Thinking Your Way Out of a Slump

Former Yankees catcher Yogi Berra once said, “Baseball is ninety percent mental. The other half is physical.” Yogi, one of the best interviews you could ever imagine, was clearly not a math major. But he did have a point. Mental strength is a huge differentiator between winners and losers.

How many times in your life have you found yourself in a mental slump? Professional athletes hit slumps all the time. We do, too. It may not be that you have trouble hitting a curveball. You could be in a slump in your relationship, at work, or wherever you have performed well.

But that’s the thing about a slump. To be in a slump, you have to have done something well in the first place. Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angels is one of the premier hitters of the past 25 years. He’s been putting up Hall of Fame numbers since he became a pro. But this year, he moved from St. Louis to L.A. and hasn’t been able to find his sweet spot until recently. Much was made about his large contract and small productivity. Pujols had to revert back to what it was that made him one of the best hitters of all time and concentrate on achieving greatness.

There’s a difference between choking and slumping. A choke is a one-time event. You miss a 10 foot putt to win the tournament. A slump is missing 10 of those putts because your mind is not right. This phenomenon of a slump is so prevalent that doctors like Dr. Rob Gray from the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences at UAB has spent extensive time studying what creates a slump.

Gray says, “We think that when you’re under pressure, your attention goes inward naturally. Suddenly it means so much, you want to make sure everything’s working properly. Focusing on what you’re doing makes you mess up, but why? How do your movements change? How can we focus on correcting those issues instead of telling you to stop trying so hard?”

That’s usually the “easy” answer. Stop trying so hard. But those words usually enhance your slump because breaking out of a slump isn’t easy.

We’ve all had to recharge our batteries at one point in time. So how did you do it? For me, I try to remember what steps I took to achieve the level of success I had, but most important, I need to get out of my own head. It’s easy to talk yourself out of being great. The great ones thrive under pressure while others talk themselves out of success. Whether it’s shooting the game-winning free-throw or asking out a girl for the first time, you can’t be great unless you go for it and find a way to break the slump.

Has there been a time in your life that you were in a slump? How did you get out of it? What slump-busting steps did you take? Join the conversation.

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