As gymnasts, I know you have big goals and dreams! I also know that your big expectations can weigh you down and can really affect the way you think about gymnastics in the long term.
Expectations are when you believe something is going to turn out a certain way. You might have created these expectations from past experiences or by seeing the way things turned out for others you know. Or you might have created your own expectations based on your dreams and goals.
The thing is, if you expect a certain outcome and it doesn't happen (or doesn't feel like it's going to happen) then that big expectation that you have for yourself can feel really heavy.
It might even feel like you actually have a big weight on your shoulders. Not an actual weight but the feeling of heaviness that makes gymnastics feel not as fun anymore.
When you carry those big expectations you might feel extra stress, not perform as well, or put extra pressure on yourself.
So how do you keep those big expectations from weighing you down? I've given you some tips below that will help you still have those big expectations but without feeling bogged down by them.
How Can You Lighten Up Those Expectations?
1. Stay in the present moment
Our brains don't like it when things are uncertain. When we aren't sure of an outcome our brain will create its own picture of what things will look like. This makes your brain feel safe and gives it a sense of control over the situation.
Because expectations are focused on the future your mind will feel uneasy about that uncertainty. However, if you stay focused on the present moment, you can enjoy the moment and take each part of it as it comes. This feels lighter and easier to your brain.
2. Ask yourself: Why is this so important to me?
Sometimes we get hooked on a big expectation without even knowing why. So ask yourself why this big expectation is so important to you?
Remember, the way you feel about your big expectation is entirely up to you. You get to decide whether something is important to you or not.
If you decide it's important, you want to uncover the real reason it's important. Is it important because achieving it will make someone else happy? Is it important because you think it will make you happy?
3. Change the way you feel about it
When a big expectation feels heavy it's often because you're thinking about it as a burden. One way to lighten that burden is to play a game with your mind so the expectation feels fun.
You can "challenge" yourself to achieve something instead of feeling like you HAVE to achieve it. That small shift in mindset can make all the difference.
4. Dream big but remember your S.M.A.R.T. goals
You should have really big dreams. But just make sure your expectations are realistic. These expectations can be a stretch goal. It's definitely ok to push and stretch yourself. But if your expectations are too unrealistic, you'll feel greater pressure.
Make sure your goals are S.M.A.R.T. The A in SMART stands for attainable and the R stands for realistic. Again, you can stretch yourself but your goals should be things you can actually achieve if you put in the work and have patience. Setting the right goals will help to relieve some burden you might be feeling from them.
5. Remember that you are worthy of being noticed and loved for exactly who you ARE and not for what you've achieved
Sometimes you might feel like you have to achieve a certain goal in order to be noticed or to feel worthy. But the truth is, you are loved just by being you. You don’t need to have all these achievements to be loved.
Knowing this can lift a big weight off your shoulders and make you feel like you are more than just your achievements. When Simone Biles pulled out of the 2020 Olympics, she made a comment that she hoped America still loved her. This was her feeling like she was only worthy of being noticed as long as she could do the big skills and bring home the medals. That's a huge expectation to carry!
6. You can find joy in each day as it comes and still be happy whether or not you meet your expectations
It’s the journey that’s important, not the destination. Sometimes we think that if we reach a certain goal we will be happier. But the truth is that the joy comes in the day to day. If you wait until the end goal to be happy, you'll miss out on all the special moments along the way.
When you remember this then it feels less important to need to reach your big goal just to find happiness. You'll feel happiness all the time which will make you feel less weighed down by your big expectations.
7. Embrace failure. Think of it as part of the process.
You can fail and still be great. You can fail and still be successful. You can fail and still achieve your goals. You can fail and still be happy. Most of all, when you fail you learn!
If you learn to embrace the failure then you don't feel so weighed down by your expectations. You know that even if you don't meet your goals the first try, you can always try again.
8. Send your big expectations away in a physical form so they don't feel so heavy
One way to feel less pressure from your big expectations is to write them down on paper, stick them in a glass boat or bottle, and send them into the ocean. If you don't live near an ocean, you can write your big expectations down on toilet paper and flush them down the toilet.
The physical act of doing this with your big expectations can immediately make them feel lighter.
9. Find the feeling of "lightness"
Ask yourself: How would it feel if those expectations were lifted off your shoulders? Imagine yourself feeling that “lightness.” Sometimes you have to practice the feeling of lightness before you feel it.
Really spend time imagining what lightness would feel like. Would you feel happier, more free, more able to do gymnastics without worrying so much? How would that feel mentally to you? And how would that feel in your body?
Remember that it's good to have big dreams and goals. You just don't want them to weigh you down. If you feel a "heaviness" from carrying your big goals then you might need to spend time asking yourself why you want those big goals. You can stay in the present moment and also change the way you feel about your expectation - making it feel like a "challenge" instead of a burden. Even if you don't reach your big goals, remember that you are still worthy of being noticed. You don't have to achieve big things to be loved by yourself or anyone else. Also remember to embrace failure so that you don't feel like you have to be perfect in order to achieve your big goals.
If you or your gymnast needs support, in addition to the resources below I also offer one-on-one coaching sessions via Zoom.
- Resources: Get gymnastics downloads to help your gymnast work on her mental skills in gymnastics
- Mental Health Training for Gymnasts: Help your gymnast learn about her brain and the fight-flight-or-freeze response.
- Free Facebook Group for Moms of Gymnasts: Join this group to chat with other gymnastics moms and get tips for how to help your gymnast navigate through the mental ups and downs of gymnastics