In the world of elite sports, two emotions can be incredibly powerful: awe and curiosity. Awe and curiosity can shape your mindset for success in sports and life. They can grow your confidence and make you resilient. What do you find most fascinating about your sport? Odds are, this is what you will spend your time learning. What you spend your time learning determines what results you get and the quality of your sports experience.

These two emotions alter how your brain is prepared to find more information, try more strategies, and perceive the problem. This article talks about how awe and curiosity should drive your life in sport. The coolest part is: it already happens naturally… you can simply encourage yourself to engage with these wonderful emotions. 

Your experience

Think back to moments in your life when you’ve felt awe. Even better, think about one in sport. Maybe it was as a young player, seeing professionals for the first time. Or maybe there is a certain player you always loved watching. Awe is the sense that what you are noticing is different from the normal things. One player might play so differently that everyone is in awe. When you are a young athlete, older or more talented athletes are the one’s that inspire awe in you.  

Your curiosity is a different emotion. One great example of how curiosity helps athletes is noticing something a talented athlete does and thinking ‘can I do that?’. This is how many athletes learn. It is visual learning plus emotion. Curiosity is where awe becomes focused on action. Action doesn’t happen unless you have a reason to answer a question that goes something like, ‘could I do something great like that too?’

Awe and curiosity are the two positive emotions that drive your will to train. Most athletes are competitive. Truly great athletes are both competitive and full of awe and curiosity for their sport.

Learning with emotion

You have two options: pursue your curiosity or ignore it.

What happens when you actively pursue awe and curiosity? When you lean into these emotions, you wire your brain to favor them. You begin to seek out experiences and opportunities that inspire awe and ignite curiosity. That means your brain is now wired to learn as much as possible. In the long run, learning = winning. 

However, what happens if you neglect your curiosity? When you ignore this intrinsic desire to explore and understand, you create space for others to dictate your life’s direction. Ignoring curiosity can lead to regret or cynicism, hampering your growth as an athlete and a person. You won’t come to learn that curiosity can be the difference between winning one game and winning many challenging games in the future. 

Why positive emotion is so important

Awe and curiosity are positive emotions that motivate you. They also do more than just motivate you. 

Awe and curiosity can foster a unique form of confidence. It is confidence that, over the course of a season or more, you have a true level of skill on the things you have spent time learning. This kind of confidence is so natural that there is rarely any bragging that goes along with it. You recognize what you are most expert in because you have been most interested in. In hockey, that might be offensive skills, it might be skating, or it might be team play. 

And you can become interested in all sorts of different parts of the game (and different parts of life). What matters is that you follow interests far enough that they turn into both skill and confidence. If you are in awe of the shortstop who makes running throws so effortless and never commits an error, you can learn how to become that shortstop. But it takes consistent emotional investment.

This confidence is not arrogant. It is humble. It knows that for everything you have learned, there is so much more to learn. 

These positive emotions also make you resilient. If adversity and obstacles seem small compared to your awe and curiosity of your sport, nothing will stop you. Every athlete has problems. The sooner you learn to replace problems with positive emotion, the farther you will get.

The day your sport stops making you feel awe and curiosity is the day you need to look for more inspiration. Watch a new style of player, read a story of another athlete, or even think about what interests you outside of your sport. Interest = learning and learning = winning. So whatever you want to win in, no matter the obstacles, you have to follow your interests. The biggest adversity you will have is not being interested.

Awe and curiosity can help you fall in love with playing and learning about your sport. If you truly love your sport, you already know this to some degree. If you are falling out of love with it, harness these two emotions and see how you begin to feel. 

Emotion guides your career

Your biggest responsibility to yourself is to follow your natural curiosities. Every one who is successful in their sport does this.

On the mental side of your sport, becoming interested in your own thoughts, emotions, behaviors can give you the same skill and confidence as shooting pucks, 3-pointers, or batting.

How can you nurture awe and curiosity in your life as an elite athlete? Here are a three actions to get you started:

  1. Always follow curiosity. If there is something you are interested in, pursue it (within reason, this is not one sized fits all advice). If that thing gives you the kind of results you want in your sport, pursue the next natural evolution.
  2. Look out for awe. Always pay attention to what is happening in your sport to see what makes you think ‘wow’. This will serve as inspiration to know what to be curious about.
  3. Turn awe into curiosity. When you see something cool, ask if you can do that too or even do it better. Odds are the cool thing will take time to master. That’s okay. Your active curiosity is the best starting place.

What happens if you spend too long ignoring awe and curiosity? There will not be anything that you want to pursue in your sport. Heading to training can feel like a chore. Or it can feel like the time you spend discovering new secrets about your game. Games can feel like a performance. Or it can feel like a chance to test your ideas and skills against strong competition. The whole idea of playing sports in the first place is that you learn how to play the game well. Playing well is having awe and curiosity for the game over time.


As an elite athlete, you’re not just honing your physical skills. You’re gaining life skills. You’re cultivating an emotional and mental process that will stay with you for the rest of your life. Awe and curiosity can be powerful emotions while you pursue the best in your sport and beyond.