Elliott Waksman is a Certified Mental Performance Consultant through the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP). After earning his MA in Sport Psychology, he founded his private practice, Portland Sport Psychology, where he consults with student-athletes, teams, professional athletes, and other performers.
The phrase “trust the process” gets thrown around often. But what does that really mean? What is the process? Where am I placing my trust? Elliott says that it’s the trust in the process that leads to confidence, which leads to results. When we put in the work, and when we check our boxes daily, we feel good. That's the process; the grind, checking off our boxes. We’ve been there, we’ve done it, and when competition comes around we’re ready. Elliott likens this to going to the dentist. The person who checks their boxes by brushing and flossing daily feels confident and ready when they walk in. The person who has skipped out on checking their boxes is scared, lacks confidence, and is anxious when they head into the dentist’s office. These two people feel a lot different, and their “performance” at the dentist will show it. Even at the highest level of competition, athletes need to be checking their boxes daily, and trusting that their preparation will prepare them for success.
Mistakes & Recovery
Even at the highest level, athletes make mistakes. Sometimes small, sometimes catastrophic. These mistakes can be discouraging, embarrassing and frustrating. So, how do we recover when a mistake is made? Elliott uses the idea of a pie chart. One play, one mistake, one freak incident is just a tiny, microscopic sliver of the pie. The important part of the pie is all of the hours spent training, all the film sessions, weight room sessions. Elliott encourages athletes to remember that although mistakes can be embarrassing and frustrating, that they do not define you. The bigger piece of the pie; the training, preparation, and hard work is what really matters.
When we know what our values are, it helps us make better decisions and trust more fully in our choices. When we base our choices from our values, we feel happy, free and satisfied because our actions match our core values. How do we find out what our values are? Elliott recommends this exercise from Dr. Brené Brown. Once we discover what it is we value, it is important to engage with those values. We have to create opportunities to engage with our values, to take time and effort, and to make choices throughout the day that enable us to interact with what we love. For athletes, it is important to develop a list of values when it comes to sport. When athletes are aware of what they value, the process becomes easier to follow because we know why we’re training and what we’re working toward.
Elliott frequently draws from the idea of excellence when working with his clients. What does it mean to be excellent? In athletics, we often see moments of excellence in competition. Really, excellence is much more than just an amazing goal, a PR lift, or a buzzer beater. Elliott says “Excellence is not flipping the gear on gameday. Excellence is not a two hour thing. Excellence is a lifestyle. Excellence is a 24/7 thing.” Whether it’s holding the door open for the neighbor, saying please and thank you, getting enough sleep, eating well, or putting up extra shots after practice, we can practice being excellent throughout the day. “Excellence is a million choices throughout your day that lead you to the highest clip possible.” Excellence is another part of the process, and you can’t just turn it on.
Take some time to think about your values. And then? Pursue excellence relentlessly.