- Excellent Mental Performance -
Blog for Athletes and High Performers

Thriving in New Arenas: Mastering Adaptability & Authenticity as an Athlete

Explore how to thrive in new settings through more adaptability & authenticity. Learn to navigate change with confidence and how to shed the pressure to be perfect even though you need to succeed.

pressure to succeed in sports

With each new season comes the challenge and the thrill of adapting to new environments. Whether it's a fresh team, club, or even a shift in our personal lives, the dance of adaptation is both an art and a science. So I can't wait to dive into this topic today with you!

It's about more than just trying to fit in or perform; it's about finding ways to thrive in new settings, bringing our full selves to the front, and finding joy and success in the process.

​Navigating these changes, however, isn't about striving for immediate perfection. We need to learn to see the new environment and the adaptation to newness as a journey, learning to adapt authentically, and letting go of the pressure to be flawless from the get-go.
... Because those unrealistic expectations we put on ourselves are in the core of the pressure we feel. Let's dive in how to solve this! :) 

Pressure to be perfect

Reflecting on my journey, including a volleyball tournament in China with Rote Raben, where I played pro in 2014.. That trip let me truly have all the dizzying highs and lows that come with new chapters. The whole Rote Raben team was new to me. I was trying to figure out my own spot, role, on and off the court while I also was honestly tired of all the traveling, practicing and volleyball I had done for so long without a break.

So we traveled to China and the jet lag was real. I totally sucked in the practices.. My internal dialogue was so worried that I wasn't "good enough" for the new team. I was the relentless critic for myself. The whole camp just felt like I fell short of everything I could be and express.

Until I got so tired of my own insecurity and struggling and I started to shift my mindset to :  "f**k it, I have nothing to lose here anymore. I have been so bad so who cares...". That somehow helped me so much. I let myself free of the expectations of needing to be perfect and good enough for the team. I already knew that I hadn't been good.

So well, now that fear came true andI am still here, still kicking haha.. So I just threw all self-imposed expectiations into garbage for a minute which allowed me to play freely and with more joy again. 

​This revelation underscored a pivotal lesson: success can't be forced. It flows from a place of acceptance, adaptability, and, crucially, from not letting every mistake get us off track and onto the path of self-doubt and harsh self-criticism..

Embracing Adaptability and Authenticity

The keys to unlocking our potential in new environments are adaptability and authenticity.

Authenticity: Being genuine is paramount. It's about showing up as ourselves, not shapeshifting to meet others' expectations. This authenticity attracts like-minded individuals and situations, making the transition smoother and more aligned with our true selves.

By authentic I also mean that tap into the strengths that are core ones to you and give you more courage to function confidently in a new environment. Think what are the core things that you can always count on? Optimism? Kindness? Energy? Resiliency? Learning? Use them.

Because when you at least act aligned with something that feels true to you, you won’t get as lost in the new jungle as you might without them or by neglecting them. (If you want to find out your strengths as an athlete through an amazing assessment that gives you a ton of value and knowledge about yourself at the same, check the Sports Capacity Assessment here)

Adaptability: Humans are inherently adaptable. Embracing this trait means observing, learning, and integrating into new environments without losing our essence. It's about flexibility, open-mindedness, and the willingness to grow from each new experience.

Adapt to a new situation through these steps:

1) By observing how it is different than your previous experiences, what are the norms in this environment, what is the hierarchy like (pretty important for example in some volleyball environments) etc.

2) Evaluate what could you do in order to succeed in there. What are you seeing that could be missing? What could you bring into this environment? Reflect your strengths and the demands of the new environment. Is there something that is different that you are used to? What do you think you need to do in order to be successful in this new place?

3) Then try out the different ways you just discovered. Adjust when needed. You don’t need to be right, your previous lessons can apply but they don’t have to. Your way might not be the right way to do things. Same thing, don’t force, just go on a journey. Be open. Learn. Mix things. Take bits that work and blend them in. 

You don’t have to adapt all the way and lose yourself. You can bend from where you stand when you are firmly rooted.

4) Lastly, ask. Ask questions if you don’t know. The faster you know an answer to something, the less energy you have to spend on wondering it and trying out few times and possibly failing if you could have just asked.​

Fostering Self-Confidence in New Environments

Stepping into unfamiliar territories can be daunting, but maintaining a beginner's mindset keeps us open and eager to learn and really help us. Shedding expectations and focusing on the present allow us to embrace each moment with curiosity rather than judgment.

Remember, if you've stepped up to a new level, it's because you belong there. Embrace the beginner status, absorb all there is to learn, and let each challenge shape you into someone even more capable and resilient.

I also tried to instill this thought deeply in me that was super helpful and useful in all situations:
"I always have the chance to succeed in this moment no matter what happened previously and what I think about the future. But the better chances I have to succeed if I focus right now. Not the previous or upcoming moments. All is available to me in the now."

Navigating New Chapters

Adapting to new environments is an art form, one that blends the courage to be authentic with the skill to adapt gracefully. It's about making peace with being a perpetual learner, letting go of harsh self-judgments through surrendering to what is, and trying your best to embrace each step of the journey with optimism and openness.

As you navigate your own transitions, whether in sports or life, remember: the blend of authenticity and adaptability is your compass, guiding you to thrive in any new arena you find yourself in.

​Thank you for journeying with me through these reflections on adaptability, authenticity, and the ever-evolving self. :) 

Saana Koljonen
Saana Koljonen

​​P.S. Join my email community for more insights and stories from the world of high-performance. Click [here] to subscribe and let's connect our journeys of personal growth and professional excellence!

customer1 png

Hi, I Am Saana Koljonen

CEO Of Authentic Excellence LLC

As a mental performance coach/consultant and a certified breathwork facilitator, I specialize in helping athletes and high performers overcome mental barriers and achieve greater success with better speed, joy and confidence.

1 png

Get One of My Most Downloaded Resource!

These 3 skills are essential for every athlete to know and master so they can bring their potential to the surface.

​.. And honestly, who wants to suffer from the bad pre-game nerves, in-game choke or post-game rumination if you don't need to..? 

Ready to try it? Get access to the free PDF + 3 x 10-12 min. video lessons here: