Secrets of the Mental Game
Ever wonder why a child will watch the same movie over and over again? Why you experience anxiety when your regularly-scheduled activities change? Why you go back to an old relationship (despite it being a bad choice)? Or spend money on something that makes you feel good?
Does a slight feeling of discomfort arise when you: Begin a new exercise routine, change your diet regimen, start a new job, or position, or responsibility?
Here is what’s missing . . .
The simple fact is that in this ever-changing world, we yearn for consistency. We strive for calm and equilibrium. We long for a day where there are no unsuspecting consequences or shocking surprises. We secretly anticipate the expected and attempt to control the day with the only events over which we have control. At an early age, the child endures repeat performances of a favorite show, as this provides reassurance over knowing what scene is coming up next. A routine or pattern is completely disrupted, and now you have to be concerned over what you need to do next or how to do it. The foods you eat daily are often “comfort foods,” kinda like “a good ol’ peanut butter and jelly sandwich.” A rekindling of a failed relationship provides a sense of relief . . . at least you know what you’re getting into. You buy stuff you don’t need or can’t afford because that is something you have control over.
Despite our need for change, we are creatures that require and desire some sort of routine, or structure – something we can depend on. A child wants leadership and mature discipline versus lack of restrictions (or worse – half-assed discipline – the kind of control where a parent says “NO!” Yet with enough crying or screaming, it means, “Um, I guess its okay”). Discipline and structure are how a child learns.
Professional athletes have tremendous structure, routines and programs for everything! Their lives are coached and organized everyday. Play time is even put into their agenda. Changes are made to step up the intensity and transform every next step until the ultimate goal or achievement is reached.
I treat more injuries during the long awaited “bye-week” or “vacation time” that occurs as a break during the course of a rigorous season.
Athletes are so accustomed to routine, that when the routine changes dramatically, such as sitting around the house watching TV, doing a task they have not done in a while, playing a round of golf, goin’ fishin’ or boozin’ it up, the results produce injury or stress.
Striving for structure . . .
What would that look like?
- The coveted list of goals, WITH timelines!
- Get back to your New Year’s resolutions.
o If it’s about losing weight, provide yourself daily or weekly agendas with smaller targets on the way to the big one.
- Pro athletes have a daily register with each hour accounted for.
If you’ve been following a regimented structure for a while yet find yourself stuck, lacking the energy or ingenuity to overcome the obstacles – TAKE A BREAK! Do something different, break the pattern, go for a long run, hit the gym, go on vacation – just do something entirely different!
When my youngest son Heath was only three years old, I observed an absolutely remarkable phenomenon. During one week over the summer, I decided to create an “activity list” with my boys of our chores, fun, and games that we would like to accomplish. It was set up with appointment times and their approximate durations. It was foretold that sometimes things come up to move us off course, but we need to manage through and be flexible and creative, when necessary. Otherwise, it was not much different than what our pro athletes or our military practice.
I was in absolute awe at how Heath, at three years old, held onto that schedule ALL day. He referred to it frequently and displayed extreme responsibility – more than some adults.
He chose to take control of his day, manage his destiny, and minimize exposure to risk.
I made sure we deliberately went off course a few times so he could experience stress and frustration, so he could re-strategize with his seven-year-old brother and me, and not get a false sense that everything always runs “peachy keen” or to our expectation.
How much organization do you provide yourself? Do you crumble with change or do you welcome it? What method do you use for structure?
Please comment and share so others can get a better idea of what works.