In working with many athletes over the years, I often hear them say the phrases “I just need to get out of my own way,” or “I can’t get out of my own way.” In this moment, they are acknowledging the reality that their current choice of thoughts is preventing them from performing at the level that they know they can perform. They are essentially getting in the way of unleashing their potential, and it all begins in their mind.
I often use the following axiom with the athletes I coach:
Every Action Begins With A Thought
When you stand over a golf shot, you are thinking about where you want to hit the ball. When you are on the mound, you are thinking about pitching the baseball into the catcher’s target. When you are at the free throw line, you are thinking about bending your knees and following through on the shot. At least, this is what you should be thinking about in order to put your mind in a position to have success.
It all begins in the mind, and the words you choose to feed yourself affect your performance. If you are thinking negative thoughts or words that are fearful, you significantly minimize your chance to be successful. You are in essence “getting in the way” of unleashing your talent! If, however, you focus on positive thoughts and words that lead you to belief and trust, you put yourself in the best position to perform at your best.
It sometimes takes a careful evaluation and rewiring of our vocabulary and the words we use in order to develop the best words and, ultimately, thoughts to focus on. For example, I have had some athletes meet with me the day before a game or competition and say the following: “Tomorrow, I just want to worry about hitting my shots.“ Now, I understand what they are saying, but in that moment, they are using the negative word of worry.
Instead, the best approach is to use the right words and rewire your thoughts about the game. A better phrase in this instance is: “Tomorrow, I want to focus on being athletic and playing with energy and effort.” This phrase changes the key word to focus and centers around process-oriented things that you can control vs. outcome-oriented things that can be influenced but not controlled.
These sports performance concepts also apply to other areas of life. Consider the following questions:
- As a business leader, do I sometimes let negative thoughts or doubt affect my actions?
- Do I hinder myself from truly maximizing my potential and achieving my goals based on a limited view of my talent and strengths?
- Do I let doubt affect my ability to trust the people I lead and influence with more responsibility?
- Do I try to control outcomes instead of focusing on process-oriented things that I can control and influence?
- What negative words do I need to throw out of my head and replace with positive ones that can put me in a position to have success and the correct focus?
- Do I begin each day with a possibility and growth mindset, or do I limit the trajectory of my day and week due to a pessimistic and stagnant point of view?
They key is not to get out of the way, but to show up and be present with a mindset that is determined, not debilitating. You must realize that your thoughts affect your actions. The reality is that you do have a choice regarding your thoughts, which can have a positive effect on your performance in sports, business, and life. Moreover, your choice to speak from a positive mindset and vocabulary will in turn help others maximize their potential and opportunities as well. Choose today to live from a place of possibility and growth!
This blog post was adapted from my upcoming sports performance workbook, Be Present: Showing Up When It Matters Most, which will be available this summer.