It’s funny how our minds work. Of course our brains never seem to stop zooming all over the place (ok I admit, maybe it’s just me). First we are thinking of the things we have to do (future) then we switch to how we interacted with someone recently (past) then to “what ifs” (future) and then again back to “I wish I hadn’ts” (past).
This little game goes on in our minds fairly naturally. And most of the time it is pretty innocent. In fact when appropriately apportioned and timed it is vital to think of past events, behaviors, thoughts, etc. and future events, behaviors, etc. It is vital to reflect and learn from the past. Otherwise as they say – if we don’t learn from the past we are doomed to repeat it. Don’t like what you did or said or thought? Good, through reflection you recognize what went wrong and now have the opportunity to change it. It also means learning what went right! Let’s not reinvent the wheel every time. If something worked out for us, we should be repeating that behavior.
The future is where our dreams and goals are. It can drive us forward by seeing where we want to go. No dreams? No goals? Then you are a rudderless boat. Goals function as a compass. They can guide our actions to move towards desired results.
Dwelling on the past is bad. To get into the victim mode of “poor me” has no purpose and does not serve you. To reminisce and constantly think of “the good old days” adds no value to your current or future life.
Dwelling on the future leads to daydreaming. It leads to “what if” or “only if” or “someday I’ll…” thinking. This is being stuck on futures that may never be. We actually end up creating stories in our heads and start to create things that do not exist. A basic premise about futures you learn in a critical thinking course I teach is that there is no such thing as a “fact” in the future. It is all opinion and stories.
We cannot change the past only how we chose to view it; and no one can predict the future to any certainty and therefore we create futures out of behaviors today – NOW. Which brings me to my point. Whether in life or sports, we allow our interpretations of the past and the stories we create about a non-existent future greatly effect how we think, act and behave right now!
Mentally tough individuals know how to turn off the future-past thinking. They don’t allow a past bad performance or mistake to take residence in their minds. They don’t think about the future outcome of the race or competition. They focus on now. The task at hand: the current swing, stroke, play, shot, step, hurdle, throw. By focusing on execution of that ONE thing right NOW they optimize their current performance to lead to that future they desire while putting the past truly behind them.
So, in your next competition here is your challenge – if your mind wanders to past-future thinking – recognize it; stop and regroup immediately; refocus on NOW, because that in fact is all you control.