As athletes, there are only five things that we can truly control—our training, nutrition, sleep, recovery, and mindset. If it doesn’t fall into one of those categories, forget about it. Control the things you can control and ignore everything else.
The above diagram illustrates some of the most commonly overheard topics in the athlete warm-up area at the CrossFit Games (or any other competition). Most of them are concerns that lie outside of the athletes’ control.
This concept of control versus concern is the cornerstone of the process, and—like everything else—it requires some practice.
Before the Games each year, as a mental exercise, CompTrain’s elite athletes (Katrin Davidsdottir, Brooke Wells and Cole Sager) make a list. They write down every possible thing they can think of that could go wrong at the CrossFit Games. No stone is left unturned—the final 2017 list had 101 items on it, and included things like the weather, alarm clocks not going off, nutritional distress, judges miscounting reps, travel delays, and shark attacks. We named the list “101 Things That Could Go Wrong At The Games,” then went through it one by one, categorizing each item into things we could and couldn’t control. The things we couldn’t control got erased from our mind, and the things we could control got a plan.
A huge piece of chasing excellence is attention to tiny details, but the key distinction is that you pay attention to the right details, the ones within your control over which you have power. Most people go through life having no idea what they can actually control. They’re concerned about a lot of things, but that doesn’t mean they control those things. Many people struggle to recognize the difference between the two. Imagine a book of matches. A typical matchbook has 20 matches, and together, they represent all of your energy for the day. Energy is a finite resource; once it’s gone, you can’t get it back. If you burn through your matchsticks on things that are outside your control, you have less energy for things you can control—things that can actually move the needle on your performance.
In the sport of CrossFit, there is so much that lies beyond our control. All of the buzz in the athlete area falls into this category. No amount of concern will enable us to control things like the weather, workouts, standards, judges, or other athletes. Whether we’re training in December at home or competing at the Games in July, we train our mind not to focus on anyone’s performance but own own. At the end of the day, the only competition is with ourselves.