What we think directly affects how we feel, which directly affects what we do. Said another way: attitude determines our altitude, and it comes from how we think, whether we realize this or not. Wait…does this mean that athletes who are confident and having fun play better than those who are frustrated and timid? Absolutely! So which comes first, the chicken or the egg? I don’t know. But which comes first: successful outcomes or a positive, confident, fun attitude? For many, success does, but for the greatest athletes in the world, the ideal attitude for performance comes first.
Attitude is a function of what we think about/focus on. Most people’s attitude goes with the flow, thinking about/focusing on current events, current needs, current fears, current desires, etc. That can be good, but can just as easily be bad if the current is, for example, the Niagara River. It might not even seem dangerous at the moment, but it could be heading towards a great fall! My reminder to athletes: you have extremely little control over what goes on around you, but total control of how you choose to respond to it. It is in these choices that lay your freedom, your growth, your happiness, and your personal power. Choose wisely.
Many people have a less-than-ideal attitude about “failure.” Instead of viewing it as a needed stepping stone for success, they see it as an end in itself — a bad one. If they would remember the wonderful goal of approaching their potential, it would be easy to think like a scientist pursuing the question, “How good can I be?” Always remember that we learn and grow from adversity.
• A mistake by self (or someone else) often leads to negative emotions, which can cause the problem to snowball by creating a poor approach/attitude on the next play.
• An athlete or his teammate makes an error and he tries to “make up for it” by trying harder on the next play. Was he not trying hard before? Trying to do too much (pressing) is not the way to win the mental game.
• An official blows the call, but it’s just one call. It is almost always the athlete’s response to this that blows the game.
• A losing player is so mad that he forgets to learn from the experience.
• A winning player is so pleased that he forgets to learn from the experience.
• Poor self-talk words such as “gotta” “impossible” and “don’t screw up” lead to a less-than-ideal performance attitude. These words could be replaced with “opportunity” “challenge” and “excited” to create a winning attitude.
Suggestion: relentless positivism, emphasizing whatever helps and de-emphasizing whatever doesn’t. Don’t underestimate the “glass half full” attitude’s impact on performance! Mental skills improve with practice just like physical skills do, so don’t wait until game day to practice the skill of having a positive attitude. Consistently bring positive energy, respect, and appreciation to practice. Hold yourself accountable for your attitude and body language, even during conditioning or after making a mistake. If you receive constructive criticism, be grateful, not resentful. Use your brain to overcome your fearful emotions. After all, would you prefer that the coach ignores your mistake, signifying that she’s giving up on your potential?
Your perspective on things determines your attitude. Appreciate your opportunities; they are significant. Compare our chances for happiness, satisfaction, and service to others to what they would be if we had been born in a different place or time. Statistically speaking, you and I did better than winning the lottery when we were born.