Mental Toughness Challenge #11: Expectations or Performance Objectives?

Even young athletes have heard about now retired, tennis player, John McEnroe.  His emotional outbursts on the tennis courts were classic – yelling at officials, smashing tennis racquets, stopping his feet, and throwing tantrums.  McEnroe is the classic example of a perfectionist athlete who could not accept the consequences of errors, mistakes or the distractions of a bad call by an official.

Most athletes struggle with two challenges in competition:

1)        How to let go of errors before emotions take control

2)        How to develop the mindset necessary to succeed in competition.

To understand the mental process behind perfectionism, athletes must first identify the inflexible expectations they have placed on performance.

For example, a professional bowler may insist on a strike at each frame for a perfect game.  Or, a gymnast may expect a perfect dismount without a bobble or step.

By placing such exacting expectations (and dare I say very high expectations) these athletes are setting themselves up for failure because anything less than perfect will be perceived as a flaw.

As you prepare for your next competition I challenge you to think about the expectations you have about your performance.

Ask yourself: What expectations do I have about my performance?  What will be emotional and mental impact if I don’t meet those expectations?   (E.g. I may not be able to regain my composure.  I will question my abilities, etc.)

If you desire success in your tour as an athlete, focus on the expectations you have about your performance.  Instead of placing explicit outcomes, allow yourself room to make mistake and accept that you can’t control the actions of others.  By accepting that no performance, even the best in your career, can or will be perfect, you’ll be on your way to success much faster!


Want to know more about defeating perfectionism or regaining your composure?

Send me your request by filling out the “contact us” form at I will then arrange time to talk with you on the phone and help you to uncover the perfectionist tendencies that are holding back your performances

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