Where can you find inspiration as an athlete?
Look right in front of you.
I remember being inspired by the idea of excellence after watching the Olympics on TV as a kid. With time, that idea became the foundation for my athletic goals and the lens through which I focused my efforts in training. But what exactly does athletic excellence look like on a daily basis? Work with focus, get at least eight hours of sleep, eat a balanced diet, eliminate distractions, blah, blah, blah…
Don’t get me wrong: All of those things will help you achieve your goals. But you have to admit that the daily grind sounds pretty lackluster when it’s taken out of context from the elements that give it life – the pursuit, the endgame, and let’s not forget – the non-athletic stuff.
I’m talking about family, friends, music, books, artwork, movies, coffee, and more. Maybe something inside of you is sparked by nature. Maybe you find religion or physics awe-inspiring – whatever floats your boat. Whether you realize it or not, your day-to-day work as an athlete is far from single-minded; the way you pursue your goals is an embodiment of both the desired outcome and everything that moves you toward it.
As I continue to pursue my goals, one particular idea stands out: We are always closer to our source of inspiration than we once thought. Perfecting your grind is an individual process that inherently relies on your surroundings; so, as you chip away at your goals, remember to be inspired by the people, places, and things you hold the closest.
How do you win the mental game in sports?
Start by getting to know yourself. Competing in sports is what you make of it. Actually, a lot of things work this way. If you want a good outcome, let values shape your vision and your actions.
I live and compete by my values. And because of that, I see sports as much more than a contest of athletic ability. Can sports be intellectually, emotionally, and culturally engaging? Of course. When I look at the Olympics, I see a culmination of so many unique qualities and characteristics. If you’re focusing on the win in absence of these kinds of things, you’re probably doing it wrong.
I could tell you exactly how each of my core values below shape my mental framework in different areas of my life – training, racing, and living – but that would take the fun out of it. Read between the lines, then give some deep thought to the role that your own values play in your life. Winning doesn’t happen overnight, so enjoy the process and everything that it means to you. Here’s a glimpse of what it means to me.
- Fight: I fight for things that matter to me and I don’t shy away from challenges. You won’t see me throw punches, but you can count on me to put up a fight when it matters.
- Kindness: I treat others with kindness and I do things because I genuinely care.
- Education: I always want to be inquisitive. I’m in my element as long as I’m learning.
- Courage: I believe in courage over confidence. (I learned this from my sport psych, Mitch Greene)
- Poise: I carry myself and my values with purpose during significant and seemingly insignificant times alike.