Bianca Andreescu defeated Serena Williams in the women's final of the US Tennis Open on Saturday, becoming the first Canadian Grand Slam singles champion. According to Canada's Globe and Mail, Andreescu wins because "she believes she will."
Andreescu's mental game is a key secret to her success. "At this level, everyone knows how to play tennis," she said at a press conference after her victory. "The thing that separates the best from the rest is just the mindset."
Andreescu applies two mindset strategies to separate herself from the rest. These two strategies can help you stand out in any business 'performance,' especially public speaking.
"I would get really down on myself and I would get very negative thoughts going through my mind," Andreescu admitted in the press conference. "I would smash rackets. I'd just yell at myself during matches, even during practice, too."
Andreescu realized that negativity wasn't helping her reach the level she knew she was capable of achieving. In the past two years, she lost in the first qualifying round of the US Open. Upon the advice of "other people" whom she didn't name, she changed her outlook. "I've been trying to have a very positive outlook on everything. It's really been helping me, even in tough situations," she said.
Many professionals in sports or business can execute a technical skill such as hitting a tennis ball or delivering a presentation, but they crumble under the glare of the spotlight.
In The Pressure Principle, Dave Alred, a leading psychologist and performance coach, recommends that you reframe the situation, turning negative thoughts into positive ones. "Reframing is simply taking a situation and changing the way you look at it, by changing the frame of reference around a statement without changing the facts," writes Alred.
The best way to reframe an upcoming event that causes anxiety is to use different words to change the meaning of the event. Change the meaning and you change how you feel.
For example, most people feel "butterflies" or some level of anxiety before giving a pitch or presentation to a prospective client. Here's how Alred suggests reframing it.
Negative framing: "I hate doing these things--if I mess up, what on earth will they think of me?"
Positive framing: "They don't know me. I will have impressive posture and look them straight in the eyes--they're people too, just like me."
Your words can influence your reality--even the words you tell yourself. Practicing overwhelming positivity helped Andreescu reach the top of her game. It will help you perform your best, too.
Although Andreescu never made the finals against Serena Williams in previous US Open tournaments, she had done so every day for years--in her mind's eye. After she won a junior title at the age of 15, Andreescu began visualizing almost every day. She even wrote herself a mock check as if she had won the tournament, updating the amount of the check every year. The amount of her mock checks never did reach $3.8 million, which she really did win this weekend.
"I guess these visualizations really, really work," she said.
Visualizations do work, especially for performances that are impossible to experience every day. It's not every day that a tennis player reaches a final, and it's not every day that a business professional delivers a mission-critical pitch or presentation. Your brain can't tell the difference between what's real and imagined, so picturing yourself perfectly executing an important presentation makes it more likely you'll shine when it counts.
Talent alone was not enough for Andreescu to beat Serena Williams, one of the world's best athletes. And talent alone will only get you so far in business. If you can't perform under intense pressure, you won't be nearly as successful as you might deserve. Practicing the strategies of a champion like Andreescu will keep you calm when the pressure is on.