Performance psychology, Self-help, Sports Psychology

Motivation and Effort

There is a connection between motivation and effort, one that requires a clear, honest, and personal vision. The connection is a dynamic current that only one person can truly express, explain, and observe. That person is you. Not the coach, the spectator, the parent or sports psychologist. As an athlete, competitor, or performer, only YOU know the health and vitality of this current.

low angle view of woman relaxing on beach against blue sky
Photo by Chevanon Photography on

Why answers the compelling question of motivation. It fuels the passion required to do what many will not do. Clear motivation allows you to be truthful in the hard moments, in the seams of the day-to-day effort towards improvement. It’s what separates the good from the great. Only you know if you have given your best. Only you know if you are being honest with yourself.

This current between motivation and effort connects to the intrinsic nature of performance for it is the drive, the execution, and the output. On the deepest level, only you can want your vision the most—whatever it is, for it is your path and nobody can want it for you. To me, that is the incredible gift of being a unique being. You get the freedom to choose.

rope jumping ropes human training
Photo by Scott Webb on

And it takes effort. There is no such thing as extra effort, for it means you are not giving what is required in those other moments. It matters. There is no such thing as 110%, but there is the honesty of giving only 90%. And only you will know—even when others assume you are giving your best. This is why the why is first and foremost. Your want to has to be compelling to fuel the drive through the not-so-glamorous moments along the path to worthy and meaningful goals.

So, today and at intervals along the way, ask:

Are you clear on your motives?

Are they true? And are you clear about your reasons for your goals?

These reasons have to be connected to what matters most—for you. Not for someone else although you will and must have relationships and support for the endeavor. But without clarity and commitment, you will not give the effort—your 100%. For you will leave some in the tank. And a little left in the tank each day leads to the off ramp, the plateau, and a feeling of being unfulfilled. This is dangerous territory for soon to follow are the thoughts that identify with and rationalize the feelings, all of which on a deep level explains, “I guess it doesn’t really matter.”

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

Performance psychology

Moments of Truth

In all sports there are moments when preparation gives way to execution at a specific and vital point: In baseball, it may be the contact of the bat to ball or the pitcher’s release point. In tennis, it is the connection of the racquet’s sweet spot to the felt of the tennis ball. In golf, it may be the impact of the putter or the driver to dimples of the golf ball. In hockey, the one-timer off of a perfect pass. Or in basketball, the release of the jumper or free throw. And in soccer, the penalty kick. What all of these events have in common is an inner trust—or distrust in the process.

contact tennis

In my work, I help players to understand the power of language to influence the mindset. Listening to players reflect on performances tells you exactly where they are in their developmental trajectory. It’s either up or down for there is no such thing as standing still in development. These moments of truth in execution have meaning and significance because they reveal:


  • The connection between trust and the moment of truth.
  • The connection between confidence and process. This is internal—not one based in results. Because of other factors in competition, you can not trust the process but still execute and win— but this will lead to a different trajectory, one with limitations.
  • The connection between moment and momentum in the continuum of moments.
  • The connection between trust and self-talk.

contact baseball

It has been my experience that teaching methods, coaching, and media influence (among other factors) have led to an over-emphasis on outcomes and externals. So much so that when I ask if players experienced the moment of truth (Did you see the ball? Did you feel the swing? Contact?) their answers run from silence to a confused stare. They can tell you what the outcome was, but have no recall of the extended process that leads to the result.

man in white denim pants and black sandals playing golf during daytime
Photo by Markus Spiske on

Further, constant focus on the externals not only dampens intrinsic motivation but can lead to an external locus of control. In other words, the results of a match or performance are based on conditions beyond the athlete’s control (“That’s just the golfing gods.” “The weather was really tough.” “I had a bad day.”) But, most importantly, this attitude puts our attention on aspects we cannot control. And the result of an external focus is a consistent and unnecessary internal pressure.

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

Performance psychology, Sports Psychology

Media and the Message: Sounding Off on The Final Round of the PGA Championship

Being at your best for a performance, regardless of the sport, is not something that just happens. There’s a lot of preparation prior to the event. And it’s never been more difficult for young athletes to keep focused on what matters. Why?

Part of it is the environment, and a good part of it is what we are now immersed in but barely notice. Let me explain. I did not grow up with ESPN’s Top Ten, or the type of sports coverage and commentary that we witness daily. YouTube did not exist, nor did cell phones, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. I grew up playing in the streets of New York, and the radio or being in the cheap seats was as close as I could come to the “inside” of the process of sports development. And youth sports was managed by volunteers until the pinnacle which back then was representing your high school on the field of play. Showcase teams and paid coaches were not the centerpieces in most sports for most of the time.

grass green golf golf ball
Photo by tyler hendy on

This is not good or bad, it just is— and what you do with it matters. Technology is neutral, but it is all how you use it. Any tool has tremendous value if used in the right manner. Having the information and resources can be the difference along the arc of developing as an athlete.

Today at the PGA championship, several golfers are bunched at the top and have the opportunity to win one of the year’s four biggest prizes. If you are watching and a fan or a competitive athlete, there is a lot that can be learned today as a spectator. One of the gifts of human experience is the ability to use other’s triumphs and mistakes as part of our learning. Today, someone will be just a bit sharper, a bit more centered on and aware of what matters most. This is more mental than physical and a place of great leverage.

But there are two stories unfolding and this is where it is much different today. Unless you are at the Bellerive Golf Course in Missouri taking it in up close and personal, you will receive the experience through technology. The announcers will tell a story, directed by a producer pointing cameras where the drama is. That is one story, one that does an athlete no good at all for the lens is focused on the drama that is scripted by those who are spectators on this day.

In the trenches, there is another story—one with a very different script, one that unfolds in the moment. The athlete who does not tell stories in his head on this day will be focused on playing and executing. On the other hand, the golfers telling stories in their head will be creating unnecessary pressure for the narrative is in the past or the future. Execution is in the present.

So, the greatest leverage an athlete has is awareness. Awareness of who they are in the moment and what the moment requires. Try watching this last round with the sound off–at least for a while. While it may not feel as dramatic, you will get glimpses of the competitors who are prepared, playing, and saving the stories for after the round.