Have you ever wondered what makes elite athletes so successful and admired by many? On the surface, we may see the fame, the accolades, and the million-dollar contracts. But what if I told you that the true source of an elite athlete’s success lies within their mind?
Drawing from my experience as a former professional athlete for over 15 years, I can tell you that the fame and money you see are only byproducts of these athletes’ relentless determination to perfect their craft and achieve their goals.
That drive and determination are part of what we call “The Athlete’s Mindset” – a form of mental preparation that helps these individuals perform in high-stakes and even hostile environments at the highest level. Today, I will share with you the key principles of this concept and how you can apply them to your own coaching practice.
Failure as Opportunity
The first thing that great athletes understand is that failure is not an endpoint but a stepping stone on the path to success. Michael Jordan, arguably the best basketball player of all time, said, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
Jordan’s perspective exemplifies a key aspect of the Athlete’s Mindset: failures are viewed as opportunities for growth and are an essential part of any journey toward success. NBA superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo also had a similar viewpoint on failure when he said that “failure doesn’t exist.” You can listen to his take on this here.
Personal Growth Over Comparison
While athletes compete against other athletes, they understand that the true competition lies within themselves. They continually strive to become their best, focusing on their own progress rather than comparing themselves to others.
A great example of this is Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps. After winning an all-time record for any single athlete of eight gold medals at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Phelps acknowledged that his toughest competitor was himself. He understood that to attain that level of greatness, he needed to surpass his own limitations and continually raise the bar.
By embracing the Athlete’s Mindset, we channel our time, energy, and efforts toward self-improvement and personal growth.
Defining Your Own Success
In the world of sports, success is often associated with winning championships and trophies. However, the highest performers understand that true success is not solely defined by external accolades. They set their own expectations and goals, independent of others’ metrics, and focus on aspects of the game they can control, such as effort, preparation, and attitude.
By identifying and defining our own parameters of success, we can gain a sense of autonomy and fulfillment, fostering a healthier and more sustainable path toward achievement in all areas of life.
Goals Aligned With Priorities
An aspect often overlooked in an athlete’s career is the sacrifices they make to achieve greatness. To excel and dedicate themselves fully to their sport, athletes must make difficult choices, sometimes foregoing family gatherings, important events, and time with friends, to name a few. These sacrifices come from a clear understanding that, in life, nothing comes for free. High performers understand that their goals should be aligned with the kind of sacrifices they are willing to make to achieve them.
At the same time, elite performers understand the importance of balance and mental health. They recognize the value of rest as an essential component of their training regimen. Applying the Athlete’s Mindset, we can align our goals with our priorities, learning to say no to that which hinders progress and derails us from our path, while still nurturing our overall well-being.
Athletes face constant scrutiny and public judgment, yet the best are able to maintain an unwavering inner confidence. This unshakable self-belief is cultivated through hard work, perseverance, and repetition. True inner confidence comes from knowing that what they are about to do, they have done thousands of times before.
These individuals also understand that external opinions can distract and hinder performance. By focusing on their own journey and putting in the necessary effort, they develop a strong self-assurance that shields them from external negativity. When we embrace the Athlete’s Mindset, we can develop resilience, find reassurance in our abilities and efforts, and remain unaffected by external opinions.
6 Tips to Help Your Coaching Clients Develop An Athlete’s Mindset
Here are six tips to help your clients develop and nurture an Athlete’s Mindset:
- Embracing a spirit of collaboration
Regardless of your industry or career, success is rarely achieved alone. High performers understand the power of collaboration and teamwork. Encourage your clients to develop a strong support system that keeps them accountable. As their coach, you are an important part of their support system and play a vital role in fostering this collaboration.
- Establishing consistent routines
Consistency breeds success. Encourage your clients to establish routines that promote consistency, improve focus, and bring stability to their lives. From morning and evening rituals to daily exercise routines or setting intentions at the start and end of each workday, these routines will help optimize performance.
- Cultivating mental strength
Resilience, focus, and unwavering self-belief are crucial attributes of high performers. Help your clients cultivate mental strength by encouraging them to step outside their comfort zones, embrace challenges, and take calculated risks. By guiding them through this process, you empower them to become a better version of themselves.
- Practice, practice, practice
To excel in any field, deliberate practice is key. As a life coach, you understand the importance of continuous improvement. Encourage your clients to dedicate themselves to consistent practice in their respective areas. By emphasizing the importance of iteration and growth, you can help them accelerate their development.
- Setting achievable goals
Elite performers know that long-term success is built on small, consistent steps forward. Assist your clients in breaking down their big goals into achievable milestones. By focusing on incremental progress, you enable them to maintain motivation and build momentum along their journey.
- Shooting your shot
High performers understand that transformation requires embracing discomfort and confronting your limitations. Encourage your clients to step outside their comfort zones and make bold decisions. Remind them that transformation happens when they face challenges head-on. Help them realize the value of seizing opportunities and taking action. The Athlete’s Mindset teaches us that you miss 100% of the shots you do not take.
Leverage the Athlete’s Mind as a Catalyst for Growth and Transformation
In the pursuit of a fulfilling and successful life, coaches and clients can harness the transformative power of The Athlete’s Mindset. This extends far beyond the boundaries of sports and can be leveraged to help our coaching clients reach their true potential.
Just as athletes push themselves beyond their limits in pursuit of greatness, we, too, can push ourselves and our clients to excel in our personal and professional lives.
The Athlete’s Mindset teaches us that success is not merely measured by external achievements, but by the inner growth and progress we make along the way. It empowers us to set ambitious goals, overcome obstacles, and persevere through setbacks. By applying the principles of the Athlete’s Mindset to our coaching practice, we can guide our clients to cultivate a winning mentality and embrace their journey toward becoming champions in their own lives.
Juan M. Fernandez
Juan M. Fernandez is a former professional basketball player and now a certified life and transition coach who empowers individuals to go after their dreams through transformational coaching. Drawing from his extensive background in sports, Juan combines his experiences to guide clients through career transitions, overcome burnout, and cultivate a growth mindset. His unique blend of professional sports experience and life coaching expertise positions him as a powerful guide in the world of personal and professional development.