Well, I only have three weeks left of being a Division I student-athlete and doing the sport that I have grown up giving my heart to, but I finally picked up the book Mind Gym by Gary Mack and David Casstevens. Numerous people have recommended this book to me for years now and I finally got around to it. Even though I’ve had 16 years to develop and practice my mental toughness, I figured that this book could provide me with lots of insight and help me in preparation for my last meets as a gymnast and along with my life/career transition upon graduation. We talk about the conscious mind being so powerful and when it comes to sports, one’s mental strength is almost more important than their physical strength. It’s difficult to handle pressure and stress and still perform successfully. I’ve been doing the sport for a long 16 years and still haven’t mastered it every time. The author talks about “playing in the zone—to perform in the present, body and mind attuned, working together.” It’s a lot easier said than done but when I do manage to get everything working together, it’s an amazing feeling!
It’s all about training your brain and avoiding distractions—much like meditation. To get the body and mind attuned, everything has to be clear and tension free. He touches on the main checklist to get under control: fear, anger, anxiety, self-consciousness, competitiveness, perfectionism, stubbornness, distractions, and persistence. That is a lot to regulate in order to keep out self-defeating thoughts! There is no way someone can conquer a dream or goal without conquering oneself. I’ve heard my coach preach countless times “stop being your own worst enemy!” We as human beings are so hard on ourselves for no reason and that can tear us down more than another person. Mack and Casstevens complain that we get in the way of our own growth! We must learn to open our mind, be receptive of suggestions, and try different ways of responding to various situations.
A quote that really stuck with me from the book says, “Your mind is like a parachute. It only works when it’s open. What did you learn today and how will it make you better tomorrow? Work on your weaknesses until they become your strong points,” (Mack and Casstevens, 50). Resilience is crucial in sports—everyone struggles and goes through slumps and the only way to come out of it is with an open mind and resilience. Relating this book to life post college/gymnastics I am going to want to find a new purpose. If I take the time and effort to reflect on each day and figure out something I learned that would help my growth, it will put me off to a good start. If I fail at some point in my new job, I have to treat it as an experience I’ve had with my sport. Mind Gym touches on the art of “failing successfully.” It suggests that we should hate to fail but never fear it; we should simply view failure as feedback. If we do this, it will have a bigger reward than winning.
I believe the timing that I chose to read this book was perfect. If I had read the book five years ago, it would only be relatable to gymnastics. It would have assisted me in guiding my mind, practicing positive self-talk, and controlling my emotions but reading it now does exactly that and more. Throughout college, I have learned to view situations from various perspectives and when I was reading Mind Gym I was able to relate it to the three weeks I have left of my sport, the three weeks left of my undergraduate education, and emotional instability due to my fear of the unknown post-graduation. I’ve been an athlete my whole life and must never forget the multitude of ways in which it has prepared me for my next chapters. Mack reminds me of a cheesy quote, “What your mind can conceive and your heart believe, you can achieve.” It is crucial to believe in oneself and his or her abilities.