If you are an athlete struggling, this question will help you solve 99% of all the possible problems you will face.

Am I the type of person that is attracting success?

  • Yes: great, continue being that type of person.
  • No: great, you have learned that you have to change. Read more and act now.
  • Maybe: congratulations, you are human. There must be some things you can work on.

Full disclosure, I would have answered maybe or no more often than I would have answered yes. Many times, I would have said yes. Those times led to massive success. The other times taught me what was important. I’ve summarized what is most important below from almost 10 years of committing myself to my own hockey dream.

Intro

As an athlete, you know that perfection is impossible. You also know how it feels to be good or even great at something.¬† What you don’t realize yet is how good everyone else is at the next level. They are all the type of people that attract success. You should want to be in the room with those type of people. And you should want to be one of the more successful ones when you do.

How does this relate at all to mental health? The way you feel each day is how you feel over the course of your life. The way you feel each day is your mental health. So if you spend a lot of days feeling like a failure, you will not feel so good about your life. This is the most avoidable type of misery.

Change your relationship with stress

You are likely reading this because your situation is stressful. Stress feels bad unless it is applied to something that is useful to you. That is the whole point. If you were a person without stress, you would never get anywhere but other people take you.

You as an athlete learn this when you first make a team that is a good challenge for your abilities. The game isn’t just easy anymore and that might be stressful. But this is a good thing. You learn so much faster when you have stress. You should welcome the stress that you do have and act on it.

Here are 3 examples:

  1. A hockey player isn’t scoring at the next level so he decides to spend his energy shooting more pucks.
  2. A first-year college athlete is struggling with classes so she gets up early to spend more time on the difficult topics.
  3. A pitcher is getting hit hard for pitches that used to strike out hitters, so he starts to work more on pitch location.

In the end, these athletes have a better shot, better grades, and better pitching. But each would not have if they weren’t stressed.

Set and follow a vision

A clear vision is the number 1 reason you will be successful. If your stress is not worth facing for the vision you have, you will not face it. Your vision can be a long-term idea of who you want to be or it can be a series of goals. It sets a good feeling for your future. If you don’t have a good feeling about your future, go back and read strategy #1 (it is first for a reason).

Your Performance Code Explained details how to set and maintain a vision for your future despite emotional obstacles.

What is critical for you is that where you are going has some emotional drive behind it. Ask, what would you really want if you could have it? Think about how you will get past what’s in your way, then go get it.

‘Growth mindset’ first

Embrace challenges. You must see failures not as evidence of being a bad athlete but as a way to grow. Growth mindset is the practical way to learn from your mistakes. It is also the way to improve your traits. If something you are thinking or doing is not working for you, you can change it.

As an athlete, your mental strength can be improved like your physical strength. But the process is different. Growing your mental strength takes you being aware of yourself and knowing that you can correct yourself. If you have a tendency to beat yourself up for mistakes, know that you can practice being more forgiving and patient.

If you don’t believe that, ask anyone who has made serious personal changes. They will tell you that you are only stuck with your flaws if you fail to accept and take action on them.

‘Play mindset’ last

Play mindset is approaching your day to day life with the confidence of a master. It is not easy to get here. You must do thousands of hours of work on yourself, your skills, and your physical training to truly feel like a master. But when you are on the way there, think sometimes of how good you have already become. Then play with that swagger. You still know you can & must get better. But you also have the confidence that what you try will work because of who you are.

Be honest

Being honest means you have an accurate understanding of the world. You don’t pretend that anything is true that is not true. You dream for the future, but you don’t imagine something that you cannot make real. If you need to understand the truth about sports, here it is: you will be as successful as you are lucky AND excellent. That means you must put in a lot of work. If you do put in this work, reflect honestly about how that has changed you. Hard work will change you. So be grateful for every time you did something difficult.

Know more than 1 trick

But don’t let everything distract you. Some tricks are more useful to know than others. No one will pay you to party, but people will pay you to play your sport better than most of the rest of the world, write excellent articles, play music, or do useful work.

The point of knowing more than 1 trick is that it is good for your life to have skills. It contributes to the variety of your life and it makes . You might feel trapped or limited if all you do is your sport, especially if it starts to go badly.

If this is you, consider this permission to put time into something useful that is not your sport. Follow your passions to learn another trick. It might change your life.

Have (and update) an identity that gives you hope

If you believe in where you are going, you should feel good about the type of person you are trying to get there. Build yourself up. And build other people up around you who are doing the same hard work you are. That way your sense of who you are is tied into the good things you do and the people you connect with, not just your talents that you have.

And as you grow, let your confidence grow with you. Look at who you are today and see if you cannot aim to improve even more from there. Your identity is good for you until it holds you back. Always update it to where you are and where you could go. Even if that means letting go of something you once thought you could do to aim at something different.

Conclusion: Before you have the big things, get the little things right

Before you have the big things, get the little things right. There is so much to do as an athlete pursuing elite level sports. Each of these little things will add energy to your life that you can then spend on the big things like your vision, mindset, or identity.

But the things you do everyday  Here are 5 little things you can do well everyday:

  1. Greet the people you see like you care to see them. This sets the tone for how you interact with them.
  2. When you leave a place, take a minute to reflect on what happened. If you go 3 places in a day you can have a second to appreciate the good of each of them as you leave.
  3. Eat well (because you do it more than 1000 times a year, so it probably matters more than your ~50 games)
  4. Take care of your body (you will have it and want it to work well for ~20,000 days after the end of your sports career)
  5. Sleep to wake up. Every day you wake up you have a chance to do something life changing. Wake up rested because you want to be ready for the life changing thing.

There are even more little things you can do well. Ask, what do I do everyday and how could I do it better if I need to? Then master these small things.

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