Why mindset is everything when it comes to inner power
Mindset is everything as a game-changer for athletes.
Whether you’re an aspiring athlete looking to improve your performance or a dedicated fan seeking a better understanding of what separates the best from the rest, mindset is everything and by reading this article you will find out why and how to improve it.
What is Mindset?
At the core of every athlete’s journey lies their mindset – the attitudes, beliefs, and thoughts that shape how they perceive and respond to the world around them.
Including their challenges and abilities.
It’s the driving force behind their actions and decisions, influencing how they approach training, competitions, and life in general.
When we talk about mindset, we often encounter two primary types: a growth mindset and a fixed mindset.
A growth mindset is characterized by the belief that our abilities can be developed through hard work, dedication, and learning from setbacks.
Individuals with a growth mindset view challenges as opportunities for growth and are not afraid to embrace them to further their skills.
On the other hand, a fixed mindset refers to the belief that our talents and abilities are fixed traits, leaving little room for improvement.
Those with a fixed mindset might shy away from challenges, fearing that failure will reflect poorly on their inherent abilities.
In this way, you can see how mindset influences behaviors and why the phrase “mindset is everything” is so common.
Impact of Mindset on Athletic Performance
Picture this: two athletes with similar physical attributes, training regimes, and skills, competing in the same event.
Yet, one outperforms the other consistently.
What sets them apart? You guessed it – their mindset.
An athlete’s mindset can be the deciding factor between winning and losing, excelling or choking.
In this way, mindset is everything.
The concept of a self-fulfilling prophecy is crucial in understanding the impact of mindset on an athlete’s performance.
If an athlete believes they can succeed and are capable of reaching their goals, they’re more likely to put in the effort and remain committed to achieving those outcomes.
This unwavering self-confidence often translates into better focus, determination, and persistence, essential attributes that lead to optimal performance.
Conversely, an athlete plagued by self-doubt and a fixed mindset may lack the motivation to push their limits, fearing failure and its implications.
This negative mindset can become a self-fulfilling prophecy where their beliefs determine their actions, limiting the athlete’s potential and inhibiting their success.
The Power of a Growth Mindset on Physical Abilities
A growth mindset can significantly impact an athlete’s physical abilities in several ways.
By fostering the belief that abilities can be developed through effort, dedication, and learning from setbacks, a growth mindset creates a positive feedback loop between the mind and body. Leading to enhanced physical performance.
Here are 10 ways how a growth mindset truly is everything when improving an athlete’s physical skills:
1. Increased Motivation
Athletes with a growth mindset are more motivated to put in the effort and work hard to improve their physical abilities.
They view challenges and training as opportunities for growth rather than as obstacles to overcome.
This intrinsic motivation fuels their dedication to training and pushes them to continuously seek improvement.
2. Embracing Training and Learning
Athletes with a growth mindset are more likely to embrace training and seek opportunities to learn and develop new skills.
They view training as an essential part of their growth journey and are willing to invest time and effort in honing their techniques and refining their movements.
3. Resilience in the Face of Setbacks
Setbacks are a natural part of any athlete’s journey. And those with a growth mindset are better equipped to bounce back from failures.
Instead of being discouraged by setbacks, they see them as opportunities to learn and identify areas for improvement.
This resilience helps them stay committed to their goals and continue their efforts to enhance their physical abilities.
Mindset is everything when it comes to turning failure around.
4. Effort and Persistence
Athletes with a growth mindset are more likely to put in sustained effort and persist through challenges.
They understand that achieving peak performance requires consistent practice and dedication.
This unwavering commitment to their goals allows them to push their physical limits and achieve higher levels of performance.
5. Adaptability and Flexibility
A growth mindset encourages athletes to embrace change and adapt to evolving situations.
In sports, the ability to adjust strategies and tactics during competitions is vital for success.
Athletes with a growth mindset are open to trying new approaches and are not afraid to step out of their comfort zones to explore different techniques.
6. Confidence and Positive Self-Talk
Believing in their capacity for improvement, athletes with a growth mindset maintain positive self-talk.
They replace self-doubt with affirming statements, such as “I can improve” or “I can do this.”
This positive reinforcement boosts their confidence, which, in turn, can enhance their physical performance.
PRO Tip: Remind yourself that “mindset is everything” to inspire yourself to be more intentional about your self-talk.
7. Increased Physical Endurance
A growth mindset can lead to increased physical endurance.
When athletes believe they can go beyond their current limits and push themselves further, they are more likely to challenge their physical boundaries.
This mindset allows them to endure rigorous training sessions and maintain their performance during competitions.
8. Faster Recovery from Injuries
Athletes with a growth mindset are more likely to approach injuries as temporary setbacks rather than permanent limitations.
This mindset encourages them to engage in proactive rehabilitation efforts and focus on their recovery.
Mindset is everything to heal faster and get back to training and competition routines.
9. Greater Goal Setting and Aspiration
Athletes with a growth mindset tend to set more ambitious goals for themselves.
They aspire to achieve higher levels of performance and are not limited by their current abilities.
These stretch goals drive them to continually strive for improvement and reach new heights in their sport.
10. Optimal Use of Mental Training Techniques
Athletes with a growth mindset are more likely to engage in mental training techniques.
Such as visualization and mental imagery.
They use these techniques to visualize success, imagine themselves executing flawless performances, rehearse how they will overcome obstacles, and reinforce their belief in their physical capabilities.
Maintaining a Winning Mindset Under Pressure
Mindset is everything under pressure and separates good athletes from great ones.
High-performance athletes thrive in high-stakes situations because they’ve trained not only their bodies but also their minds.
Techniques such as visualization, deep breathing, and positive self-talk are some of the tools these athletes use to stay focused, composed, and mentally tough during critical moments.
Visualization, also known as mental imagery, is a powerful technique widely utilized by elite athletes to enhance their performance.
By vividly imagining themselves executing perfect performances in their sport, athletes build confidence and reduce anxiety before competitions.
It’s like mentally rehearsing for success, and this rehearsal pays off when they step onto the field or court.
It is particularly helpful to imagine rebounding from mistakes because perfect performances are rare.
Furthermore, deep breathing techniques help athletes remain calm and centered during stressful moments.
Slow, deep breaths activate the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting relaxation and reducing the effects of the fight-or-flight response.
As a result, athletes can make clearer decisions and perform at their best, even in high-pressure situations.
Positive self-talk is another valuable tool in maintaining a winning mindset.
Athletes can counteract self-doubt and negative thoughts by replacing them with encouraging and empowering statements.
By using phrases like “I can do this” or “I am prepared for this challenge,” athletes bolster their self-confidence and keep their focus on the task at hand.
But please don’t read this and think you have to be positive.
Doubt and negative thoughts are normal, necessary, and at times even beneficial.
When they are hurting your performance and you can challenge them and refocus, then great!
But this isn’t always possible or realistic.
When positive thinking isn’t working, a more psychologically flexible mindset may be more beneficial.
Similarities Between Growth Mindset and Psychological Flexibility
Psychological flexibility, a concept derived from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), shares striking similarities with the growth mindset.
Both emphasize embracing challenges, learning from failures, and adapting to changing circumstances.
Athletes who possess psychological flexibility can navigate through various emotional states and stay focused on their goals, despite distractions or negative thoughts.
A recent study1 concluded that psychological flexibility and mindfulness were, by far, the most important psychological skills regarding your mental health and well-being2.
Truly, mindset is everything, and scientifically it accounts for nearly 45% of everything we know about why psychotherapy works.
Psychological flexibility is about being present and fully engaged in the moment.
It involves recognizing and accepting one’s thoughts and emotions without judgment, allowing athletes to respond effectively to whatever arises.
By cultivating this awareness, athletes can identify any self-limiting beliefs that might hinder their progress and question their utility.
If they find that thought unhelpful, they choose to refocus on a more empowering thought.
Athletes with psychological flexibility are less likely to get stuck in negative thought patterns or be overly attached to their successes or failures.
Instead, they maintain a sense of mental agility and adaptability, enabling them to navigate challenges and maintain composure under pressure.
A psychologically flexible mindset embodies these characteristics:
- Embracing Challenges: Athletes with a psychologically flexible mindset are not afraid of challenges.
They see challenges as opportunities for growth and development rather than threats to their self-worth.
When faced with difficult situations, they maintain an objective attitude and are willing to put in the effort to overcome obstacles.
- Learning from Failures: Athletes with a psychologically flexible mindset view failures as stepping stones to success.
Instead of being discouraged by setbacks, they approach failure as an opportunity to learn and improve.
Psychological flexibility allows athletes to accept failure as a part of the learning process and use it as valuable feedback for future progress.
- Adapting to Changing Circumstances: Psychological flexibility equips athletes to adapt to changing circumstances effectively.
In sports, situations can shift rapidly, and unexpected challenges can arise.
Athletes who possess this mindset are better equipped to stay composed and focused, adjusting their strategies and tactics to suit the evolving conditions.
- Self-Talk: Athletes with a growth mindset use positive affirmations to maintain confidence in their abilities and reinforce their belief in their capacity for improvement.
Psychological flexibility supports positive affirmations when they work.
But negative thinking can sometimes work too.
An example is saying, “I suck” after a mistake.
If those negative statements motivate me in a positive direction (e.g., I practice harder) then there is no need to challenge them as they are working for my benefit.
Rather than engage the positive vs. negative evaluations, psychological flexibility is more concerned with the workability of thoughts and their impact on action.
Sometimes, forcing a positive mindset can create a mental struggle that distracts from an ideal performance focus.
Developing a Psychologically Flexible Mindset
Psychological flexibility is the ability to adapt to a situation with openness, awareness and focus. And the ability to take effective action, guided by values.
It involves a willingness to experience what you must in service of your goals.
By cultivating psychological flexibility, athletes can enhance their mental strength and perform at their best, even in challenging circumstances.
Here are strategies for developing each of the six components of psychological flexibility:
Athletes can benefit from practicing acceptance by acknowledging and embracing their thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations.
Whether positive or negative.
Instead of trying to suppress or avoid difficult feelings like anxiety or self-doubt, they learn to accept them as normal human experiences.
This process allows athletes to stay present and fully engaged in their training and competitions, even in the face of challenging emotions.
When you don’t want to run outside on a hot day, for example, say to yourself, “I am willing to feel the heat and discomfort” as if you have chosen it as a means to promote your fitness.
Cognitive defusion involves stepping back from thoughts and beliefs, recognizing them as passing mental events rather than absolute truths.
For athletes, this means not getting overly attached to self-limiting thoughts like “I can’t do it” or “I’m not good enough.”
You will notice that many of your worries about the future have not come true.
This doesn’t mean that they won’t.
But your experience tells you that it also doesn’t mean that they will.
In this way, a thought is just a thought, not a reality.
This truth can allow you to get some distance from the thought.
By defusing from negative thought patterns, athletes can maintain focus on the present moment and perform to the best of their abilities.
Being Present (Mindfulness)
Mindfulness practices, such as meditation or body scanning, help athletes develop present-moment awareness and non-judgmental observation of their thoughts and emotions.
Mindfulness allows athletes to stay centered and focused, reducing distractions and enhancing their performance.
Additionally, mindfulness helps athletes stay in tune with their bodies, promoting better physical awareness and preventing injuries.
Besides formal mindfulness practices, you can practice active mindful attention during exercise on a bike, for example.
Intentionally moving your attention from bodily sensations in the moment (e.g., the pressure of your foot on the pedal) to the scenery around you (e.g., trees you pass) and back to your body (e.g., your grip on the handle bars).
This enhances your ability to bring yourself into the present moment as it is, without commentary.
Values clarification helps athletes identify their core values and use them as a guide for their actions and decisions.
When athletes align their training and competition goals with their values, they experience a greater sense of purpose and motivation.
This process also helps athletes set meaningful goals that are intrinsically rewarding and in line with their long-term aspirations.
Committed action involves taking purposeful steps toward goals, even in the face of obstacles or discomfort.
For athletes, this means staying committed to their training regimen, consistently showing up for practice, and putting in the effort to improve their skills.
Committed action also includes embracing challenges and seeking opportunities for growth and development.
In your next training session, make a commitment to a few more reps or an exercise you’ve been avoiding and do it no matter what your motivation is (or isn’t!).
Self-as-context is the process of recognizing that athletes are not defined by their thoughts or experiences.
Instead, they are “the observing self” that can witness their thoughts and emotions without being consumed by them.
This perspective allows athletes to develop a greater sense of self-awareness and detach from self-judgments.
As a result, athletes can remain objective and build mental resilience.
A way to practice this is, when you are feeling some discomfort, imagine you are outside yourself watching what you are going through.
What would you say to you?
Hint: say it kindly as if talking to a friend.
Reasons Why Mindset is Everything
Mindset is everything because it influences each of the following important areas and ultimately determines your level of success.
A strong mindset breeds mental resilience, allowing athletes to bounce back from setbacks and remain determined in the face of challenges.
In the fast-paced world of sports, resilience is a priceless asset that helps athletes persevere and come back stronger after failures or injuries.
A flexible mindset decreases the impact of internal distractions and increases focus on the actions needed to succeed, leading to peak performance.
Athletes with a growth mindset actively seek feedback, whether from coaches, teammates, or themselves.
They view feedback as an opportunity to learn and improve, making adjustments to their game based on constructive criticism.
With a growth mindset, athletes are more likely to embrace learning opportunities and keep improving over time. This growth-oriented approach allows them to see failures not as dead-ends but as stepping stones toward future success.
A flexible mindset enables athletes to adapt to changing circumstances and stay focused on their goals.
Sports are unpredictable, and the ability to adjust to unexpected situations is crucial for sustained success.
Mindset influences the body’s response, impacting physical abilities and recovery. When an athlete believes they can overcome a challenge, their brain releases neurochemicals that optimize physical performance, leading to better outcomes.
A strong mindset fosters self-belief and confidence, enabling athletes to take calculated risks, make bold decisions, and seize opportunities that propel them toward success.
Both growth and psychologically flexible mindsets keep athletes motivated and dedicated to their goals, even when faced with obstacles. This intrinsic motivation fuels the drive to continuously work towards improvement.
Athletes with a winning mindset tend to focus on process-oriented goals rather than solely outcome-oriented ones.
Process-oriented goals involve the step-by-step improvement of specific aspects of performance.
These goals place the emphasis on the journey of growth and skill development, rather than merely the end result.
In contrast, outcome-oriented goals are centered around winning or achieving specific results.
Overcoming Limitations: These mindsets empower athletes to challenge self-imposed limitations and explore the outer boundaries of their potential. When they view their abilities as malleable, they are more likely to push beyond their comfort zone and achieve extraordinary feats.
Harnessing Mental Resilience Through Mindset: Sport Examples
Let’s delve deeper into the concept of mental resilience and explore how mindset is everything in the careers of some iconic athletes.
- Serena Williams A Champion’s Mindset:
Tennis legend Serena Williams is a prime example of unwavering mental resilience3.
As she approached the record of winning 18 major titles in 2014, she plateaued at 17 due to the pressure and lost three Grand Slams in a row despite being the number one player in the world.
Her coach challenged her mindset with this statement, “Why are you trying to get to 18 major wins? Your goal should be 30 or 40. 18 is such a low goal”.
Her mindset and approach to the game of tennis changed. “Something released, and I totally relaxed and I won four in a row … Sometimes you don’t know how to be better if you are always doing it right. You can just kinda stay in this plane. Failing allows you to fall and rise up higher than you could if you didn’t fail.”
Her mindset led to her dominance in the tennis world, securing her place as one of the sport’s all-time greats.
“Every time I lose I feel I get 10x better.”
- Kobe Bryant – Earn Your Playing Time:
In addition to his basketball excellence, the NBA Los Angeles Lakers star was known for his Mamba Mentality mindset.
One of my favorite examples of this was when he discussed earning playing time.
His attitude was to work so hard and be so good that he made it impossible for the coach to keep him on the bench.
He exemplified ownership and personal responsibility.
A great example to keep in mind when you think things are unfair and you are not getting the results you are entitled to!
- Simone Biles – Flexibility Under Pressure:
Simone Biles, an Olympic gymnastics superstar, has faced immense pressure throughout her career.
She has performed her best during high-profile competitions by staying true to her growth mindset, focusing on her love for the sport and the joy of competing, winning multiple Olympic gold medals.
But in 2020, she dropped out of several events during the Tokyo Olympics due to the immense stress of competing during the pandemic.
Some criticized this as a weak mindset but it was quite the contrary. “Walking away from the Olympic Games was a win in itself,” Biles said4.
She asserts that her decision was “probably the most courageous I’ve ever been … I had worked for five years and I didn’t want to let that dream go. I had to put myself first, listen to my mind and body, what my heart was telling me to do.”
She demonstrated a strong psychologically flexible mindset by accepting the reality of the situation and staying true to her values of caring for both herself and her teammates.
She considered pushing forward and competing despite grappling with the twisties, a disorienting and dangerous condition that causes gymnasts to lose air awareness, but “that would be so selfish of me to put the team’s medal contention in jeopardy, put myself in jeopardy.”
Simone also admitted her “mind and body were not in sync” when she pulled out of the gymnastics team competition mid-event.
The best mindset moves us in a positive direction towards our values.
It is wonderful to see athletes prioritizing their mental health.
- Tom Brady – A Growth Mindset in Football:
Tom Brady, a football icon and considered one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, exemplifies the power of a growth mindset.
Despite being drafted in the sixth round of the NFL draft, Brady never let his draft position define him.
He embraced the challenges, worked diligently to improve his skills, and ultimately achieved unprecedented success in the sport.
Brady’s growth mindset allowed him to view every setback as an opportunity to grow, whether it was a tough loss or criticism from skeptics.
This mindset, combined with his unparalleled work ethic, has led to an illustrious career that includes seven Super Bowl victories and records that may stand for generations.
Mindset is everything and the power of it in the world of sports is remarkable.
Mindset shapes an athlete’s performance, resilience, and ability to achieve greatness.
By embracing a growth mindset and developing psychological flexibility, athletes can unlock their full potential and conquer any challenge that comes their way.
The best place to improve your mindset is inside Success Stories Membership.
Join us today and start improving both your growth mindset and psychological flexibility so you can be your best when it matters most.
- Hayes SC, Ciarrochi J, Hofmann SG, Chin F, Sahdra B. Evolving an idionomic approach to processes of change: Towards a unified personalized science of human improvement. Behav Res Ther. 2022 Sep;156:104155. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2022.104155. Epub 2022 Jul 3. PMID: 35863243.
- Hayes SC (2023). The most important skill set in mental health. https://stevenchayes.com/the-most-important-skill-set-in-mental-health-2/
- Ritholtz, B. (2018). Transcript: Serena Williams. The Big Picture. https://ritholtz.com/2018/03/transcript-serena-williams/
- Johnson, M. (2022, April 14). Simone Biles Says Walking Out of Tokyo Olympics Event Was ‘My Biggest Win’ Peoplemag. https://people.com/sports/simone-biles-says-walking-out-of-the-tokyo-olympics-was-my-biggest-win/