Mental Blocks: Who Breaks Through And Who Stays Stuck

Hi it’s me Coach Rebecca and I’m  here to talk to you about mental blocks. This is something that I love to talk about because it was the thing I hated the very most when I was an athlete.

Today I want to talk to you about the difference between athletes who break through mental blocks and the ones that stay stuck. There are some athletes that will come to us in the PerformHappy community and they’ll check out our videos and they’ll do our challenges. They’ll have one conversation with one of our coaches and then they’ll be like, “Thank you. We got through it. I broke through my fear. This was so awesome and so helpful. And I feel amazing. Thanks for everything.”

So that’s the ultimate, right?

For those of you who don’t know what a mental block is, I’m going to give you a little talk through what I consider a mental block. And I’ll tell you about my experience.

When I was a level six gymnast is when they really hit me hard. For me it was going backwards – backwards skills on the beam, backward skills on the floor. Anything that involved me going backwards, specifically flipping or jumping backwards, my brain would basically hijack me. So even though I could do it, I would hit a brick wall and I couldn’t get my body to move. In fact, I could do a back walkover better than anybody in my gym. I was super flexible. I had the best form. I was the hardest worker. I had the best attitude. I was this great kid who really cared and really wanted it.

I would start to go backwards and then boom. It was like, I hit a brick wall and I couldn’t get my body to move. And I was frustrated. I was angry. My coach would be like: “Well, what’s wrong?” And I’d be like: “I don’t know!”

She’d ask me why I wasn’t doing it and all I could say was ‘I don’t know.’ And that frustrated her because obviously something was going on and she wanted to know what it was. And so we’d have this back and forth sort of thing that got us nowhere.

All I could think was ‘I don’t know what to tell you because I don’t even know what to tell myself. All I know is that the skill I should be able to do, I can’t do it.’ And then she would tell me not to be negative and to be positive and try my best. But I literally could NOT do the skill or make my body do it.

And so it was this struggle. And then there were some days where I could do it or at least get farther along in my progressions. And there were some days when it was like it was just not happening. So I was the kid who never got through it. I was the kid who got stuck in staying stuck.

Then there are kids, like I talked about, who just do the work and they get through it and they’re better than ever. And then there’s some who get through it and then it comes back and the fear goes and it comes and it goes. And then there are some who get those mental blocks and they just stay stuck.

So I want to talk to you about why that happens. I’m also going to give you five characteristics of the athlete who breaks through and stays confident so that you can get an idea of maybe where your weak spots are.

Here we go.

These are the common things that I see in the athletes who break through and stay confident:

Number One: Patience

Athletes who break through their mental blocks are patient. They are the kids who are willing to stick with it. And most kids who have mental blocks and still show up at practice have some element of patience already. They keep at it. But there’s this impatience piece that comes from the athlete, the coach, and the parent where everyone’s like: “Did you get your skill yet? Did you do it yet? Did you get up there and make it yet? Did I do it yet? Am I there yet?”

That’s one of the biggest mistakes that people make is to try to rush it when you’re dealing with your brain. Doing it this way causes a survival instinct to kick into high gear that’s saying you are not safe. ‘You could die’ is basically what your brain is trying to tell you. And when it does that, your brain is sending all these negative thoughts and all of the potential alarm bells are sounding and your brain is just doing its job to try to keep you alive and safe.

So that’s good. Right? You want your brain to be able to do that. But unfortunately it’s sort of like a misguided alarm. So you’re like, “Okay, I feel like I’m going to die but I have to hurry. I have to rush this. And if I just chuck this skill, then I’ll be fine because I don’t have time. There’s a meet. There’s a deadline.”

The sport of gymnastics specifically is so impatient. Everyone has to be amazing by the time they’re 12 or else. And everyone has to get their skills by tomorrow or else. Well, that whole mindset is what I think has created mental blocks to begin with. The incredible impatience in our sport. If you’re not a gymnast, you can probably still relate. It’s this whole idea that you have to get better or else you’re going to get too old. You’re not going to reach your dreams.

So the kids who are willing to be patient are the ones who get through and stay through.

Number Two: Optimism

Optimism is a big word for having hope. Athletes who break through their mental blocks are like: “So what? I’m not doing the skill today, but you know what? It’s going to happen.”

And they’re the kind of kid who would just sing in public and they sort of don’t have this whole, ‘I need to look good and be perfect thing going on.’  That kid is just like ‘I want to fly off of this couch and maybe I will crash on my face or whatever. I’m going to try it anyway.’ They’re just fearless and they’re not worried about looking good. They have this natural hope and optimism that’s sort of built in. They don’t have the doubt. They’re like, “This is going to work out. I’m excited. Let’s go see what happens.”

And so the risk of optimism is that you might get embarrassed. You might think you’re going to do so great and then you belly flop. When you’re a little kid, you don’t care. You’re like: “Well, that was awesome. Anyway off to the next thing.” You let it go. But when you’re 10 or 11 or 12 or 13, and you make a mistake that you didn’t think you were going to make and you declared, “I’m going to do it. This is going to be great.” And then you make a mistake it’s like a death sentence. It’s so devastating.

That fear of embarrassment actually takes away our optimism. The perfectionism that starts to take over athletes is undercutting the possibility of being hopeful. And when you’re hopeful, like when you’re learning a brand new skill, it feels exciting. You enjoy making progress and feeling like you’re getting better.

But when you’re relearning an old skill it’s a lot harder to feel that way. But that’s the way that you need to feel. That “Yes, I’m getting better. I’m so proud of myself. This is so great. I can’t wait to see how much better I can get.” So that optimism is something that’s really important.

Number Three: Communication

Now there are two different specific types of communication I’m thinking about here. One is the way you talk to your coach. So that’s when your coach asks you what’s wrong and why you aren’t doing it? You’re able to know the answer. So that’s one of the big things that I teach in PerformHappy is awareness. It’s all about why is this happening? Your brain is trying to keep you safe. What caused it? It’s the fear of the unknown and the fear of pain.

There are several things that could have caused it. Once you know this is what causes it then you can be like, “Oh, hey coach, it’s not working out because this, this, and this. This is what I need to do.” And then instead of standing there going, “I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know,” you will know what you need to do.  And then your coach will be like, “Okay, I can work with that. Let’s work on this together.” That’s the collaboration.

Then there’s the communication you have with yourself. If you are being mean to yourself and you’re like, “Why can’t I do this? What’s wrong with me? I’m so stupid. That’s terrible” you’re not going to be able to trust yourself if you’re yelling at yourself. And you need to trust yourself in order to get these big skills going. So communication has to be dialed in.

Number Four: Desire

You have to want it. This is one of the big differences between the kids who get their skills back and keep them. We want to be patient and do it the right way. You have to want the skill and you have to want it so badly that you’re willing to be embarrassed. You’re willing to be uncomfortable. You’re willing to get out of that comfort zone regularly in pursuit of this thing. You’re willing to look stupid. You’re willing to need extra help. You’re willing to not look good on your team and to be the squeaky wheel who’s continually asking for mats and spots. You have to be willing to try something new. You have to be willing to let go of the idea that you know what’s best for you or that you know how to get through it. Because obviously if you’re stuck, you don’t know. So if you can just be willing to be like: “I’m not sure what to do” then that desire will carry you through all of those discomforts.

If you want it and you’re like, “I am getting this skill. I am getting this skill back.” then you’re going to be willing to do all those things that are necessary. And if you’re not willing, it’s not a matter of just rush it and chuck it and get it done the easy way, because I promise you it won’t stay. You’re going to be the kid who’s back and forth if you don’t do it the right way.

Number Five: Trust

The final characteristic, which is the whole reason that I put together the challenges and the PerformHappy training program, is trust. If you think back to those kids on beam who would just throw any skill – they just throw it, get up and throw the skill.

My brother, when he was a gymnast, would throw anything! Double, double dismount, go for it. He just would try it because he trusted himself. He trusted his coach. He trusted his training. I did not have the same trust. I doubted myself. I doubted my training. I doubted my abilities. I doubted my talent. I doubted everything. I doubted the beam, the mats, the bars. I doubted all of it all the time because of that perfectionism and because of that overthinking. And so I had mental blocks. So if you have a perfectionist who overthinks, who is stuck on skills, the answer to that is trust. They have to learn to trust themselves.

 

Mental Blocks In Sport - Complete Performance Coaching

Free Training

I want to invite you if this sounds like you, to a new free training that’s all about breaking that fear cycle. So instead of getting your skill back and losing it again and continuing to go through that cycle, you break it. So this training is going to teach you my exact framework to get to self-trust. You’ll learn the three phases that you go through on the way there and exactly how to build it. So if you’re interested, please check that free training out right now at completeperformancecoaching.com/fear. It’s for parents and athletes. Coaches, check it out too so that you have some more info on how to help your kids if they’re struggling.

It’s not that you are born able to break through fear or not. It’s just that you don’t have those right characteristics and all of these can be built and learned. So send me any questions that you have to rebecca@performhappy.com.