THE MENTAL GAME: How Can Gratitude Take Your Performance To The Next Level? Part 1

Polito Pieres and Facundo Pieres after winning a game in the Hurlingham Open in Argentina with their team Ellerstina

THE MENTAL GAME: How Can Gratitude Take Your Performance to the Next Level? – Part 1

By John Haime

Polo is a tough sport and players always want to know: “How can I improve my game?” and we give you answers and tools for that question. In the first of our three-part series for developing players on how a simple emotion like gratitude can improve your game, international mental performance coach John Haime delves into the concept of  “enjoyment over achievement.” The series explains the dynamics of gratitude, examines the characteristics of a grateful player, and concludes with practical tips on how to develop a winning “attitude of gratitude” and how to perform gratitude rituals. Haime, who has worked with some of the best players and teams in the sport, says the mindset that took them to the top is within your reach right now!

As we prepare for Thanksgiving, what are you grateful for in your polo life? 

That might seem like a strange question to ask a player in a performance-based article, but the emotion of gratitude can help take your polo game to the next level. Research has linked the emotion of gratitude to better overall physical and mental health, as well as sounder sleep, reduced anxiety and lower incidences of depression. Players who are more satisfied with their performance are also less likely to burn out and more likely to enjoy better overall well-being.

In my work with polo players and other equestrians across the globe, I often highlight the importance of enjoyment over achievement, which means making sure that enjoyment is at the forefront of performance, followed by achievement as a natural consequence. Players and teams that pursue achievement in the sport so intensely that they forget about the key purpose of sport—passion, enjoyment and fun—often end up frustrated and miserable. Players who pursue enjoyment first, with a deep commitment to excellence and improvement, are the ones who achieve and have lasting power in the sport.

So how can focusing on gratitude be beneficial to you as a polo player?

For starters, consider that it is impossible to have two emotions at once. The same goes for thoughts; our mind can only handle one at a time. As a result, you can’t be grateful when you’re negative, and neither can you be negative when you’re grateful. As a polo player, this is crucially important to know. When you feel negative emotions arising that may limit your performance, as every player experiences at one time or another, take the reins and make a decision. You have the option of drowning in negativity or changing your state to a positive emotion. Gratitude is a powerful tool to make the shift.

Next: In part two, we take a look at the key characteristics of a grateful polo player. Haime helps you compare how you stack up and what you need to change in your mind in order to see a change on the field. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: John Haime is President of New Edge Performance. A world-class Human Performance Coach for athletes, executives and artists, former professional athlete and current bestselling Author of You Are a Contender! Build Emotional Muscles to Perform Better and Achieve More, John understands how athletes think and feel. He’s been there—under the most intense pressures of amateur and professional sports. He is trusted by a wide range of clients including some of the world’s leading professional and amateur athletes. John coaches professional equestrians and up-and-comers with a proven system generating measurable results for clients. He has certifications in psychology, neuroscience, emotional intelligence and coaching.

Read some of John Haime’s previous articles on The Mental Game and performance highlighting how limiting beliefs can creep up on us when least expected and how to banish them, read the article here.

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