As an elite-level athlete, you live in an intense and fast-paced world. On one hand, it’s what drives you to reach the highest levels of your sport and it fuels you to put in the work every day so that you can achieve your goals. You may even be the type of person who loves the fast-paced nature of sports. However, if you find yourself out of sync with the pace of your sport, either it is too fast or too slow, it can leave you feeling overwhelmed or completely bored. 

Learning to control your own pace and take care of your mind is a key piece of the work you need to put in to achieve your personal pinnacle.

Defining Your Pace of Activity 

As an athlete, the pace at which you operate can be broken down into two main categories: the pace of your life and the pace of your game play.

Lifestyle Pace

Think of this as the impact that being a high-performance athlete has on your daily life. From your training and game schedule to the demands of your team, coach, and your sport as a whole, all of these things feed into the way you feel each day. These are all your responsibilities and how little time there is between them. 

For example, you might have:

  • A jam-packed training and playing schedule. You get less time for your personal commitments and downtime 
  • A routine that might become unbearable. You might wish you could do anything but go to your sport
  • The pressure of performing at a high level. This can create stressors that you think about when you’re not playing
  • A team or sport environment you’re a part of might not feel right to you, because your teammates or coaches are different than you   

Over time, the difference between the pace of your sport and your preferred pace of lifestyle can begin to wear on you, impacting both your personal well-being and athletic performance. You may even begin to feel that your sport is hurting your life, rather than contributing to it. 

The Pace of Gameplay

Every sport is unique in its own right, but each has a natural pace for how it’s played. Some are faster, while others allow you to slow down and work more mechanically.

Being able to control the pace of your gameplay–being able to slow down the game, think on your feet, and make the right decisions in real time–allows you to better manage the way you perceive, understand, and perform. Your sport will set the pace. It is up to you to play at that pace. This is sometimes physically and mentally draining. 

The Benefits of Being Able to Control Your Pace

At the end of the day, you must be able to meet the demands of your sport. Ideally, you want to be able to meet these demands consistently for a long time. It is essential to the success and enjoyment of your sport. Learning to play and live sustainably is part of becoming a mature athlete. 

When it comes to your pace of lifestyle and gameplay, there are two ends of a spectrum–and you could find yourself anywhere between them.

  1. On one side, you might find things are going too fast, and you feel the need to slow down.
  2. On the other side, you may be finding things boring and repetitive. 

One way or another, understanding the pace at which you thrive and being able to exercise control over it all can help you excel, both athletically and personally. If you’re operating at a pace that’s too fast for you, the risk of burnout is significant. But if you’re at a pace that’s too slow, you risk getting bored and complacent, in turn hindering your own progress and output. You can either lose your energy or your passion. Or you can keep both. 

Understanding yourself–and the environments and behaviors that make you thrive–empowers you to act strategically for success over the long term. You can identify where you need to adapt and where things can stay the same in order to extract your maximum potential. What does this look like in practice? It means surrounding yourself with people and filling your day with activities that make give you the most pleasant and energized mindset, so that you can train and perform your best. 

Harnessing Emotionality: Why Your Mind is Your Secret Weapon for Controlling Your Pace

Emotionality is the thread that ties together the pace of your life and the pace of gameplay. Sports are emotional by nature–and the athletes who play them need to be emotional about them.

You’re passionate about your sport, and you’ve dedicated so much of yourself to it. And whether you’re overwhelmed and out of your depths or underwhelmed and bored, the common denominator is that it elicits an emotional response. Your emotional response is the clue that will help you answer the question: what am I missing that will help me be successful in my sport?

The key isn’t to suppress these emotions. Instead, your focus should be to determine what’s causing those feelings and then understand how to channel them into a positive outcome. When you don’t understand your own emotions, you may be throwing gasoline on an open flame. But when you do understand your emotionality, and you know what to do with it, you’ve suddenly got a propane tank that focuses that fire to exactly where you need it. 

You can cook with a propane tank. An open flame is more challenging to use. 

In order to control your emotionality, though, you need to be familiar with and proactively strengthen your mindset: becoming acutely aware of the pace you want to operate at, the pace at which your environment operates, and how to meet it in the middle to create better results and a more sustainable process. Sometimes that might mean cutting or adding something from your daily schedule, because things are going to fast or two slow. Sometimes that means making an effort to train yourself to handle the pace of your gameplay better.  

8 Ways to Take Control of Your Pace

If you’re feeling like you need to change the pace of your life and your game, there are a few simple steps you can take to make the necessary adjustments. 

  1. Add, a new activity to your environment: Depending on what type of person you are, you will perform and feel better with more or less consistency. If you feel things are too slow, add something new. 
  2. Add, connect with other people: Talk to others who relate to your emotions to hear what they are doing to learn to manage. Seek out someone who has done a good job of adjusting to the demands of their sport. This works whether you feel things are going too fast or too slow. 
  3. Add, learn something new. Follow your passions and explore. You can learn if you let yourself try things (if you want something exciting, learn how your mind works — focus on your mental game).  
  4. Add, use routine to create stability. Routines are an excellent way to comfort yourself, especially routines that are directed towards an outcome that you want! 
  5. Subtract, activities that make you stressed. Instead, replace the thing you don’t like with something that inspires a positive emotion.
  6. Subtract, people that hurt your mindset. Distance yourself from those who aren’t living in a way that is good for your mindset.
  7. Subtract, all the new gimmicks. Go back to old reliable. Just find what in your life in sports makes you feel good.
  8. Subtract, activities that don’t give you excitement. If something is not exciting, you won’t learn from it. Seek new things to learn by removing what is boring. You’ll have way more time for the good.

Sometimes, you might feel like you don’t like your sport or how it impacts your life. It’s possible what you actually don’t like is the pace of your activity in the sport. It can create a negative emotional response that, if not accepted, may lead you to struggle unnecessarily.

Whether you’re feeling bored or feeling burnt out or you’re somewhere in between, you don’t just have to suck it up.  Instead, you can look analytically at it. You can solve that emotional problem for yourself. It’s not about taking the emotion out of your sport. It’s about finding an understanding of the emotions your sport is conjuring up in you and then finding a way to use those emotions to your advantage.

That is the competitive spirit.