The Mind Game

In Western sports athletes experience tremendous pressure, fear, and anxiety generated by an overwhelming desire to win. We learn this frame of mind from early childhood. Coaches, teachers and parents are obsessed with winning and some simply cannot tolerate failure.  Athletic pressure spills over into other areas of performance including into the academic and corporate worlds and can undermine the very core of our integrity and values.

The president of a famous college said: “ Its hard to teach integrity in pursuit of knowledge or how to live a life of purpose and service when an institution’s own integrity is compromised in pursuit of victory on the playing fields”. This is true not just for large institutions, but also for ourselves.

The Western approach to sports has given rise to questionable ethical and moral means of competition. The use of performance enhancement drugs, violence and dishonesty reflect the “win at any cost” attitude. This approach is also responsible for creating a number of dysfunctional behavior patterns in athletes:

  • struggling for external recognition rather than internal satisfaction;
  • measuring self worth solely on performance in sport, job or relationship;
  • seeking unattainable perfection;
  • holding unrealistic expectations that result in frustration, disappointment and distraction;
  • blaming others when things go wrong; and,
  • not dealing well with setbacks or mistakes.

Eastern philosophy teaches that sport is a spiritual journey combining both physical and mental activities. The journey has no final destination. You will be evolving and transforming throughout the journey and constantly considering new ways to perform. In Eastern philosophy, athletic games are microcosmic dramas with the same emotions, successes, failures, joy and sadness that confront us in the macro cosmic drama of life.

Stay tuned every Friday to learn effective strategies for dealing with these fluctuating states of mind in sports.


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