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Tennis Lessons..... at the French Open

Djokovic was playing Verdasco in the 4th round at the French Open. It was not great tennis – even the commentator was making disparaging remarks about the quality of the game we were watching.

At one point there was actually a few moments of excitement as real play started to happen – a baseline rally that got shunted by a drop shot, an amazing recovery and then….. the overhead smash by Novak. He had all the time in the world, the ball seemed to take forever to come back down into view. And then, the man who has spent more than 4 years at number 1 in the world (223 weeks to be exact) reached up, arched back and smashed the ball……into the net.

We had already established that this was not either of the players best day on the court. There was a lot of head shaking and grimacing on both sides of the net, but when Novak missed that easy overhead shot in front of thousands and thousands of fans, I wondered: What did he say to himself?

What kind of self talk do elite athletes practice when they screw up big time… in front of loads of people?

Now, I don’t know Novak Djokovic and I am not a mind reader but my guess is that Novak doesn’t spend a lot of time disappointed about a missed smash. He moves on. He has to. There’s another point, game, and set to play. He doesn’t beat himself up. I’m sure he’s not happy with the fact that he missed an easy shot but there is no gain from self negativity. In fact the opposite is true. Humans, as a rule, are more motivated by compassion than by recrimination.

What do you say to yourself when you mess up? When you forget, neglect, misinterpret, ignore, act out, strike out or any other one of the myriad ways that we as human beings mess up?

How we ‘talk’ to ourselves has a profound affect on the quality of our relationships, our behavior, our mental health……in short on our lives.

Criticism and self judgment are so familiar. For many of us self -recrimination and trash talk are our default. But you can bet that this default practice costs us in quality of life.

I’m guessing Novak’s self talk is positive. Probably compassionate. We grow best and we achieve more when we learn and practice from a foundation of compassion.

Notice how you talk to yourself. Practice compassion – it will change your life.


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