Mental Toughness & Habits

Why do some players excel and enjoy themselves; while others carry the same weight and goals and crumble under the pressure, feeling defeated after they have won?

Mentality is important to enable high level game play to reach heights that seem unattainable. I've often thought what is the difference between fixation and passion? Well it can be a blurred line and it truly depends on the motives. Ambition is a powerful thing and when geared with passion can be a powerful duality. Then if consistency and discipline come into play there's no stopping that player, however these things are built and you are not born with them.

Passion X Ambition = Success

What is passion? Passion is the ability to do something that matters to you, not on a surface level but on a deep profound alignment of values, (such as identity, purpose for being and meaning). This driving force then amplifies ambition at a radical rate. The person who can not stand playing tennis and has a disgust for it though pushes themselves to play, generally does not get as far as the person who knows deep down this is there calling and finds satisfaction and contentment in the game. Therefore, these two elements directly have a reflection on the discipline the player is able to achieve. 

Side note, discipline may not always be as relevant as habits and systems are more powerful than forcing yourself to do something.

Habits in Tennis

Through environment design and introducing micro-habits a lot can change. You don’t have to be sure that you are meant to be a tennis player. This mentality can be unhelpful. To create truly lasting habits, you can't just do something and hope through discipline it will stick. You have to change who you are through adapting your self-talk and perception through actions to ultimately change your character. Instead of saying “I am a tennis player” reframe it and think to yourself “I play tennis because XYZ”. Tennis may define you and that is ok, but it doesn't have to as it can be a volatile mentality. Identity is important and can be sought where it is aught to be found. For me personally I don’t align my identity purely as a tennis player. When I think of my relational stand point with tennis, the following crosses my mental landscape. I play tennis because I find deep enjoyment, I develop fitness and community environments that are special to me.

Disclaimer | Is Mental Toughness Necessary?

What's Your Definition of Success?

It is all well and good to develop your mind and the pressure you can take and withstand. However, this journey requires various demands on the mind and to achieve them you need to often go outside your comfort zone. As pressure is often required to grow.

  • Is it always necessary to push yourself if your goal is purely relaxation and not competition? I would say no.
  • Am I successful in tennis if I am playing for relaxation and enjoyment? I would say a massive yes.
  • What is success? Good question, read below.
What is Success?

That is a personal question and truly depends on how you measure it. Is it through contentment, status or in this case tennis ability and mental toughness? If you are playing to enjoy yourself and just relax then success could be reached when your mind switches off and you find peace and joy in the rallies and exchanges of tennis balls. If success is to win competitions it will be different. It might look like playing to the best of your ability and having a good day on the court, irrespective of the match results.

I fundamentally believe that you should not go into competitive play with expectations of yourself as there are many variables out of your control and are ultimately volatile. Yes we all want to win, but if we crave this and don’t let our bodies dissociate from our minds a tennis player cannot reach peak performance.

  1. Tell yourself I have no expectations of my game.
  2. I enjoy tennis and it is a game, my body plays the tennis I sit on the bench.
  3. I warm up before hand and am ready for what's ahead.

I hope you’ve learnt something from this as this truly was a brain dump. I'm so fixated on the mind and love reading about habits. Enjoy your tennis, have good habits and strive for success. Whatever that may look like.

Many thanks,

Liam Fitzgerald.