Djokovic’s Winning Strategy: Mind Over Chatter

After Novak Djokovic defeated Roger Federer in the U.S. Open Men’s Championship, he shared how he coached himself to turn the efforts of a mostly hostile crowd that was actively trying to disrupt his serve, to his advantage. “They would scream ‘Roger!” and I would imagine they were screaming ‘Novak!” “I came out to the court knowing what to expect and I was ready for it mentally, and i think it helped me keep my cool in the toughest moments.”

Much has been written about athletes that can block out the noise, the moment and the pressure to perform at a high level, but as an executive coach and recruiter, this was striking to me.  One of the precepts of coaching is “What people say is about them; what we hear is about us.” The implications of this simple statement are profound.  We have the ability to change our thoughts and when we do so, to change our behavior.  Every day, leaders, managers and employees process internal and external evaluations of their performance. Those that consistently perform at a high level keep negative words from becoming negative thoughts that create poor results. One of the most powerful things that great coaches do is work with their clients to identify thoughts that limit their performance, especially at times of high stress.  We can’t all block out 20,000 screaming voices and hit winners. But we all can learn how to identify and turn off the inner voices that hold us back from achieving our potential.

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