The Link Between Relationships & Success
In high school and college, there was really only one type of relationship on my mind. I’m sure you can guess what kind it was, and I can spare you the details. Bring up the word relationship and automatically that’s where my mind went.
As I’ve gotten older, it’s become clear how powerful and important all kinds of relationships are. In each of our lives, there are many different types of relationships we experience. Yes, some are on the romantic side. Though most of them will fall outside of that sphere.
As an athlete or performer, have you stopped and thought about the importance relationships play in your success? If you’re like me, you haven’t spent much time on the subject.
But trust me, putting in the effort to foster healthy relationships can have just as much of an impact on your success as any physical skill.
Four Relationship Types
Diving deeper into the subject of relationships, athletes and performers find themselves faced with four which are of the utmost importance. Of course, there are many others I am not going to touch on in this article, such as relationships with teachers, trainers, and friends.
But, the four I will focus on are going to have the greatest impact on your success. Learning to understand them and figure out the best ways to build such relationships will be valuable knowledge.
Before I tell you what they are, take a moment to think for yourself. What relationships in your life right now, if given attention, would lead to more happiness and success in your life, both on and off the field?
I often neglected to think in this way. Regrettably, I’ve let many relationships fade, and lost opportunities as a result. I also know how difficult it can be at times to build relationships as an introvert.
If you feel shy and sheepish to talk to people, especially new ones, worrying about developing a relationship puts more pressure on yourself. I know it can be difficult, but the benefits of cultivating such relationships far outweigh the initial discomfort.
Now that I’ve given you a chance to think it over, what types of relationships came to mind?
There are four types of relationships I want to focus on in this article. They include relationships with your parents, your coaches, your teammates, and lastly, yourself.
Nourishing each of these relationships will have a direct link to the success you achieve within your career. Let’s first take a look at the relationship between yourself and your parents.
"If you feel shy and sheepish to talk to people, especially new ones, worrying about developing a relationship puts more pressure on yourself. I know it can be difficult, but the benefits of cultivating such relationships far outweigh the initial discomfort."
The first relationship that plays a large part in your success is the one you have with your parents. For most of us, this is going to be one of the first relationships we experience. The quality of which will be a huge factor moving forward.
How would you rate your relationship with your parents? Are you close with them and feel as though you can lean on them for support?
Out of the four relationships on the list, the one you have with your parents can sometimes be the trickiest to navigate. That’s because you do not get to choose your parents. The ones you have are the ones you’re stuck with.
This means the relationship is a little bit less in your control to cultivate. As you grow older, continuing to keep the relationship intact is within your power.
However, as a youngster, you are mostly at the whim of your parent’s personalities.
When thinking about the importance this relationship plays in the life of an athlete, what comes to mind is how the relationship you have with your parents has molded you into the athlete you are today.
It’s important to keep their impact in mind as you move forward in your career. What attributes and characteristics did they instill in you?
Not all relationships will be positive when it comes to our parents. Sometimes, mainly unintentionally, we can develop a few not so helpful traits out of the relationship.
Let’s take a look at some of the positive traits that can form and some negative ones that you may experience stemming from the relationship you’ve had with your parents.
- High self-confidence
- Strong work ethic
- High self-worth
- Growth mindset
- Healthy view of failure
These are all healthy and positive characteristics we can adopt from our parents.
As your relationship with them grows, the more support they provide and lessons they teach you, the higher your chances of developing these positive traits.
- Low self-confidence
- Fear of making a mistake
- Fixed mindset
- Low self-worth
- Unhealthy view of failure
- Tendencies to blame others
Now, it’s always tricky territory to begin talking about the ways a parent can negatively influence a child. That’s why I used the term unintentional earlier.
I do not believe any parent is willfully prepping their child to have low confidence, or to blame others for their mistakes.
However, as we grow up, we adopt the views and mindsets of those close to us. So, if our parents hold any of these tendencies, it’s likely they will become a part of our own way of thinking.
Now let’s discuss when the quality of the relationship with your parents falls more on your shoulders.
As you get older, I’d say in high school and college, one of the main ways you can ensure a healthy relationship is communication.
If you want your parents to support and understand you, a level of transparency must be present. This means being open to them about your desires, goals, and any struggles that may surface.
To keep them as a shoulder to lean on, you have to be willing to open yourself up to their support.
We now move onto the athlete-coach relationship, the second authority figure on the list. Developing a healthy relationship with your coaches may seem like a no-brainer.
But, it’s not always easy to do. As a historically shy and reserved guy, I kept the notion of building a relationship with my coaches on the back burner.
In fact, I would rationalize this by telling myself they were my coaches and didn’t need to be my friends. While that’s true, (you shouldn’t aim to be your coach’s friend), you do want to cultivate a relationship between the two of you.
Here are some of the benefits you can expect when there is a positive athlete-coach relationship:
- Positive playing experience: when you and your coach get along and the relationship is strong, this makes playing for them much more enjoyable. You will have an overall better experience in your sport.
- Confidence in your skills: a positive relationship with your coach will lead to more confidence in your skills. You will be able to communicate your weaknesses and they will help to build upon those areas.
- Openness to make mistakes: when you trust your relationship with your coach is strong, you feel okay to make mistakes. If they are supportive, you understand the necessity to make mistakes in order to improve as a player.
- More opportunities to play: while it may be a tough pill to swallow, connections are key. The better relationship you have with your coach, the higher the chances are they will play you more and help you advance in levels.
- Improvement mindset rather than performing mindset: an unhealthy relationship with your coach will leave you with the need to perform. Every practice and game will turn into a performance. With a healthy relationship, you’ll understand their job is to help you improve as a player. Now you can perform freely, focused on bettering yourself instead of proving yourself.
"An unhealthy relationship with your coach will leave you with the need to perform. Every practice and game will turn into a performance."
Now, this relationship is not a one-way street. The coach has to also be a willing individual who wants the best for his or her players.
Developing a relationship will be difficult if your coach is distant, chronically negative, or an overall bad influence. If that’s the case, I encourage you to test out your options to switch teams.
A strong relationship with your coach will improve your level of play and lead to a more enjoyable experience for yourself. You want to try your best to find a coach you mesh with, with whom you can form such a relationship.
For the third relationship, we are turning our focus from authority figures to our peers. Developing a healthy relationship with your teammates has many important benefits.
For one thing, it builds cohesiveness within the team. I’m sure you’ve been on teams or known of teams who just seemed to click. These teams always seem to be successful. The bonds and relationships they build lead to more chemistry and higher levels of play.
Another reason teammate relationships are important has to do with enjoyment. If you hate your teammates, or have some you just don’t get along with, that can make your time on the team dreadful.
I’ve had teammates I couldn’t stand and it definitely led to less joy. Of course, we are not going to be buddy-buddy with everyone. But that doesn’t mean you can’t work to foster a healthy relationship with those certain teammates with whom you have friction.
A third reason, and a very important one to athletes, has to do with competition. When you go to practice, what is your goal? Every day it should be to improve.
How can you elevate the rate at which you get better? By having a healthy competition with your teammates and pushing each other to work harder.
Don’t hide from this type of competition. Do not fear another teammate who seems better than you. Work to build your relationship with them.
The competition between the two of you will force you to step up your game. Also, the closer you become, the more you will help and learn from each other.
Look to your teammates and see which relationships are strong enough to build upon and which ones you need to put some work into improving.
If you do, the level of your play and the fulfillment you have in your sport will skyrocket.
Wait, how can we have a relationship with ourselves?
As strange as this may sound, out of all the relationships, the one which will have the most direct impact on your performance and will impact the other three is the one you have with yourself.
If you’re unsure what I mean by this, think about how much you speak to yourself on a daily basis. I guarantee you speak to yourself ten times more than anyone else.
While this may not be out loud, it will take the form of your thoughts. Not only the way you speak to yourself matters, but how you view yourself is also an important factor.
Have you ever thought about what perception you hold of yourself? This is known as self-image. In terms of your sport, do you see yourself as an average player or a great player?
How do you view your ability to bounce back from failure? Do you see yourself as someone who is strong in the face of adversity? Or, do you believe you do not have the grit to push forward?
How you view yourself and how you speak to yourself are what you must focus on when it comes to the quality of your relationship with yourself.
Whether you have a healthy or unhealthy relationship with yourself will be a large determining factor of:
- Whether you have high or low self-confidence.
- Your level of self-worth.
- Your motivation to play.
- How well you can handle adversity and failure.
- Your emotional intelligence (EQ).
- Your self-discipline and work ethic.
Each one of these characteristics has tremendous value when it comes to not only your performance but your life.
By fostering a healthy relationship with yourself, you can reap the rewards each has to offer. So now the question becomes, how can you make that happen?
"As strange as this may sound, out of all the relationships, the one which will have the most direct impact on your performance and will impact the other three is the one you have with yourself."
How to Build a Healthy Relationship with Yourself
To begin cultivating a healthier relationship with yourself, you first must recognize the ability to do so. If you hold to the belief that working on a relationship with yourself is stupid, you won’t get far with that mindset.
So, first things first, accept that you do have a relationship with yourself, so you might as well work to make it a positive one.
In beginning this work, you want to give attention to the two areas I discussed above: how you talk to yourself and the image you hold of yourself.
Focus on Your Self-Talk
You want to begin focusing on the way you speak to yourself. On a daily basis, we have countless thoughts that flood our minds. It is impossible to be consciously aware of what you’re thinking at every moment.
Instead, begin by setting aside a few minutes to figure out the main negative phrases you use. We all have statements or phrases that are repetitive.
I used to love the phrase, “I suck.”
Pretty plain and boring, but it did wonders on crushing the relationship I had with myself. Could you imagine going up to your teammates ten plus times a day and telling them they suck?
I doubt that will go over too well. If you know that form of talking is not appropriate for your teammates, why speak that way to yourself?
Identify what negative phrases and statements you repeatedly say to yourself. Once you have, come up with some positive alternatives and begin reframing the way you speak to yourself through cognitive restructuring.
Change the Way You View Yourself
Your self-image is going to be altered as soon as you begin to work on your internal dialogue.
The better you speak to yourself, the higher self-image you will hold. Now, there is another way you can begin to alter your self-perception. That is through visualization.
Pick out one part of your life you wish to improve the image you currently hold about yourself. Let’s use your ability to handle failure as an example.
If right now, you hold to the belief that you do not manage adversity well, you need to see yourself responding to such failure in a positive way.
That is where visualization or mental imagery comes into play. Each day, take five to ten minutes, close your eyes, and see yourself respond to failure how you would like.
Over time, this is going to improve your self-image and ultimately lead to a healthier relationship with yourself.
Relationships are crucial to athletes. There are numerous types of relationships you may encounter. But, there are four that I want you to really pay attention to.
These include the relationship you have with your parents, your coaches, your teammates, and yourself.
Focusing on these will result in higher levels of performance, more self-confidence, and overall a more fulfilling and enjoyable experience in your sport.
Which of these relationships do you need to work on? My weak point was always the athlete-coach relationship. Let me know yours in the comments below.
If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me.
Are you performing below your potential? Is there something keeping you from playing your best? If so, mental performance coaching can help. Learn more about what mental performance coaching has to offer, and how you can get started today!
I hope that this article was helpful, and if you enjoyed it, please feel free to share.
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.
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Eli is a sport psychology consultant and mental game coach who works 1-1 with athletes to help them improve their mental skills and overcome any mental barriers keeping them from performing their best. He has an M.S. in psychology and his mission is to help athletes and performers reach their goals through the use of sport psychology & mental training.eli's story
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