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Top 5 Mental Mistakes Athletes Make

Much of success in sports and business happens between your ears. You may not be the most skilled at what you do (yet), but you can instantly become just like the world’s greatest athletes by having the same attitude and mindset as them. Having worked with pros in both sports and in business, I have discovered that the road to success are the same in both areas. So is the road to failure. Take your game to the next level by avoiding the most common mental mistakes below.

Mistake #1: They are too negative

Have you ever walked into a meeting and thought, “I hope I don’t screw this up!” and you proceed to screw it up? Sports and life are a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Don’t think about a pink elephant. Did you just think of a pink elephant?

Most people do. Our brain does not know the word “don’t,” so focus on what you want to happen, not what you don’t.

Losers think, “What if I don’t succeed?”

Winners think, “This is what I am going to do to make sure I DO succeed.”

You cannot have a negative attitude and get positive results.

Mistake #2: They focus on their strengths, not their weaknesses

It’s fun to do what we are good at, but that doesn’t help us improve our weakest link. When athletes only improve their strengths and ignore their weaknesses, they only get to a certain level, and smart opponents take advantage of it. Business professionals are the same way. If you are not good at giving presentations, don’t avoid them, improve your technique. Practice does not make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect.

Mistake #3: They think winning is everything

In the world of sports, if winning was everything, you would only compete against people you knew you could beat. That would be boring, so there’s something to be said about a challenge. Something about making a difference, and about constant improvement. If you give it your all and push yourself to play your hardest, then you’re a winner.  If you focus on the result, winning (or making the sale), you will put too much pressure on yourself and you won’t win.

When you focus on adding value to others and the ways in which you can increase your chances of winning, you are in a whole different league. It’s not the record-breakers who take steroids that I look up to, it’s the guys with character, who want to be the best in the world, but also the best for the world. Someone once said, “Nice guys don’t finish last…nice guys are winners before the competition begins.”

Mistake #4: They perform according to their feelings

The biggest difference between elite athletes and club players is that the club players act how they feel. The world’s greatest athletes have high energy – whether they feel like it or not. How do you do it? Act as if. If you act how you want to feel, then you will soon feel the way you act. Anyone can be high energy if they FEEL like it – I challenge you to act energized when you feel like it least.

Frank Bettger was a minor league baseball player and one day, his life changed when he got released. Bettger asked why he was fired and his manager said, “Because you’re lazy.”At that point in time he decided that nobody would call him lazy again in baseball. He then played for a lower level minor league team and something amazing happened. Bettger didn’t change anything with his throwing, hitting, fielding or running.

All he did was act like the most energetic player on the field. People took notice. Bettger himself even felt like a different person. He eventually made the major leagues.

Remember what Charles Schwab said, “A man can succeed at almost anything for which he has unlimited enthusiasm.”

Mistake #5: They don’t have goals

When I ask my clients what their goals are, many times they say, “To become a better tennis player” or “to make more money.” This mindset won’t help you get to the next level because it is not specific enough. A better goal would be, “I want to be able to get nine out of ten serves in the box with slice by March 26, 2011.” or “I want to make $3,000 more per month by the second half of the year.” Make your goals specific, realistic, measurable and timely. And get yourself an accountability partner to keep you on track. Then, get to work.

Secret formula: K – A = O (Knowledge minus Action equals NOTHING)

“If you don’t know where you’re going, you could wind up someplace else.” -Yogi Berra


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3 Responses to Top 5 Mental Mistakes Athletes Make

  1. m_shockley January 27, 2011 at 10:17 am #

    Well written, valid points here. Point #2 is particularly true for younger athletes, but we as humans tend to swing either completely negative or completely positive in our assessments of ourselves.

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