What was the last goal you set for yourself? I hope that you can remember, but it’s possible you forgot because life got hard. There is no doubt that your goals for your sport will challenge you. It’s only a problem if you let that challenge get in your way. Forgetting your dreams is like turning off your life for a while… when you turn it back on you’ll be farther from where you wanted to be. 

As a former junior and college athlete, I forgot about my dreams. Now I’m a pro. I have new dreams and I try to remember them daily. Don’t forget about your dreams. If they are not working and you feel like giving up, work on yourself first. The investment in yourself will open up opportunities for new dreams that you didn’t imagine were possible. 

There are two simple things you must do to achieve any dream you want:

  1. Work on yourself.
  2. Work on your dreams. 

It takes consistency. It also takes the right ideas. There are numerous ways to approach improving. In fact, it can be confusing to figure out what to do. Let’s make it simple so you can get the most out of how you work. 

Here are the steps I want you to take:

  1. Tell yourself you are taking responsibility for yourself: Taking responsibility for yourself is not a new idea. Reminding yourself that it is important might be. Reminding yourself (or telling yourself for the first time) is where the magic is. It will change the way your day goes. It works.
  2. Start to understand more about where you are today: Where do you start? Be very real at the start. Understand your behavior, emotions, motivations, and communication styles. What are your strong points, and what could use some work? Try not to be hard on yourself. Just learn.
  3. Learn to think about the future: Visualize where you want to be. The more detail the better. Think about the things you achieve, the skills you have, and the person you feel like. Build your future from today. To do this, you must think about what will cause your future to unfold the way you want.
  4. Believe: add positive psychology. Three real practices that change your state from negative to positive and useful come to mind:
    1. Affirmation is telling yourself positive things about the future. It works best when it interrupts your normal patterns of thinking (where you are biased towards noticing threats to your own well-being like ‘my coach doesn’t like me’). Catch yourself being negative and then be positive.
    2. Visualization is just like it sounds. You imagine, in detail, something going well in your life. This opens up your mind to thinking about HOW things will go well in great detail. It’s especially useful to visualize HOW you will do it. Great visualization means great performance.
    3. Ultimately, the point of positive psychology is not to get the results you’re dreaming of. The point is to get where you expect to get those results because you have done what you needed to and become the person who gets those results. That is called positive expectancy. Life goes well when you convince yourself that it will.
  5. Look closely at what upsets you: Turn the spotlight on the stuff that gets under your skin. What upsets you–whatever throws you off your game, face it head-on. This can be in sport or life. Don’t dwell on the negatives; it’s about redeeming something bad in your life. Make it better. You can!
  6. Think more clearly: It’s a lot easier said than done. Thinking clearly means you are rational about when you are fooled into believing something that is not true. Often, the problems you run into most come from false beliefs. It can be relieving to uncover a false belief but it always takes some work.
  7. Work: create time in your life for what matters. Make room in your life for the stuff that moves you forward. Do this in a way that is true to yourself. Most of the things people do are either not that important or not what they want. You as a high-level athlete have a different challenge. There is always something urgent to prepare for. Every day is ‘important’.* The next game or practice comes up fast. You are already learning how to be prepared on a daily basis. But what about if you want time for other important things?
  8. Reflect on how it’s going, often: Hit the pause button regularly. Check-in with yourself. Are you moving in the right direction? Life (and sports) are a series of problems and opportunities. You must move away from problems and towards opportunities if you want to be successful. For example, move away from whatever will cause your bad relationship with your coach to get worse (don’t scream at him during practice or be closed to feedback). When you have an opportunity, move towards it.
  9. Get better friends: Who you spend your time with is who you become. Spend time with people who level you up and challenge you. You want to be around people who want to help you (and you want to help), people who bring good energy and who clap when you win. You can hang out with anyone. You cannot live the way you want with anyone…
  10. Start focusing on your win: Winning isn’t a one-time thing; it’s a way of living. The best way to win is to figure out what you want (and what you can do) and then ask yourself how to get there
  11. Level-up your health (so you can do more and enjoy more): Treat your body like it is your most important investment, because it is. You cannot play elite sports for very long if you are not healthy… and we’re not talking about boring health routines. You must think about things that will sustain your energy (physical and mental) for the challenges that you must face in order to succeed.
  12. Remove useless, add useful: Stop doing what is useless or harmful. Ditch the junk that’s holding you back and pack your toolkit with what gets you ahead. It’s not about tossing things aside carelessly; Be strategic – if you can’t do something for the rest of your life, it is probably not a good strategy.
  13. Be self-conscious of what you do well: It’s funny that people only want to be happy. If you start to think about the kind of happiness that lasts, it becomes clear that what people want is to be more than just ‘happy’. Here is my opinion: you want to feel really good about yourself. You want to know that what you’re doing is good and that you could do it in the future. If you can’t, you want to do something better.
  14. Be authentic rather than adaptable: What does it take to be authentic? You must act and talk to people like the person you always wanted to be. Nothing else will make you fulfilled in the long run.
  15. Accept obstacles: For the emotionally charged people among us, it can be difficult to accept that things will go badly. Sensitivity can be a good thing. But you can’t let your negative emotion stop you from doing anything at all. This is a philosophical change. You can see obstacles as good.

If you want to read the whole 19 page document with explanations, personal stories, and useful takeaways, please email us HERE with the subject line ‘Growth PDF’ and we will send you your free copy. 

The ‘How to Improve Yourself: A Guide to Being Better and Happier for Elite Athletes’ is normally on sale for 29.99. It will give you a year’s worth of practical information in the 15 steps. Each step has served as the basis for a winning mental game in sports and in life. 


Choose one step from the list above that you think is most useful. You know which one that is, just take a second and it will come into your mind. You don’t have to do everything. You have to be willing to do this work, so also think about choosing something that you CAN do today. 

Don’t get bogged down by something confusing. Start small. Start with something achievable. Then you can move forward. 

Good luck!


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.