There is too much information out there for a struggling athlete about how to change. The same goes if you’re a successful athlete wanting to get more from your sport. If you want to live better where should you start? Bottom line, you should start. Even if what you try is a complete mistake in the end, at least you made an effort to make things better. There are, however, a few things that are highly likely to work. These, I would say, you would be stupid not to try. You are in a good place to start right now, read more:


Even better, you can do them right now. These are simple things that will have a profound effect on your life over time. After all, that is life. I said it better in a text to my friend recently. 

In this text ‘it’ just meant the big dreams we all have in sports. I say this because, from my experience, pretending it’s going to work out doesn’t work. Assuming it is going to work out doesn’t work. Pretending and assuming are opposites to believing. Believing something will work out comes when your whole life experience points to something and says ‘YES’. 


It is great to believe that what you are doing is going to work, but that is a conversation to have with your best friends. The purpose of this article is to give you 3 things that you can do right now that will help set you on a trajectory for better mental health in the future. If you do each of these three things, you will believe that things will work out in the long run. There is more. You will have:

  • Better confidence
  • Better experiences
  • Better results
  • A more useful attitude
  • Better connections with others (because you are not so miserable)

Ready for the steps? Everyone hates step 1:


Skip this step if it is daytime right now. Actually, don’t skip it. Setting yourself up for a great night’s sleep is something you can do during the day too. The point of mentioning it here is that you should read this post at some point (which takes everything I’ve learned about sleeping well and puts it in one place). 

The reason it is important is that the next two steps become so much better when you are well-rested. Your emotions are more clear and so are your thoughts. So morning or night, plan to get enough sleep tonight. That might mean you have to move some things around in your plans. That is okay. It is the most reliable place to start. 


When you are moving through your day, you are presented with choice after choice. You go from being presented with the thought of what you’ll eat for breakfast, to what clothes you’ll wear, to how you’ll prepare for training. These are all opportunities. There are opportunities everywhere. Most of these opportunities are easy. I’d put things like eating cereal, wearing a stained unfolded-t-shirt, and not warming up in that category. 

Doing the next available hard thing is about thinking, as you’re presented with each decision, what thing is going to be the best for you. More often than not, that is the harder thing. Making a full breakfast, putting on clean clothes (that you may have had to clean), and doing a proper warm-up fall into the ‘hard’ category. 

The reason they are hard is not always because they are hard in that moment. Rather, these decisions require consistent action. Over time, that is a whole lot of action. But if you believe that the hard thing you are doing is going to work… odds are it will. 

A better sports example is the idea of getting off your ass when you’re tired to do an extra workout. Every athlete knows how bad that would feel in the moment. What you need to learn is how useful that extra workout is in the future and that you should do hard stuff like that more often… because it will make life easier in the end. If you do the extra workout, you might get injured less. Then instead of rehabbing for 2 months you are playing and earning the opportunity to advance because you did one hard thing when it was available to you. 

PRO TIP: There is almost always a hard thing available to you if you are looking. 


Stop and reflect. If you were reading the last section and felt like some of it wasn’t true, this section is for you. Doing the hard thing won’t always necessarily work. You can work too hard for the results you want. Sometimes an extra workout actually hurts your body more than it helps. That depends on your sense for the day, which is a key mental skill.

Sense for the day means you move throughout your life knowing what will help. You have a structure or intuition that works and you know it works. You build up this sense in one way: reflection.  

Reflection is about taking a step back from where you are and thinking how your actions are working out for you. You can reflect on any one thing you do, or on the way you approach things more generally. Reflection is one of the more useful skills in life. People who reflect well on past choices are normally the type to make better choices in the future. 

When it comes to sport, there are various ways reflection helps. The most useful time to reflect is whenever you are not actively doing something else. Great reflection normally starts with the question, is this working? It is up to you to define your own expectations of ‘working’ and then to focus on different types of ‘this’. For example, is this working might mean am I playing strong defense? Then you can think through your answers. How are you playing strong defense? How are you not? How could you do better?

In Your Performance Code Explained you have the opportunity to think about some key behaviors to your best performance. You can then reflect on these behaviors directly in the MMG Digital Journal. For you, this is how you best develop and maintain a growth mindset, no matter how talented you become. 


Through this process, you can begin to ask:

Is what I’m doing every day getting me closer to my ultimate best life?

Everyone can imagine a best life where their problems are just not that big of problems. For you as an athlete, that might be having a long professional career, or making college and graduating with a degree, or getting the experience required to work in sport after your playing days. There is something out there that would make your life worth it to be living. 

These three simple steps can help you get there without all the anxiety about where you are going. After all, believing is acting like something is true. The combination of rest, work, and reflection is the way to act like your big dream is going to come true on good days and bad ones. Where you are in your life shouldn’t change your process. If it does, sleep, do a hard thing, and reflect on what that process is and why you are doing it.


Written by Kyle Johnson
Kyle is a Founding Partner at My Mental Game. He is a professional hockey player in France. His key areas of interest are behavior and psychology. Read more about Kyle.