Learn How to Compartmentalize

The best athletes and coaches are committed to their sport, but they also have perspective. They know sports aren't life. They know there's more important things in life. Having this attitude of caring about sports, but not too much is difficult, but when you find the perfect balance, your success and happiness will greatly improve.

Let's start with commitment. You need to be committed to your sport for many reasons. For one, you need to be committed to stay competitive. For those who rely on sports as their source of income, you need to be committed to feed your family. Lastly, you need to be committed to improve yourself and gain satisfaction from your sport. If you lack commitment, you lose out not only competitively and financially, but you also lose out on the sense of purpose, meaning, improvement, achievement, and happiness that commitment provides.

However, there is a point where commitment can hurt you. Caring too much about your sport, becoming too obsessive, and believing it is the most important thing in life can harm your mental health. Humans are not made to be high performance machines. The point of life isn't just to rack up as many athletic achievements as possible. There are more important things in life such as family and religion. As you get older, you may realize this and regret the time you wasted obsessing about sports. Not only this, but being too committed to your sport can actually backfire and hurt your performance and development, since over-training can cause injuries and mental burnout.

So how do you find the perfect balance? Here is what I suggest: First, determine the ideal schedule for you and your goals. Ask yourself, how much time should I spend training each day, and how much time should I spend focusing on other priorities? Once you have your schedule set, commit to it. Next, learn how to compartmentalize. This means while training, put all your other worries (school, family, hobbies, etc.) in a "compartment" in your mind, and tuck it away (ignore it). Focus entirely on training and be completely committed to training and performing as best as you can. When you're done training, it's time to compartmentalize sports, meaning stop thinking about it, and focus entirely on your other priorities in life. It is when you keep obsessing about your sport after training is done that it negatively affects your other priorities in life, which then hurts your mental health. Likewise, when you can't stay focused during training, and keep worrying or daydreaming about other aspects of your life, your training and performance worsens.

Some people are afraid to compartmentalize because they believe in order to succeed, they have to be focused on their sport at all times. In other words, they believe their "switch" always has to be on. They're afraid that if they turn off their switch, they won't be able to turn it back on. On the other hand, some people are afraid of completely committing to their sport, because they think they will get sucked into it and forget about their other priorities in life.

In order to get over these fears and learn how to compartmentalize, you need to know two things. First, know that compartmentalization works for most people. It is very effective in finding the perfect balance where you're appropriately committed to all your top priorities in life. Know that this improves your mental health, performance, and development. Second, you need to trust your ability to compartmentalize. Know that you'll be able to turn your switch on and off when you need to. Many successful people have been able to do this and so can you! Once you believe that it helps and you believe that you can do it, you'll be motivated to do it!