As we head into a new decade, New Year's resolutions and goals are the first thing that come to my mind. A few years back I wrote an article about staying focused and goal-oriented even through tough times. It seems relevant to share right now, so I am going to post it below. At some point, I will get around to reflecting on my 2009 volleyball season, but I am not quite there yet. This is what I have to share for now:
November 15, 2006
Staying Focused and Positive When Things Get Tough by Angie Akers
One of the hardest things to do as a professional athlete is to stay focused and positive when faced with challenging situations. Unexpected situations arise, both on the court and off, which challenge our beliefs in ourselves and in others. In order to rise above these situations, it is essential to stay in the right frame of mind.
What is the right frame of mind, you may ask. The answer is in our thoughts. We are what we think we are. I have always known that my mind is my strongest ally and if I train my mind to think great big thoughts, I will accomplish great big things! While at first this can be a very difficult and daunting task, once you get the hang of it, it is really easy and fun.
I have asked many successful people, such as Gold Medalists in different sports, NFL football players, and millionaires what they thought of themselves before they achieved their greatness. Every single one of them said the same thing: They knew what they would accomplish long before they ever did. They developed a belief system in themselves that was so powerful that they saw it to fruition.
I decided to put this method to use. There was a time when I was very frustrated with where I was. I was engulfed in negative thoughts and emotions. I was stuck feeling sorry for myself for all sorts of situations that came about. I made a conscious decision that I was going to change all that.
The first time this came clear to me was when a younger beach volleyball partner left me to play with someone else. I was filled with anger, sadness, and self-pity. I imagined that I had the perfect partnership, when in reality I was trying to put a positive spin on a negative situation. It took a few months to see that this move was actually a blessing in disguise. I gained the confidence in my own abilities as a leader on the court and was also able to develop a more intellectual aspect of my game. The lesson that I learned from that particular situation helped me to become a better player and a better partner. It is all in how you look at it! Once I figured that out, I realized that when one door closes, another one opens. Now I am anxious to go find that door and see what is behind it. I imagine great things behind that door and when things get tough along the way, I think that those situations are the preparation for what is to come.
This whole process started within me by simply changing my thoughts. As soon as a negative thought entered my mind, I immediately changed it to a positive one. If anything, it just felt better. I immediately saw a difference in my performance on the court, as well. I became a much more consistent player, even though my athletic ability did not change. I remember my inner dialog used to consist of things like, “Don’t screw this up!” and “I hope I don’t make a mistake!” Now I think, “I am going to complete this play just how I did 1000 times in practice.” Instead of fearing “crunch-time”, I thrive on it! I visualize myself making the winning play.
There are times when I come up short. I may have imagined a different outcome than the one I got. Instead of feeling like a failure, which is easy to do, I search for the lesson in it. Every situation has a lesson to learn. You only fail when you do not find that lesson. Sometimes it takes a while to recognize, but it is always worth it. All it takes is patience, an open mind, and some confidence. Once this is realized, the ability to remain focused and stay positive becomes second nature.
It is important to recognize that an optimistic approach to life is much more enjoyable and fulfilling than a pessimistic one. There is nothing more satisfying than creating your own way out of a difficult situation. If it doesn’t work one time, I reevaluate what steps I took and I learn from them. I have found many tools for gaining this confidence and belief in myself through books, tapes, watching and talking to others, and self-searching.
Knowing this, what does it hurt to stay focused, positive, and dream big when faced with a challenging situation? As a wise friend of mine says, “Why not reach for the stars? You just might get the moon!” The moon is pretty darn good!