What are you grateful for? That might seem like a strange question to ask a high performing athlete, but the emotion of gratitude can help take your performance to the next level. We have seen performance shifts with some of the world's leading athletes by adopting a grateful attitude.
Let me explain...
Research has linked the emotion of gratitude to better overall physical and mental health, sounder sleep, less anxiety and depression. Athletes are more satisfied with their teams, less likely to burn out and enjoy better well-being overall.
In my work with athletes, and in previous articles I have written, I highlight the importance of "enjoyment over achievement". Making sure that enjoyment is at the forefront of performance in hockey with achievement following. The player who pursues achievement in hockey so diligently that they forget about one of the key purposes of the game, enjoyment and fun, can often end frustrated and miserable. The athlete who pursues enjoyment first, with a deep commitment to excellence and improvement is the athlete who lasts and achieves.
So why can focusing on gratitude be so beneficial to you as a hockey player?
Well consider that it is impossible to have two emotions at once. And, the same goes for thoughts for that matter - we can only handle one thought at a time. As an athlete, this is important for you to know. When you do feel negative emotions that limit your performance, you have the option of changing your state to a positive emotion - and gratitude is a great one to make the shift.
A few characteristics of grateful hockey players ...
Grateful hockey players appreciate what they have
While some players complain, make excuses and don't appreciate the fantastic opportunity of sport, grateful players are excited to have the opportunity to play a sport they love and all of the benefits that go with that sport (fitness, relationships, life lessons, joy of winning, the learning from losing and the opportunity to challenge and test your abilities).
Grateful hockey players are grateful for competitors
Appreciate your competitors! Competitors can bring out the best in you and without them you do not have the opportunity to play and test your limits. Competitors give you an opportunity to bring out your best. In his autobiography, former Olympic track star Carl Lewis reports that he chose to embrace his competitors as essential in the quest for performance excellence rather than as enemies meant to be beaten down. Lewis won 10 Olympic medals, nine of them gold. You may look at your competitors as threats, but they are important to your development and you need them!
Grateful hockey players appreciate the journey and struggle
They know that there will be difficulties and hockey performance often goes in cycles - ups and downs. Grateful players learn from these struggles to always move forward. There is an appreciation in the value of their struggles and an ability to look at the big picture and know there are brighter days ahead.
Grateful hockey players "sweep the shed"
Like the great World Champion New Zealand All Blacks who tidy up their dressing room after every training and game, and believe humility is aligned with greatness, grateful players appreciate everyone around them. They appreciate everything they receive - there is no attitude of entitlement.
Grateful hockey players enjoy pressure
Is there pressure in sports? Yes! But, grateful players recognize the incredible opportunity they have to demonstrate their skills and test their limits. You play a game you love often with people engaged and cheering what you do. Grateful players appreciate the meaning that pressure gives their experience. They know pressure is a privilege. Grateful players look around and appreciate the challenge that is being given to them.
Grateful hockey players do not rely on winning
Because they are so focused on a great process and appreciate great competition, the joy of grateful players is not dependent on winning. They want to win, but really appreciate their process, the competition and the challenge.
Grateful hockey players let go
When it's time to play and practice, it is done with purpose, intention and efficiency. Grateful players work hard with intention but also appreciate and enjoy their time away from practice and competition - appreciating all parts of their life.
So, what can you do to become a grateful hockey player?
Here's a start ...
- Realize how lucky you are to be playing a sport, having the opportunity to express yourself and having the opportunity to give your life meaning.
- Remember you can only feel one emotion at once. Replace anxious feelings with feelings of gratefulness - make the decision to change your state with a shift to being grateful for this great opportunity to participate in your sport and test your abilities.
"I can't do this" or "what will they think if I lose" shifts to a grateful attitude...
"How lucky am I to do this and test my skills"
- As an exercise, at the end of each day, think about two things you are grateful for from the day. Get in the habit of being grateful for things in hockey and in your life away from hockey.
Remember to be grateful for what you have including your opportunity to play hockey. Hockey is not something you have to do, but something you get to do!