Why Focusing on Mistakes Keeps You Stuck
Mistakes can haunt athletes and turn into more mistakes. But it’s not the mistake that hurts performances–it’s your memory or dwelling on a mistake that hurts your performance.
Once the mistake is done, it should be done, but hard to do for many perfectionist athletes.
Unfortunately, the past is no longer the past when you keep its memory alive in the present.
All too often, athletes ruminate about a mistake and beat themselves up mentally to the point that they can no longer focus on the next play, shot, or point.
When you dwell on mistakes, you give them energy and cause them to fester in your mind.
The only option to perform best in the present is to clear your mind, move on and move forward.
Of course, this may sound easy but you have a choice in what thoughts you focus on.
Focusing on the mistake keeps you stuck in the past and divides your attention into three parts:
- Reliving the past.
- Being physically present, but not mentally.
- Trying not to repeat that mistake in the future.
How can you possibly perform your best if you only focus one-third of your attention in the current competition?
There is an old saying, “Spend your money wisely.” That saying is a warning that if you spend your money on frivolous things, you will be unable to buy what you need.
The same is true of your focus during play.
Paying attention to previous mistakes is frivolous especially when your focus is best spent on the present moment where you can really make a difference.
Denis Shapovalov is a rising tennis star whose recent performance during the Rogers Cup shot him up the ATP rankings from 143 to around 67th.
The thing that has brought Shapovalov a lot of recent attention is a mistake he made six months ago at the Davis Cup…
Shapovalov smashed a ball away in frustration that accidentally struck the umpire in the eye. Shapovalov’s mistake caused him to be instantly disqualified and cost Team Canada the fifth and decisive match against Great Britain.
How would this mistake affect Shapovalov’s future performances?
Well, Shapovalov made a conscious choice to learn from his mistake, move on and move forward.
Shapovalov’s run at the Roger’s Cup was a career-defining performance that was borne out of his ability to let go of his mistakes and focus in the present moment.
In his post-match interview at the Roger’s Cup, Shapovalov was asked about the effects of the Davis Cup incident.
SHAPOVALOV: “I don’t look back too much. It’s in the past. What I did was very stupid. It was very immature. Yeah, it’s in the past now. I’ve grown from it. I’ve learned from it. I’m on a new chapter of my life.”
Past mistakes or even within the current game or match are over… You need to get over them too.
Choose to focus on the brand new opportunity right in front of you and make the most of it.
How to move on from a mistake:
- First recognize your are dwelling on a past mistake you made.
- Tell yourself that you can’t get that play or shot back. It’s over and behind you.
- Refocus on the current play, point, or shot. All you can do it play on with composure and do your best with the remaining minutes of the match.
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