Time and time again Novak Djokovic successfully navigates both the external and his own internal challenges to find his way to finish line 1st in the biggest matches.
Asked after his 8th Aus Open victory what it is that gives him this mental edge in the biggest matches Novak said this:
"My upbringing was in Serbia during several wars…embargo in my country where we had to wait in line for bread and water.
I think these things make you stronger. They make you hungrier for success in whatever you choose to do. That has been my foundation, the very fact that I came from such difficult life circumstances.
And going back to that and reminding myself where I came from always inspires and motivates me to push harder and so thats probably one of the reasons that I manage to find that extra gear or mental strength to overcome challenges when they present themselves."
Too often those of us responsible for helping players develop the required resilience and grit needed to overcome obstacles do a poor job in encouraging exposure to enough difficulties, unfairness, and challenges throughout development.
I know I sometimes catch myself choosing to avoid the difficult internal experiences that challenge would bring when working with a player in favour of the easier road of emotional comfort.
Yet if we more often connect with the fact that, just like with physical fitness, mental fitness cannot be developed without the necessary experience of growth opportunities, perhaps we would place a more urgent focus on encouraging player exposure to emotional discomforts throughout development.
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