In conversations with other coaches, players, and colleagues the word “perspective” has come up increasingly more. Perhaps it is only because now I am more aware. I’m not convinced that every person who says “having perspective is important” is entirely sure what that means, and I think less than half the younger people who need more perspective in their life have any clue what that means when they are told. I think it is time we take a look and attempt to define/discuss what we all can use more of…but then again I could be one of those people who is clueless. Regardless, here comes a good effort.
Perspective, as defined by Merriam-Webster:
- 1. The interrelation in which a subject or its part are mentally viewed.
- 2. The capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance.
Synonyms: context, broad view, frame of reference, mindset, relative importance
These two definitions hit a couple of key words. The first addresses our mental view, our outlook, attitude, and mindset. The second mentions relative importance, and the understanding of true value of things, events, and people in our lives. Therefore, perspective is a having a consistent positive mental approach to day-to-day events due to a disciplined mindset and the ability to balance all that is important. I think this can be simplified further to having “Big Picture” thinking.
Here are two excerpts from the book “Mindset” by Dr. Carol Dweck that demonstrate broad perspective in the realm of sport:
“For me the joy of athletics has never resided in winning” Jackie Joyner-Kersee tells us, “I derive as much happiness from the process as from the results. I don’t mind losing as long as I see improvement or I feel I’ve done as well as I possibly could. If I lose, I just go back to the track and work some more.”
“This idea—that personal success is when you work your hardest to become your best—was central to John Wooden’s life. In fact, he says ‘there were many, many games that gave me as much pleasure as any of the 10 national championship games we won, simply because we played fully and played near our highest level of ability.’”
These excerpts demonstrate mature perspective in that we are not always working to win today but rather building a body of work that will lead to consistency as well as a firm foundation. This is “Big Picture” thinking.
It is true that each individual has their own preferred work structure BUT it is very important not to “live and die” by each week (or each performance). You have perspective once you understand that each individual performance does not define you, but rather your habits and character define you. For the exact same reason there is the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover” or when evaluating candidates for a job or school admission we look at records or bodies of work as a whole; we don’t pick one performance or failure…because that would not be fair. The ATP calendar is long and one of the aspects that makes tennis unique is that most everybody loses each week. Then you have another chance to play a tournament the next week…piece together a few good weeks out of the year, consistently defend points and you are rising.
Having a balanced perspective on things also involves avoiding a one-dimensional lifestyle. Exposure to uncomfortable situations and educating yourself on new subjects are ways to enhance your world view. Building character whenever the opportunity presents itself is important for anyone in any business. However, when you get to play tennis or coach for a living you should consider yourself fortunate. Tennessee Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner and wide receiver Damian Williams recently took a trip to Guatemala to readjust their perspective as told in an article by Jim Wyatt in the Tennesseean.
“This was my first time to experience something like that and it definitely adds a different perspective to how you think about things,” Verner said. “Some things we see in our lives, we may take for granted. But how they live, and how they handle certain situations … they don’t mope around, and they have bigger problems yet still find the enjoyment and happiness in what they do.”
To have the opportunity to be involved in professional sports is fantastic. If you can find perspective on what you do and how you operate daily, I believe you allow yourself to have a deep appreciation and love for what you do. The more character you build and appreciation you find then the better you work and perform. I do not think it is a fluke that you see older guys taking a presence on the ATP tour. There are zero teenagers in the top 200, and 11 ATP titles have been won by 9 different men who were over the age of 30 since January. I love that statistic. Is it possible that their mental approach is different from the younger players on tour?
Through all of this I think we should understand that there is rarely immediate success or satisfaction. Professional sport is a shark tank, but give yourself a chance to perform at your best…How? Get some perspective in your life. Be fair to yourself and take solace in the fact that you work the right way and have a plan for success.