbed the “Unloved Champion,” he has used his unpopularity to his advantage. When the crowds cheered for Roger Federer during his match at the 2015 Grand Slam, Djokovic said he imagined them screaming his name instead.
It’s a simple notion, but we must actively remember to not care about what anyone else thinks. The audience, the crowd — they are irrelevant to what you are doing. It’s always best to keep judgments out of your head while engaging in sports.
“I like to be in the creative spirit all the time,” Djokovic said in a New York Times article. “I think you either progress or regress, so it’s either going up or down. Everybody is moving, the people, our planet, so you either keep up with it or you just stay where you are. But staying where you are, you actually regress.”
It’s important to align yourself with reality in a lot of ways, to be aware of progress and changes in your surroundings. There is so much pressure to keep up, but there is also precedent and an energy flow to help carry us.
“One of the ways is to kind of meditate, but not meditate with the intention of going away from those problems, but visualize,” Djokovic said in the same article. “Visualization is a big part of everybody’s life, not just athletes’, but everybody. I strongly believe in visualization. I believe that there is a law of attraction: You get the things that you produce in your thoughts. Life just works that way.”
This is a lovely sentiment about the powerful nature of our thoughts and their capability to extend themselves into the actual. It’s a constant, something that we should learn to trust.