The Value of Staying Calm and Focusing on the Present

3 min read
Kateryna Tsurik/Pexels

Kateryna Tsurik/Pexels

I play tennis. A lot. For years, it has been my form of stress relief. But I recently hit a roadblock. No matter how much I played or how much I worked with my coach, my game wasn’t improving. Being someone who believes that if you put in the time and effort, good results will follow, it was an incredibly frustrating experience, and instead of being a stress reliever, tennis was becoming a stress inducer.

Seeing my frustration, my coach recommended a book, Champion Minded by Allistair McCaw. Although much of the book wasn’t relevant to my specific circumstances (much of it is written for young elite athletes, and I’m 60 and play club-level tennis), its focus on staying calm and focused on the present moment not only improved my tennis game but also reminded me of the importance of practicing these same approaches to life in general. Although living in the present moment and letting go of the baggage of the past is surprisingly much easier said than done, with practice and regular self-correction, it starts to become a habit and gets easier over time.

Here are a few of the most important takeaways from McCaw’s book:

  • Let go of what has already happened. It’s happened, and you can’t change it, so focus on what you can affect and influence, which is the present.
  • Maintain a positive attitude and confident body language. Even if you have to fake it, mental and physical positivity can turn a negative experience into a positive one.
  • Stress is a part of life, but we often can anticipate what kinds of events and experiences stress us out. Develop plans of action and routines to better handle these pressure-filled situations, so that when they happen, you feel better prepared to handle them.
  • Don’t be afraid to try new things, especially when old patterns aren’t working.
  • Think of failure and challenges as something to embrace rather than fear. We often learn more from our failures and challenges than our successes.
  • Be patient with yourself. Change is hard, and it’s easy to fall back into negative patterns, but as soon as you catch yourself engaging in nonproductive and negative patterns, change it back. Practicing a new positive behavior eventually becomes a habit.
  • Don’t compare yourself with others. You have no control over what others do. Instead, stay focused on your own growth, goals, and path. If you’re going to engage in comparisons, make it a comparison of yourself today versus where you were yesterday.
  • Your self-talk needs to be uplifting and validating. Positive self-talk boosts productivity and self-confidence, whereas critical self-talk can be emotionally crippling.
  • Enjoy the journey. Life doesn’t always turn out like we want it to turn out, but living in the past isn’t productive. As Heather Stillufsen writes, “Sometimes, you have to let go of how you thought things would be … and focus on finding the joy in where you are today.”

Training to think like a champion isn’t only relevant to sports. It’s an approach that can be relevant to living a healthier, happier, and more productive life in general. So, stay calm, live in the present, and find your joy.

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