Tony Nadal, coach of Rafa Nadal for many years, said in multiple times: an excuse has never won a match. Keeping in mind that no matter how hard you worked in developing a capacity, a situation could be hard enough for you to not deliver at your highest point of contribution. And then, what happens?
Little by little you can get caught in a vicious circle. The most you fail, the worst you feel. The worst you feel, the less you concentrate on what you are doing. The less you concentrate, the most you fail.
At that point, the hours spent in mastering your skills don’t matter. Your performance is lower and so are your results.
How do you prepare for difficult times?
This makes me think about how people get ready when the things get tough.
We’ve been taught that hard work is everything to get ready to face different situations. And this hard work has to do with knowing more, thinking out of the box or developing an efficient problem-solving strategy. In summary, improve your capacities and devote the enough amount of time to get the experience. It is very well-know the 10,000 hours of practice theory to master something.
Is it enough? What if after spending more than that 10,000 hours we get caught in the vicious circle I’ve described before?
The effects of that vicious circle in our self-confidence are obvious: a persistent self-doubt feeling makes us think we are incapable of doing things we need to do. We can’t face uncertainty, and we start to worry about things we can’t control. Our mind starts to play against us, no matter how experienced, skilled or well-prepared we were for the work.
What could we do?
We need to work not only in developing our capacities but in making our mind ready to avoid getting trapped there.
Let me make a question first: who do you blame when things don’t go as expected? Do you see yourself as responsible, or do you see the situation, the others, the world as responsible?
In other words, where the seat of power over your life is located?
If we think that a force outside ourselves controls what is happening, we lose initiative, lose motivation to achieve and have more anxiety about what might happen. All this make our brain panic. And as a result of our fear response, we lose all the capacities we have developed in time.
To avoid this, we need to focus on what we can actually do on that particular situation: being mindful and present.
If we concentrate on what we can actually do now to make the most of our capacities, putting ourselves in the centre and taking the responsibility for what we do, we are in the best position to make our bigger contribution even in the toughest situation.
It is a matter of discipline and mental strength to focus on the present, objectively evaluate the facts and choose how to react instead of getting stuck in what happened blaming different external factors.
A Stephen Covey pointed out in his book, The seven habits of highly effective people, we must focus on our Circle of Influence: the area that we have control over. When we do this our circle of influence gets bigger, and we reduce anxiety.
My two cents here: to be able to do that you must work on developing your self-confidence even in the worst situation. It’s not only a matter of spending 10,000 hours of practice. You need to strengthen also your mind, so you can remind focused and make the most of those 10,000 hours every time you need it.