Summary: Discover six mental habits of successful athletes that can help you level up your performance: positive self-talk, visualization, finding a larger purpose, measuring persistence and consistency, focusing on the process, and taking responsibility for your journey. 5 Minute Read
6 Mental Habits of Elite Athletes
As someone who has been surrounded by professional athletes almost my entire life, I have learned that success in sports, and in life, comes down to the right mindset. Whether you are an athlete or not, the habits and behaviors that the best athletes in the world exhibit can help you take control of your progress and level up your performance.
Here are six mental habits and behaviors that I’ve seen time and time again from the world’s top athletes:
1. Positive Self-Talk
The voice inside your head can be your biggest ally or your worst enemy. Athletes who excel understand the power of positive self-talk and use it to their advantage. Instead of criticizing themselves, they encourage and motivate themselves with positive affirmations.
During my basketball career, my favorite teammates not only mastered this behavior but were also great at helping others on the team stay positive and encouraged.
2. The Power of Visualization
Visualization is a powerful tool that can help athletes improve their performance by mentally rehearsing their actions. Meditation, for example, is a technique that can help you improve this powerful habit.
During my basketball career, I would visualize the game in my head the night before. This can be hard to accomplish at first and requires practice, patience, and consistency. But once you experience the power behind it firsthand, it can become a powerful tool. Whether you’re an athlete or not, visualizing yourself achieving your goals can help you stay focused and motivated.
3. Finding a Purpose – Do it for Something Bigger than Yourself
Athletes who are driven by a larger purpose are more likely to succeed. The clearest example of this is Olympic athletes or those representing their countries at any world event like the soccer World Cup. Most of these athletes don’t get paid to play at these tournaments, yet they compete with more grit than they would playing for their teams.
Similarly, finding a larger purpose in life can help you stay motivated and focused on your goals. Find your “why,” and there’s no obstacle you won’t be able to overcome.
4. Intentionally Measure your Persistence and Consistency
Successful athletes understand that consistency is key. They are also brutally honest with themselves. The best of the best track their progress and hold themselves accountable for their actions. Most importantly, they never negotiate with themselves. They understand that there are no shortcuts, and that there’s nothing more important to reaching your goals than being self-accountable.
Similarly, setting measurable goals and tracking your progress can help you stay motivated and focused on any goal you set for yourself.
5. Become Obsessed with the Process
You’ve probably heard this before, but the most successful athletes are able to focus on the journey rather than the destination. They are constantly looking for ways to improve and push themselves to be the best they can be. It’s unlikely that you will find joy in everything you do, no matter what job or career you have. Athletes face challenges and do things they don’t enjoy all the time.
When I played, I struggled with cold tubs after practice, but I did it because I knew it would help my body recover before our next training session. The key is to find a balance between doing the things you enjoy most and those that are necessary but less fun.
6. Own your Journey and Take Full Responsibility for the Outcome
Successful athletes understand they are in control of their own success. They take full responsibility for their actions and are accountable for their own results. Additionally, they understand the importance of keeping your focus on the things you can control while not stressing over what’s out of your hands.
During my career, there were times when I struggled with the decisions my coaches would make. I felt like I deserved more playing time, for example. But instead of focusing on my coach’s decision (which I had no control over) I would turn my focus inward. I’ would practice more and harder to prove to my coach that I could better help our team by being on the court and not on the bench. Similarly, owning your journey, taking responsibility for your own success, and focusing on what you can control will help you stay motivated and focused.
One thing I’ve learned over my years in the world of collegiate and professional sports is that it’s never about you. I was introduced to this concept by my college basketball coach, Fran Dunphy. At the time, I didn’t understand what he meant, and I never had the courage to ask. I feared looking like a fool. It was only after years of experience and overcoming many challenges that I started grasping the idea of what he was referring to.
“It’s not about you” is a reminder that success in any area of life is not only about your individual achievements but also about the collective effort and contributions of those around you. It is a recognition that we are all part of a larger community, and our actions can impact others. Successful athletes understand that they are part of a team, and their success is tied to the success of their teammates. Similarly, recognizing that your success is tied to the success of others can help you stay humble, grounded, and focused on the bigger picture.
Adopting these habits and behaviors of successful athletes can help you take control of your progress and level up your performance. By practicing positive self-talk, visualizing success, finding a larger purpose, tracking your progress, focusing on the process, and taking responsibility for your own success, you can achieve your goals and become the best version of yourself.
Remember, it’s never about you – success is a team effort, and we all need help along the way.