Dr. Deb’s Mental Health Vitamin: Lessons from athletics
By Dr. Deb Wade
GCU Vice President, Counseling and Psychological Services
“Let us be able to lose gracefully and to win courteously; to accept criticism as well as praise; and to appreciate the attitude of the other fellow at all times.”
That timeless advice was offered by James Naismith, a young gym instructor for the Young Men’s Christian Association in Springfield, Mass. He invented the sport known as basketball in 1891 because he was looking for a way to channel the energies of young men between baseball and football seasons.
Fast forward to 2019. Tournament time is here! College basketball teams across the country are vying for the title “conference champion,” which earns them an invitation to “The Big Dance” (NCAA tournament), also known as “March Madness.”
The tournament began in 1939 with eight teams playing in a single-elimination format. Now, the 21-day tournament includes 68 teams – 32 receive automatic bids for winning conference championships and the remaining 36 are selected by a committee.
On display will be young men and women who are bringing their fine-tuned talent, skill, savvy and swagger. The level of athleticism will be thrilling to watch! And the reality is that in this hugely admired and athletic sport, there is a high level of prowess, adeptness, talent and adroitness required.
Athletic teams, of course, are always in pursuit of excellence, and their ultimate goal is to win. As spectators, we can see the physicality and preparation required at the collegiate level.
But there are other respect-worthy qualities that might not be as obvious to the fan yet are necessary to be competitive at the collegiate level. Upon examination, it appears that in the “game of life” these qualities certainly could give one an edge in the marketplace, too, and are significant in the everyday pursuit of excellence. Let’s consider:
- Discipline! To be your “best” may require a strength of will, firmness of purpose, and tenacity to drive toward your personal goals without interference from outside forces.
- Focus! To be your best may require you to control your feelings and overcome your weaknesses as well as foster the ability to pursue what you think is right despite temptations to abandon it.
- Commitment! To be your best requires an enthusiasm, purpose and passion to pursue excellence to the best of your ability.
- Determination! To be your best requires a level of endeavor that goes beyond the easy reach but strives instead for the harder and more rewarding goals.
- Adaptability! To be your best means you may have to adjust quickly, learn new concepts and new information and be able to accommodate them to your existing knowledge spontaneously.
- Drive! To be your best, you may need to look ahead, always shooting for the next goal and the next success, avoiding the temptation to be settled and satisfied with less that you can achieve.
- Fundamentally sound! To be the best, you must never minimize the importance of fundamental skills and principles; being skilled, you can reach for the stars if the ground you are currently standing on is rock solid.
Understanding the passion, purpose and importance of your goals and dreams can underscore the need to place importance on the qualities that drive success. Having the right attitude toward consistent self-evaluation and self-growth will contribute to your chances for pinnacle success!
We may not be playing to reach “The Big Dance,” but we ARE trying to reach personal and professional goals. To adopt some of the ingredients of a fine-tuned, talented, skilled and competitive athlete will help each of us reach our own goals. And that … is a slam dunk!