What is Mental Flexibility?
Something we have all had to exhibit, practice, and get better at over the past year is this idea of mental flexibility. Now I'm not claiming that this is a scientific term what so ever, but more of a phrase I heard on a recent podcast that I thought would be a good topic to cover in a bit more detail.
This 'mental flexibility' is a great asset to have within your arsenal of personality traits. It's almost been forced upon us recently due to current circumstances, but definitely something a lot of people practice day in day out.
What am I talking about!? It's essentially the ability to adapt. A lot of us within the sporting profession are goal orientated individuals. If you are the same then the past year has upended a lot of those goals... even if you're not, the plan I made the other week to go to the coffee shop is now down the drain!
Anyway, the biggest one us sporting folk have experienced is the goal / plan of going to a race... and this doesn't matter whether it's a local race, or the Olympics, to each individual it's a similar experience that we go through.
If I talk about my own experiences over the past year, I've really struggled with the racing scenarios. In order to prepare for a race mentally you get into the 'race mindset' and for me that's just thinking about the process leading into the race, probably having a few extra stresses without necessarily noticing them... becoming ratty, a bit short tempered maybe... just because there is that extra thing you care about on the horizon and causing that stress you're not used to!
This 'hype' or whatever you want to call it, is great, it's getting that race week feels... a lot of people actually feel terrible... but that's when you know you're ready.
All of a sudden it's been taken away from you. Cancelled... postponed... You've had that build up of emotion only for it to come to nothing. It's wearing.
I can liken it maybe to being a child on Christmas Day... only to be told there will be no Christmas.
... maybe not quite that bad.
Anyway I digress. This has happened to me a few times over the past year with regards to racing, but many times for all of us throughout our lives no doubt in bigger or smaller ways. Where mental flexibility comes into the fold is our ability to deal with these changes and quickly shift our mindset to something else and adapt.
One thing I found useful was having goals or plans that extended far beyond the short term ones. For example a longer term goal for me is the Commonwealth Games, where as the short term ones are the European cups or local races... this way the other races become stepping stones and part of the process towards the longer term plan and when they don't materialise you can just do the next thing towards your longer term goal.
Readjusting the shorter term plans is an important skill. Some people are great at it... but most of us, like myself have to practice. Last year has been an emotional rollercoaster, and it always comes back to controlling YOUR controllables... What can you do within your environment to make it safe and do everything you can be doing to make you happy and move forward.
At least that's what I'm trying to do. When things don't go to plan, trying to have a wider perspective, keep calm and move on.
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