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Monday, April 20, 2009

Sports Psychology: Letting Go of Errors

Mistakes or errors occur every day in sports and life, but many athletes stifle their own performance because they simply can't let go of past mistakes.

Missing shots, double faulting, and losing an important game happen often in the sports world and become a thorn in many athlete's mind. In some cases these thoughts continue for the remainder of the competition because the athlete can't stop dwelling on the error or missed opportunity.

I am sure you have made some mistakes in your sports career that you were unable to quickly forget. You carried a critical mistake with you for most the competition. Either you did not enjoy your day, or were too busy beating yourself up to help yourself or your team.

Dwelling on errors is the number one distraction for athletes today. You cannot play in the present moment (a quality of the zone), if your mind is stuck on a missed opportunity or faulty performance.

Rarely do athletes use mistakes or anger to help them perform better, but it does happen. You watch Tiger Woods get angry on the golf course, but he is able to channel his frustration to make it work for him instead of against him. Tiger becomes more focused and determined to make up for the error by refocusing his mind in the present moment.

Why does the mind sometimes want to stay glued to past errors? Making mistakes does not match what you expected of yourself. You want better for yourself and think you should be a better performer. In some instances, you may display your anger or disappointment to others who are watching because you want show them you are actually a better athlete.

Once you begin to dwell on an error and beat yourself up, it is very hard to stop the cycle of negativity. You will try to avoid committing future errors, which is not a great mindset for focusing in the present moment.

The best athletes in the world use mistakes to help them grow and become better athletes. They become more focused, more determined, and are able to let go of mistakes quickly so it does not affect them for several plays or shots to come.


About the Author: Want to learn simple, proven mental toughness skills that you can apply to competition? Grab my free online mental training newsletter, Sports Insights Magazine - for athletes, coaches, and sports parents:
Dr. Patrick Cohn is a master mental game coach who work with professional and amateur athletes, sports parents, and teams of all levels. Visit for more information.

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