I work with several varsity athletes, and a common challenge that keeps coming up in sessions is how to manage being a first year, or a rookie. Now, you don’t have to play sports to understand the ups and downs that come with being new to something. I remember when I first started Olympic weightlifting, I cried in my car after each session for about 3 months because it sucked to suck. As someone who considered themselves an athlete, I had very high expectations for myself when I decided to try something new. I remember not wanting to make a mistake, or comparing myself to the people around me who had years of experience over me. I would expect to get things on the first try, and get frustrated when I wasn’t able to. I was used to being good at the sports I spent years practicing, so it was natural when I would tell myself that I should be able to get certain technical movements, even if it was only the 10th time I touched the barbell.
When I was able to shift my mindset and accept that the challenges and failures were part of the process, I started to have more fun. I started to focus on my progress, instead of comparing it to the people around me. Instead of being scared to mess up, I started to get excited about how each failed lift would teach me something to make me a little bit better. As cliché as it may sound, trusting the process was something that helped me have more fun. Letting go of expectations I had to perform perfectly created the space I needed to be more present, which in turn actually helped me perform better without even having to think about it.
Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy. I remember worrying about what other people were thinking and saying about me. This happened to me the first months I spent practicing yoga, and it continues to happen to me now as a new mom. I’ve learned to understand and accept that there will always be someone out there who judges me. The more I let those thoughts consume me, the less energy I have to use to get better. Practicing letting go of those thoughts is a lifetime effort, but man does it feel good to stop caring what people think (most of the time). I’m sure you can understand how draining it can be to constantly worry about what other people might think. Imagine being able to channel all that energy to YOU and the thing you want to learn instead!?
What’s important to remember is that there is a difference in the mindset we want to cultivate when we are learning something, versus when we are practicing a learned skill. Whether you’re a first year on a team, training for your first marathon, just started lifting at the gym, becoming a new parent, or simply learning how to cook, it’s important to:
It is definitely a conscious effort to be able to cultivate a mindset that embraces setbacks and challenges as an opportunity to learn and grow. Psychologist Carol Dweck calls this way of thinking, a Growth Mindset. People that adopt this mindset are:
At the end of the day you have two choices: to continue the downward spiral of judgment and negative self-talk that will probably have you stopping or hating the new venture, or to practice shifting your mindset to one that will actually help you have fun learning and practicing something new.
The choice is yours!