Performance psychology, Sports Psychology

Mindset: Going to the Core

So, we have talked about the difference between a player’s mindset being situational to the given task, or comprehensive—an overarching approach to a quality of thinking and being. Here is the most compelling reason: relationship.

This is not what you may think at first. It’s not about whether we have friends or significant others or if our coach likes us. It is about the fact that on some level everything is connected and therefore everything is in some form of relationship—including the relationship we have with ourselves. This is not a narcissistic or selfish notion. It is simply very real.

Even the most outgoing and talkative people will talk to themselves more than anyone and we do it all day long–thousands of words, comments, and directives. The effects of self-talk have been studied and the influence noted. How you talk to yourself matters. Negativity brings heavy doses of what you don’t want, while positive self-talk has a profound impact on well-being and performance. Again, it’s all connected.

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Given this, if your performance mindset varies considerably or is situational in comparison to other roles and activities in your life, a lack of consistency exists that can breed trouble. While you can’t measure potential, you can validate consistency over time. Consider athletes that fared well at some point, but other aspects of their lives were in constant flux and disarray. The trajectory of their careers resembles a roller coaster, but the most important point is: they made choices that did not align with excellence. Which means at the moment of choice and afterward, they had to rationalize thoughts, feelings, and actions that did not align with the mindset required of elite performance. Their self-talk in these moments has the quality of self-delusion.

You can only exist this way for so long before the consequences add up and affect performance and potential. At some point you get “found out.” All the while deep down you may realize something is not quite right. You may even consider yourself a phony or you may be too arrogant, reasoning that certain principles and rules do not apply to you. Short-term you may find some measure of success. The long-term is a different story.

Competitive sports are littered with such stories—some big and others that you will never hear of. For every one who momentarily shines before the fall, there are several who never make it to the bright lights because of a lack of alignment. The heart of the mindset is alignment with the principles of developing character and competence.

More on that next time…

If you would like more structure to take your mental approach to the next level, consider picking up a copy of my new sports psychology workbook: Above the Field of Play. Or to learn about other sports psychology services, visit my website at

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