How to stop dreading hard practices

“Today is going to be a hard practice.”

A cascade of stressful thoughts enter an athlete’s mind upon hearing those words, and an ensuing wave of fear spreads through the body. The irony, of course, is that nothing has even happened yet.

When an athlete hears, “Today is going to be a hard practice,” she makes two assumptions: it’s actually going to be a hard practice, and it’s going to be awful. Both assumptions may or may not be true, and it’s mindless to assume one way or the other.

The more mindful approach, as Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer recommends, is to ask yourself, “How is it this way, and how is it not this way?” In this case, “How might this practice be awful, and how might this practice not be awful?”

Has your coach ever told you practice was going to be hard, but you got through it and it wasn’t so bad?

Have you ever failed a test and thought it was the end of the world, but it wasn’t?

Have you ever had a crush on a person that didn’t like you back, but later it didn’t end up being a big deal?

Your brain finds answers to the questions you ask. Ask better questions.

[Langer’s full interview with Krista Tippett is great.]

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