How great athletes think, train and thrive. What separates the top few from the many in a sport? MENTALITY. Let’s take a look at how the attitude with which top athletes approach the situation can determine their success or failure.
Be Your Own Champion
Develop Your Mind
Your mind is what makes everything else work. was once brilliantly summed up by basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Tennis great Novak Djokovic further explains:
[Among the] top 100 players, physically there is not much difference….It’s a mental ability to handle the pressure, to play well at the right moments.
So your mental game matters the most. Physical ability alone rarely translates into a superior on-field performance. Even naturally gifted athletes who want to perform to their total potential need outstanding physical and mental strengths, because their secret to great performances is not their innate athleticism or technical skills – it’s their minds.
Mind is everything. Muscle – just pieces of rubber. All that I am, I am because of my mind, declared distance runner Paavo Nurmi, the “Flying Finn” and winner of nine Olympic gold medals. You too can develop the mental focus and discipline needed to perform in your sport with a champion’s mind. The mental abilities of confidence, concentration and composure for being a champion in everything you undertake, be it work or sports or both.
In contrast to your physical abilities, your mental abilities may flutter moment to moment, because your mind is susceptible to performance pressures and situational demands. You cannot trust your athletic performance to chance, you must build mental strength through training as you would physical strength.
Mental dexterity must be practised and developed in a planned and purposeful manner so that you can elevate yourself to a champion performance level in all endeavours. This is how great athletes think, train and thrive on their path to greatness.
We all experience similar struggles and deal with demanding challenges in our pursuit of excellence, regardless of the sport or fitness activity. To be a champion, your true best self becomes key to personal and athletic greatness. You know, as we all do, that only those performers who think gold and never settle for silver will continue to strive for and reach their highest, or gold, level. A Champion makes greatness happen, despite what may seem like impossible odds.
Of course most of us are not Olympians or professional athletes, but all of us can acquire a champion’s mind-set. Any athlete can learn to think like a champion. Every one of us can be peak performers in the game of life by achieving our own personal best. We can strive to be the best version of ourselves for it is possible to ingrain mental fortitude that drives us forward, and so it is possible to take a championship approach.
Part of this process requires us to maintain our eagerness to learn and grow, and to take well-trained, disciplined action to make solid change in our lives, and sadly only a few ever achieve that level of greatness. This truth is hard to acknowledge, but if you do and if you want your personal championship in life badly enough, then the ball is in your court.
Now the question becomes, will that final shot be in or will you put it out?
We have to understand that the difference between an average performance and a peak performance begins and ends with the state of your mind. Although we can learn to think like a champion, more importantly will we?
A winning mid-set unlocks your athletic aptitude in competition. Champions develop and maintain a complete body and mind approach to their performance – the perfect blend of mentality, athleticism and technique. They enthusiastically make the best of every situation, consistently put in the hard work, and take the extra time needed to realise their aspirations. You must recognise this difference to know how great athletes think, train and thrive.
Compile a Personal Scouting Report
As an athlete, compile your own scouting report about yourself by taking a hard, unblinking look at all aspects of your performance. Think about the mentality, athleticism, technique and strategy that go into your performance:-
- How would you rate yourself in these four areas?
- How would others rate you? Be sure to be UPBEAT!
- Which level are you committed to reaching – bronze, silver or gold?
No matter your current performance level, never rule out your capacity to become a champion in your game and in your life. You can do better! You can achieve your true potential. It is possible to make a major impact on your own life by shifting your beliefs and expectations about what you can achieve.
Attitude is a decision, and it is also a learned behaviour, requiring discipline and energy to sustain. To perform at a champion’s level, think of gold as your official colour of excellence. Look at your personal and athletic efforts through gold-tinted lenses. Think about personal gold as both a reward and a colour of action or prompt to bring out your best qualities and performance.
All I see is gold, says Olympic wrestling champion Jordan Burroughs. Like him, look on the more positive side of events and always shoot for the most favourable outcome.
Whether you are a junior player, a student athlete, a weekend warrior, a professional athlete going for a Grand Slam or podium finish in the Olympics, going gold today will allow you to work to achieve superior performance and gain a competitive advantage. Striving for the highest level will give you the best shot for personal We all deserve to shine and be successful, but we can achieve this only through intelligently applied hard work.
Consider the following:
- Don’t have the time? You are worth the time!
- Don’t have the energy? You will gain energy!
- Doubt yourself? Start doubting your doubt! Go conquer your doubts!
The Champion Question
What will your life look like when you have become your own champion? This is the KEY CHAMPION QUESTION.
Take sometime right now to imagine that a major performance breakthrough in your game and life has just occurred and that you have become a champion all day, every day! In your mind’s eye, work your way through a regular weekday, a practice or training session, and a future competition or tournament. Draw together as much detail as possible about what it will look like to be at gold level, to be the best version of yourself consistently. What specific actions or behaviours do you see yourself doing better or differently?
Now that you have reshaped and redefined your game, what do you think others will perceive? What will they see differently about you? What do YOU want them to observe? What would really surprise your family, your team, your coach or competitors? If you could step out of yourself and examine your new performance, what would you recognise in your new attitude and behaviours?
- IDENTIFY precisely what you do that hurts your own cause the most.
- ELIMINATE that action or viewpoint immediately. Break any bad habits such as waking up late, being late to training that prevent champion performance.
- REPLACE the old habit with a new performance champion regime that fully substitutes the old behaviour.
- REINFORCE this new level of behaviour as your champion’s foundation on which you are building the new, better version of yourself!
We are all CHAMPIONS until we lose to ourselves!!!
Make your new GOLD story compelling, one that is active and personal. You need to see it to achieve it. Each time you do this exercise, your vision of how you perform as a champion will become clearer and stronger. Your new mental picture will get the performance ball rolling in the right direction.
To go a step further, it is good to contrast the personal pride and peace of mind that results from having a champion approach to life with the future pain and regret of knowing in your heart that you settled for less than your best. Will you continue to sacrifice what you most want to achieve in your game for what is comfortable in the moment? Or will you keep putting your best foot forward, especially when you least feel like doing it?
The New Version of You 2.0
Act like you are a Champion
Having a big dream and a clear vision of what you will look like while pursuing competitive excellence always inspires GREATNESS. Asking questions to understand how great athletes think, train and thrive will align you with them in your pursuit of greatness:-
- What is your dream goal?
- What does excellence in your game look like?
- How do you behave when you are dialled in and passionately pursuing your dream – becoming the best you can be in your sport?
Make the description vivid and powerful enough to give you that burst of adrenaline when you need it, a burst that can come only from connecting completely to your heart’s true desire. This is how great athletes think, train and thrive!
There is no golden road to excellence; excellence is the golden road. Until you start down this road, you’ll never have a chance of getting there. As such, act as if you are a total champion for set amounts of time each day by exceeding normal expectations. This time is where the rubber meets the road. You are confident, focused, energised and in charge.
How dos it feel different when performing at peak levels versus just doing business as usual? Are you arriving early to practice or running late? Are you making weekly plans just for training or just winging it because you’re too tired or too busy? Are you giving the extra effort needed for excellence? It’s the difference between an average athlete/player saying “one day I will”, whereas a gold medal winner/champion says “Today, I did!”
Adopt the philosophy of “Do it. Then say it.” Actions really do speak louder than words, so take a moment right now to ask yourself, “Am I walking (or running) the talk with how I’m preparing myself for competition?” Some days you will not feel motivated or your nerves will have got the best of you. You will feel as though you have only your B- or C-game ready, not your A-game. This moment will be your moment of truth.
The best and quickest solution for overcoming your inner resistance, challenging old patterns and changing bad habits is to fake it until you either find your A-game and recover your form or finish it, and the game has ended. Slow it down and break it down. Panic is not an option for a champion.
Realise that this choice is your choice, doing the thing you don’t want to do rather than giving in to the easier option of putting off or giving in to your fears and anxiety. Push right through the block, smash the mental obstacle out of the way, stand tall and walk/play strong. Keep your head in the game, maximise your mental resources and eventually you will develop positive new ways of being and performing that will become automatic in their own right. This strategy is a GAME CHANGER that will rewire you with peak behaviours and emotions. Acting like a champion really works if you work at it. So go work at it NOW!
What is your Mental Block?
What stops you taking the Champion’s Road?
Please share with us the struggles you face on your journey to greatness.
Here are 10 questions to get you started on your road to becoming a Champion:-
- What is your No.1 goal?
- What time do you get up each day?
- What is the first thing you do when you get up?
- How do you prioritise your day?
- What are you doing when others aren’t watching?
- Have you measured your current level of Excellence? Bronze, silver or gold?
- Which is your weakest area of Excellence? Psychological, Physical Fitness, Technical Mechanics or Tactical Strategy?
- Are you early, on-time or late to training?
- What extra activity do you squeeze in before the end of the day?
- How many books do you read in a month?
TO BE CONTINUED…. Please keep an eye out for the next part of our journey into The Champion’s Mind. How great athletes think, train and thrive.
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Excerpts taken from “The Champion’s Mind – How Great Athletes Think Train and Thrive by Jim Afremow PhD. ISBN 978-1-62336-562-2 – An excellent read from a leading sports psychology consultant and licensed counsellor.