When Pete Sampras was breaking into the winner’s circle in tennis, legend Ivan Lendl was the guy to beat.
Having been whipped by Lendl six months earlier, Sampras was hungry but wary going into the 1990 US Open.
After winning the first two sets, Sampras made the classic rookie mistake: thinking he had it won.
Lendl came back, taking the next two sets.
In the fifth set, Sampras gives us a glimpse into the mind of a champion.
Instead of listening to doubt, he sought clarity and calm.
“When you let a guy off the hook, you hear a little voice: ‘You had him, you’re in trouble now…Don’t panic, but this is kind of scary…Play safe..play aggressive…you’ve got to do something!”
Sampras was smart enough not to buy into that little voice.
He says, “Listening to that voice is the downfall of a competitor. Had I listened to it, I would have lost the match…and if I had lost the match, chances are I would have picked up that dialogue again in the future. It’s true what they say about winning being a habit. Once you open that Pandora’s box of doubt, all kinds of nasty things come flying out.”
What Pete is talking about is knowing when to listen to your fear vs. dismiss it.
Sometimes our fear is instructive. It tells us when we need to change our game plan, our strategy, our Right Focus.
But sometimes fear does not help us at all.
It’s the fear we create with our imagination.
Without even realizing it, sometimes we exaggerate our useless fears, buying into them for no good reason.
Years ago I visited a hypnotherapist to treat my fear of flying.
I gave him a long list of reasons why flying was dangerous.
“You can see why I’m so terrified to get on a plane,” I said.
He paused, then said quietly: “Nervous, yes. Terrified, no.” Then he added, “If you love yourself, you’ll stop punishing yourself by escalating this fear in your mind.”
His statement stopped me in my tracks.
I thought about it for a long time.
Some fear is your body’s wisdom.
Other fear is just self-destructive.
So how can you tell the difference?
You start out doing what Pete did.
You ignore the fear.
You tell it you’re not interested in being tempted by the dark side.
If it goes away, it was simply a figment of your imagination.
If you get more anxious, then it means you need to listen to what your fear is telling you.
What changes to your game plan do you need to make?
Knowing the difference between good fear vs. bad fear is a key element of the champion’s mind.
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