Arjun Dhingra is a two-time world champion in taekwondo and is currently one of the co-head coaches of team USA. When asked what he believes the difference between people that perform at an elite level and those who don’t, Arjun answers with, “It sounds almost cliche but its mindset, its mentality you know? Mental toughness, resilience, and the ability to bounce back.” He adds that in this day and age, with social media, it is easy to see everyone’s victories and not the work they put in or where they fall short.
“I just remember feeling these huge lights and then stopping for a second. I kind of developed this mantra that I use now before anything big where I stop, I calm myself down by taking a few deep breaths, and I say the same thing every time, which then makes me equal to the moment, which is ‘everything that’s happened in my life up to this point has prepared me for this. I live for these moments. I love these moments. I am ready.'” Arjun describes how he pushes through his nerves and helps other people learn how to as well. He explains that it is all about practice, gaining experience, and using visualization to prepare. “It’s like the old mantra; practice makes perfect, but you do it over and over again, and while you can’t duplicate it, you can still create a little bit of that and be able to channel some of that energy to when you do arrive at a big moment there is some familiarity.”
Arjun tells people that you have to be equal to the moment. No matter what it is, you match your energy to it. If you come in too small, it will overtake you like a wave crashes over a surfer and spits him out. If you come in too big, you won’t respect it and underestimate what it will take to win. You have to be equal to the moment and know you are there because you belong there.
When asked what challenges he faced when becoming a top-performing athlete, Arjun explains that the biggest challenge is taking the losses as lessons and not treating them like they’re permanent. Learn from the failures and have that mental toughness to turn them into tools to win. “There’s those that win pretty much off the bat, right? They’ve got a formula, and they’re awarded for that success. I’m not saying it came easy, but they won. That is a mindset now that is a pathway that you can always tap into and a formula you have forever. Then there’s the winning mindset that comes on the heels of a loss, and these are the ones that I enjoy the most because I have experienced this both professionally and athletically. I think then you can get someone who is really kind of invincible.” He admits that recovering from a loss and channeling it into a lesson is hard to teach, and some people just aren’t wired that way. But, as a coach, he helps his team learn ways to combat that.
“Everyone attaches themselves to the outcome.” He advises to fixate on the process and not focus so much on the big goal at the end. Focus on improvement and the small goals along the way, and the result will take care of itself.
“I think vulnerability is absent in a lot of leadership and performance coaching. There’s a lot of people that come to things with a philosophy and they, use it as a one size fits all approach. The reality is that human beings are extremely complicated, very different, and dynamic creatures. A one size fits all philosophy doesn’t work.” When speaking about the people he coaches, he believes that it is crucial to get to know your team and teach them in a way that permits them to learn to the best of their ability. “In leadership, you have to do the same thing.”
When asked what principles he’s seen carry across all aspects of his life, from coaching to being influential, Arjun says, “Being equal to the moment is one. Another trait I drawback on is you use each day as a chance to be better; I need to improve somewhere and doing the introspective and reflective work to progress.”
If you would like to connect with Arjun, you can find him on Instagram @arjundhingra
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