Imagine you are watching the NBA Finals, there is 1.5 seconds left, and your favorite team is down by one point in game seven. There is enough time for one last shot and your team is in-bounding the ball. I’m guessing you know who you would like to take the last shot. Every team has their own fan favorite superstar. Whether your sport of choice is basketball or another sport, we all know how great athletes look and are aware of the mindset they embody. If you were to list the mental characteristics, it would read something like: motivated, determined, courageous, resilient, focused, and so on.
Would you like to embody some of these qualities? I bet you would. The truth is, there is no reason you can’t. That’s exactly what the field of sport and performance psychology does. It teaches athletes and everyday people how to harness their inner mental toughness. Performance psychology is a key component in my work with athletes, performers, and executives. On some level everyone is an athlete, perhaps your sport just happens to be financial trading, or making million dollar sales, or writing a best-seller. We all have an arena in which we strive to be a superstar. We can all take something from sport psychology to jump-start our performance.
Here are 5 easy to follow strategies you can begin to use today to unleash your inner athlete.
1. Know your endgame
In sport, as in life, one of the biggest keys is knowing the end result you want and having a crystal clear vision of where you want to go. It’s very difficult to go after something if you don’t know what it is you’re going after. The more detailed and vivid your goal, the better. While goal-setting is nothing new, it’s a very powerful tool when done consistently. The field of sport and performance psychology has done some of the most rigorous research on goal-setting of all fields. We’ve demonstrated positive results of setting goals time and time again.
Knowing your endgame will not only increase your motivation, but also help you delay gratification. Once you know where you want to go, start breaking your long-term goals down into manageable daily actions that are process-focused. Great athletes focus on what they can control. Setting daily action-packed goals will help you stay focused on what you can do to ensure your long-term results come into fruition.
2. Train and refine
Perhaps you’ve heard “if it were easy, everyone would do it.” This is so true! If you want your goals to turn into a reality there will typically be a price to pay. Almost every world-class performer I have worked with and researched has trained exceptionally hard to get to the top. When pursuing your goals, expect there to be hard work, expect tough choices, and expect there to be a price to pay. The more you put into your training, the better your results will be down the line. The hard work you do now will prepare you for the future, especially if you map out your goals and make an intelligent plan for how to get there. Perhaps, your hard work isn’t training extra hours in the gym. Maybe it’s making extra sales calls or getting additional education instead. Persevere!
The caveat to working hard though, is just working hard isn’t usually enough. If what you’re doing isn’t working then learn and modify. All great athletes are flexible, knowing how to change their strategy to get to the end result. This is crucial to improvement. Training hard won’t always be enough to get you to the promise land. You need to train hard and train smart.
3. Seek experts and great coaching
There’s two paths to achievement: sometimes you create your own path, and sometimes you use the path of others to help guide you. Devising a success plan on your own can be challenging. Sometimes, you need another perspective, like someone who has either gotten to where you want to go or who is an expert. This is why coaching and mentorship can be so valuable. Every top athlete has sought advice and wisdom at one point or another. Coaching can speed up your learning curve. It also gives you an opportunity to make less mistakes and learn from the mistakes you make.
4. Embrace every experience.
World champion athletes embrace the positive as well as the negative. They build confidence from their successes and learn from their challenges. It’s no secret we work hard and compete to experience wins and successes. So, when one of those successes comes – enjoy it!
Unfortunately, to experience winning means you have to put yourself out there and make yourself susceptible to losing. The good news is, the majority of top athletes admit they learn more from their mistakes then from their triumphs. To become a top performer in your field, you need to cultivate a perspective toward learning and growing. You can’t always be in control of what happens to you, but you can control the meaning you take from an experience. There will be times when the results don’t go your way and you experience setbacks. The way you respond to these setbacks will help determine when you reach your long-term goals, so learn to respond appropriately. Next time you experience a setback ask yourself, “What is the lesson here? What can I learn from this?”
5. Develop a winning mindset
A winning mindset can be described as motivated, engaged, resilient, confident, and focused. There are many strategies and principles to developing these characteristics and attributes. The truth is these skills can be learned and enhanced. A central component to the field of sport and exercise psychology is helping to develop these attributes by teaching skills like relaxation, visualization and imagery, thought-management, focus-enhancement, as well as many others.
I would encourage you to start small and decide one area of your mind you would like to develop. Perhaps you want to be more positive or learn how to manage your anger. Once you decide on an area you wish to improve, you can do your own research or seek the assistance of a sport psychologist. Sometimes, you can even learn to enhance these skills indirectly. For instance, yoga and meditation can be a great ways to learn mindfulness and energy control.
No matter the route you take to using sport psychology on your quest to self-improvement, remember that a winning mindset can be developed. Take pride in your mindset, after all you own it.
Featured photo credit: Cyclist Racing Through Paris For Tour De France – Ed Gregory via stokpic.com