Choose to be in Control

posted on: January 30, 2014
author: Brian Lomax


In order to be successful in life and in sports, there are two important concepts to understand and adopt:  Choice and Control.  What we think and how we react is our choice.  What we choose to focus on should be things that are under our control.  There are times in life when these concepts get away from us and we let our emotions get the best of us.

As a coach, I like to promote and model ethical behavior with my students because I think acting this way demonstrates how I would like to be treated.  Basically, that’s the Golden Rule – treat others as you wish to be treated.  Character traits such as respect, loyalty, integrity, honor, fairness, truthfulness and kindness are important to me, and I think they can be reflected in a sporting context.  However, participation in sports does not automatically bring out these behaviors.  As human beings, we learn through observation, imitation and modeling, and then we apply what we learn to various situations.  Sports just give us a context for demonstrating what we’ve learned – good or bad.

Sometimes we are confronted with an opponent who does not act in a manner that we would consider to be ethical or proper.  They may cheat, try to intentionally distract us, or perhaps verbally confront us all in an effort to take us out of our game and have us react emotionally.  And when we do react emotionally, we are doing exactly what our opponent wants us to do – making bad decisions.

So how do we handle these situations?  We go back to Choice and Control, and make sure that we truly apply these concepts.  If we honestly want to play well and win (see the post on Framework for Winning), we must choose to focus on what we can control.  We can’t control what our opponent says and does.  We can only control our reactions, and those are our choice.

Here’s some advice that I gave to someone recently who asked me about how to deal with verbal intimidation from another player:

“… a mental trick that I use is to tell myself that this person is afraid of me.  He knows he can’t beat me and he’s desperate.  He’s trying any means possible to get me distracted.  I choose not to react to him.  I will continue to focus on my best performance and I will continue to be better than him.  My performances are my reaction, and he can’t beat me.  When people do this kind of thing to me (trash talk, etc.), I just smile because I know how to handle it.  They can’t break me because my focus is too good.  I’m tougher than they are.”

A good way to plan your own reaction to these types of incidents is to write it down.  Take a piece of paper and create 4 columns.  In the first column, describe the situation that bothers you (cheating opponent, verbal intimidation, etc.).  In the second column, write about your normal reaction to this type of incident. Include your thoughts, feelings, emotions and behavior.  In the third column, describe your preferred response.  How do you want to respond in the future when this happens again?  Rest assured, it will happen again so be as detailed as possible when describing your new response.  In the last column, come up with a word or phrase that will help you focus on your new preferred response.  Review this until your preferred response becomes your automatic response.  This new automatic response should reflect an understanding of Choice and Control, and it should be consistent with your ethical character as a person.  Do this well, and you’ll always be proud of your efforts, win or lose.

photo credit: Keith Allison via photopin cc

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About the Author

Brian Lomax founded PerformanceXtra™ in 2009 with a mission of helping athletes achieve their goals and their top performances more consistently through a progression of mental skills that enables them to focus on what is truly important.

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