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Wake Up To The Power Of One

How to Think Like One of the Greats

When you’re competing at a high enough level, the truth is that every single person you’re going up against is highly skilled. So, what’s the magic ingredient that separates the greats from the rest of the best? A little thing called mindset.

Training and natural talent can only get you so far. Why else would teams hire sports psychologists if thinking wasn’t a critical part of peak performance? You need to be gritty and get comfortable with the sheer amount of discomfort that comes from training to achieve next-level performance. That requires mental willpower over everything else. Fulfilling your potential and getting a step ahead starts with how you think. Here’s how to do that like one of the greats.

“You could be gifted, and you could be in great shape, but if the way that your mind is functioning is counter to that, you’ll never realize that physical potential.” — Dr. Stan Beecham, Sports Psychologist

Here are the 3 mindset traits you'll need if you want to think like one of the greats.

Develop awareness

You’re at the free throw line. It’s a tight game, and this is your chance to pull ahead. Your team is counting on you. The silence is heavy, the sweat drips, and you can feel the players leaning in towards you, ready for the ball to hit the court. As you try to steady your breath and fight the adrenaline from the intense gameplay just moments before, what’s going through your mind?

The first step to thinking like a top-performance athlete is to become highly aware of your thoughts and emotions — especially during high-stress scenarios. Self-awareness will also help you develop and step into a peak performance mindset faster. By becoming aware of your thoughts and emotions, you can identify and tame them to focus on what really matters. The ultimate goal is to not think at all. Just do what you already know how to do at a high level with the belief that you will be successful. Everything else is a noisy distraction that detracts from the skills you already possess.

Being fully in the moment is called your flow state and it can be highly beneficial to performance. Take this womens’ lacrosse team, for example. After six weeks of mindfulness training, the players found they could slip into a present state of being more easily, going on to win the championship the next season.

ACTIVITY: Deep Breathing

Did you choke during a high-stress moment? Here’s a simple activity you can do next time to move back into the now and calm yourself down for the big moment.

1) Pay attention to your breath. Are you taking short, shallow breaths into the chest? If so, your heart rate will have a hard time slowing down, signaling stress, and releasing hormones like adrenaline into your system. In short, it will be hard to focus up and hit the shot.

2) Focus on slowing down the breath: Inhale into through your nose and into your stomach, filling your lungs slowly with air from the bottom, feeling your belly push outwards, before reaching a full inhale to the top of your lungs.

3) Exhale slowly.

4) Repeat.

In this YouTube video, a Special Olympics coach explains belly breathing and how to breathe better for anxiety in sports. She suggests inhaling for two counts, holding for two counts, and releasing for at least four counts. This helps you focus on your breathing and brings you back into the moment, reducing stress and anxiety.

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Focus on the now

We often say, “When I do ______, I will be successful.” The truth is performance takes place in the present. If you’re already thinking ahead about what it takes to be the best, then you’re starting yourself out from a place of doubt. To be a winner, you have to already feel like and believe you are one. This also allows you to grasp exactly where you’re at in the present and identify the key areas you want to improve.

Olympic long jump and sprinting legend Carl Lewis said his pre-race thoughts are simple. Just get out of the blocks and run. “If you run your race, you’ll win.”

The Now also includes little wins. You should never save the celebration for the big championship trophy — celebrate consistently along the way. Nothing will make you feel more like a winner than winning more often. As per the Law of Compound Gains, small improvements add up to big changes in the long run.

Finally, focusing on the now also means focusing on the solution, rather than the problem, when things go wrong. The mistake is in the past — What can you do now to ensure it never happens again? Ruminating will mess up your flow and take you out of your performance mindset. Learning and moving forward will add to your small daily improvements and ultimately chalk up as a win. Everyone has a bad day, so being able to shake things off and not have them affect your confidence is huge. P.S. The key surrounding failure is that you shouldn’t be afraid to do it. It isn’t about whether or not you fail; it’s about how you respond to the failure.

P.S. The key surrounding failure is that you shouldn’t be afraid to do it. It isn’t about whether or not you fail; it’s about how you respond to the failure.

Keep going

Ultra runner and all-around inspiration, David Goggins, believes that humans only function at about 40% of their potential. The key to unlocking the last 60%? You guessed it — mindset. Humans get comfortable. We set our own boundaries and roadblocks that hinder us from achieving our full capacity. Oftentimes our bodies are capable, our minds just tell us that we’re not.

Remember when we said that thinking like one of the greats requires grit? Here’s where it comes in. Your opponent may have better chances of winning than you on paper, but if you don’t stop, even when you’re in pain and think you’ve hit your threshold? You’ll succeed where they won’t. Don’t put yourself in a box you’ve made up in your mind — break through those walls and keep going.

The mindset of a top-performing athlete is crucial in achieving peak performance. Having self-awareness and being mindful during high-stress situations can help an athlete identify and tame distractions. The key to success is to be fully in the moment, also known as the "flow state," and to trust in the skills and abilities you already possess. Practicing deep breathing techniques, focusing on the present, and celebrating small wins along the way are all ways to develop and maintain a winning mindset.

Now that you know the importance of mindset in achieving peak performance, take the first step towards reaching your full potential and get high-quality and comfortable performance wear that will help you reach your goals.

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 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.” — Michael Jordan

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