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Learning From Sports Stars

Novak Djokovic has been known to explain how his mental strength is not innate but something he works at constantly. He has said that mental strength isn’t about never being distracted, but noticing the distractions, accepting them as entirely human, and then swiftly returning his attention to the next moment in the match. This is, simply put, a form of mindfulness - noticing what is going on, nodding in its direction and moving back to our focus. We do this all the time in a matter of seconds. Less than a second.

We often believe that we must stay focused to be at our best and then we feel bad for losing that focus, rather than accepting that this is how our brains works - that we will be distracted and what we need to learn to do is notice our competing thoughts, acknowledging them before returning to the task at hand. It is impossible not to be distracted - noticing what is going on in our enviroment and reflecing on previous experiences is how our brain keeps us safe - its not going to stop watching for danger because its inconvenient for you!

There are two things I would like to point out here: first of all that mindfulness and concentration is not about absolute compartmentalisation of thoughts or 1oo% focused attention - we do not have that ability. And secondly, just as Djokovic acknowledges, this is something he works at constantly. Hard work will have to be central to any changes to long standing habits we make - they need constant work and attention - these things do not come easy and require reslience on our behalf. But they are ultimately transformative when the time and energy is put into them.

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