I’ve been playing sports and competing in one form or other since I was a little boy. It’s tougher now to stay fit and keep a consistent training schedule with a full-time job and family. But I can take some of the things I’ve learned from sport into my daily life and career.
Playing sports teaches you many things. Sportsmanship, discipline, how to maintain your health, dealing with losses and wins, how to be a part of a team, giving feedback to team members, and much more. But one of the things I benefit most from is the attitude that sports teaches you. The give-it-your-best-always attitude.
One of the world’s best in this area is the man in the picture, Rafael Nadal. He works incredibly hard to always bring his best game and even when he’s not in good form or even injured, he fights, fights, fights. He makes the opponent hit another ball, and another ball, and another ball. Relentless is a good word to describe him on the tennis court.
To be able to bring his a-game to every single match, he has to work hard every day of his life. This means practice, practice, practice. But also: discipline. He can’t let up and eat chocolate croissants for the tournament breakfast or go out with his friends twice a week. He needs to sacrifice some things to achieve others. And he does that with great success.
Not everyone has the talent of Nadal. I play tennis every week, but I’m not even 10% of the player he is. But I learn from his attitude in the things I do. This can be adapted to pretty much anything, from exercise, to eating habits, to the dedication you put into the things you do. To making sure you’re always mentally a 100% there.
It’s too easy to procrastinate away your time, doing more or less meaningless things, but if you bring your sports mindset into your daily habits and make sure you always give it your all, you’ll have no regrets.
Bringing your best is all about changing your habits to the better. Here are some tips:
1. Wake up early and do something useful.
No matter how painful this might feel for some, it’s a powerful habit that brings a positive start and trend to your day. Examples of things to do: go for a walk, hit the gym, read a book, write something. Be productive.
2. Cut something bad out of your eating habits.
Exchange the daily candy bar when your energy is diminishing for a banana or some nuts. Eat porridge instead of white toast for breakfast. Have a lighter dinner. One habit change will make room for the next and soon you’ll feel healthier than ever.
3. Don’t watch so much TV.
TV can be relaxing, but it’s rarely intellectually nourishing. Why not cut down an hour of TV-watching for some quality time with your kids/spouse or doing something more productive? Reading a book is more stimulating than watching TV.
4. Don’t procrastinate (so much).
This is difficult and that’s why there are whole books devoted to this. I’m reading one right now called The Inner Game of Productivity that has some powerful advice for beating your inner procrastinator. One piece of sound advice is asking yourself what you are afraid of? Why are you not starting on that thing you know you ought to do. Write a sheet with two columns with all your fears for not starting to the left and all your answers to those to the right. Another powerful tool is to create a vision board of what the thing you need to do can bring you. It could be images of a new car, a shining new office space, or a trip around the world. Something that makes up for the hard work you’re about to put in.
5. Go to bed early/Sleep well.
Sleeping well reduces stress and improves general health. It’s personal but staying up late at night often means doing things that are non-productive such as TV, video games, etc. So if you can improve your sleeping, you can also improve your quality of life.
So get to work with your a-game. Wake-up early, go the gym, eat well, work hard, focus and you’ll reap the rewards.