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7 Mindset qualities of elite athletes & How to develop them

Updated: Feb 1, 2023

“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”

Michael Jordan

The best athletes in the world tend to share similar qualities amongst each other, and it's undoubtedly true. Why? Because they are the KEY components of a successful athlete. No matter what sport you're playing, it will take the correct Mindset to achieve the best results.

Athletes sometimes get overly focused on the physical training variables and forget to maintain training on their mental capacity. More athletes fail at reaching their highest potential because they lacked care or understanding towards their Mindset. The number 1 piece that creates the drive for these qualities to be heightened is PASSION. Without it, the desire and pursuit for elite performance will only reach a sliver of the individuals potential.

People must understand the reality of sports... If you're pursuing athletics to an elite level, expect it's going to be a long a difficult road, tons of twist and turns with ups and downs, and if your Mental toughness and Mindset are not staying up to par, it's going to be a tough road to endure. For this reason a lot of athletes can struggle with their mental health in a different way. Potentially because of failure and set backs, or high expectations and low self-confidence, even over-training and under delivering. This is why many will not make it through the whole process of the journey. The mental grind is MUCH more difficult than the physical grind, for the most part. But, like any other masters of their craft, time and effort are the components of success in a career. See the pursuit as a way of life with no rush or desire to achieve the results right now. Except its about enjoying the experience and having as much fun as possible. I guarantee you will perform better if you're happier. Muscles are more relaxed, and the mental approaches are way more patient and precise.

That's what sports are all about... competing and having fun. But, as we develop and get older, the games get more serious, with higher implications towards our future opportunities to continue playing and make a career out of it. When fun becomes work though, it can start to feel like a chore and create a sense of burnout or roller coaster emotional stability. Because of this controlling our Routine and Mindset are vital for consistency and maintaining enjoyment of the athletic process.

If we make our sport feel like a job instead of a passion, it will eventually become too much of a burden because sports are VERY COMPETITIVE and younger athletes are getting developed faster and faster. This doesn't take away from the years of dedication, but shows the reality that science, training, nutrition and newer development in coaching and mental aspects are elevating athletes quicker to amazing new records and accomplishments amongst their leagues or franchises. Competition breeds winning... so if athletes get better at younger ages, their potential for development by their prime will be exponential to athletes before them, who may of not had the same development and focus from outside sources, to be the best athletes that are more focused and in a routine. As well, when the iconic athletes are getting better, it makes younger athletes want to be just as good, which then feeds back into the development going to another level. Anyone who loves sports would see this is a great thing for the future of human athletics and the next level entertainment that will come from it.

Dreams are free. Goals have a cost. While you can daydream for free, goals don’t come without a price. Time, Effort, Sacrifice, and Sweat. How will you pay for your goals? – Usain Bolt

Athletes all have a dream of being in the pros, and performing on t.v. But the reality is less than about 1.5% of all high school players will make it into NCAA college play, less than 0.2% will be drafted into the pros. In total, this reflects roughly only 1 in every 520 high school players will go pro. So, there should be more focus on making the most of the experiences, life lessons and friendships that come along the way, because those last forever in memory or wisdom. Potentially you may be that 1% that get the opportunity, but along the journey if you keep it fun and in the moment, you would of always been on the path to be there, and if it doesn't work out, at least you gained a lot of life experience that many people do not achieve.

So now that we understand the reality of being an elite athlete, and see that the life of a pro athlete may look like all glitz and glamor with lots of perks, but if anyone were to be committing their whole life to that one goal, those perks become necessity for maintaining elite performance, and only people who have lived it will understand this. Typically people just see the superficial benefits or the "tip of the iceberg" of what's really happening behind the scenes. Therefore, people will make comments and remarks along the journey, because they have no clue about what it takes to endure the process. However, if we work on these 7 distinct qualities and perceive the process with a healthy Mindset, the stress and hard work of the journey becomes way more enjoyable.

Our Mindset is Everything! The reality you perceive is always the end product of your mindset...

The 7 Key Mindset Qualities successful elite athletes and techniques to develop each

1) Persistence

The quality to keep pushing forward and maintain work ethic no matter what happens. The ability to endure until the end... As well, the consistent drive to keep trying and pursuing the desired end results, regardless of the failures, setbacks, struggles or even success. You maintain your persistence by reminding yourself of "why" you really want to achieve certain goals. At there end of the day it all depends on your PASSION and work ethic to continuously work on your craft. If you don't enjoy it or find its no longer fun, then complacency and procrastination will eventually set in. Make sure you keep the process balanced and joyful to prevent burnout or mental health fatigue.

2) Positive Realism

Positivity is a crucial and intrinsic part of having the right Mindset. However, positivity is needed to be tempered with realism. Why? Because you are never positive 100% of the time. it's just not human nature at times. Of course not every situation in athletics can be positive or enjoying, but learning how to make the best of any situation is necessary. So, positive realism is about trying to make the best of a bad situation or challenge, but tempering that with realistic assessment and action based on your circumstances. The best way to see this in action is staying grounded, and going into everyday with a positive attitude. There are distinct ways to create more positivity but so many variables in life can be a part of the equation. So make sure you take a step back and really asses what's holding you back from staying positive, because often it is something off the field that does it.

3) Humility

Humility is about staying hungry to keep improving. A humble person is one who is quietly confident in his or her mindset, yet is always realistic in assessing his or her strengths and weaknesses. A humble person does not under- or overestimate abilities.

If you practice humility, you will become an internally motivated person. You will seek to achieve and improve yourself not for external validation, but to satisfy your own desire to keep growing as an athlete and a person. That’s the kind of motivation that will keep you training through rain, hail, or shine. The Key to staying humble is never letting your ego take over in the first place. Stay thankful and grateful for your abilities and always focus on being the best version of yourself and treat others how you want to be treated. Typically being a team first person and staying respectful to competition, will keep this all in check.

4) Lack of regret

How many times have you competed in an event and wished you’d done more training? Or finished an event and wished you had pushed yourself harder? For most athletes, this is a regular occurrence. It is also a mindset that leads to a lot of regret. Regret is a powerful and destructive human emotion. When you are preparing and competing, you need to have the courage to honestly answer this question, “Am I satisfied that I did everything I was willing to do to achieve my goal?”

Just like life, game days are not infinite and they’re certainly not warm ups. Make every opportunity count. Control the controllable. That is, do everything you are willing to do to achieve your goal right now. If you practice all the qualities discussed today, then living a life of no regrets should become second nature.

5) Vulnerability

Being vulnerable is not a quality that most would associate with having a strong mindset. A vulnerable person is one who is not afraid of failing or sharing those failures with others. Vulnerable people realize they learn more from times of failure than success. They are not afraid of adopting an open-minded approach to training or trying new ideas. They recognize the need to change and evolve as they age or as their goals broaden, and they are willing to seek help to get the best out of themselves.

While vulnerability is often seen as a sign of weakness, it is actually the opposite. Being vulnerable allows you to strengthen your resolve because you cannot grow truly strong until we acknowledge the areas where you are weak. Exposing your vulnerability will ensure you never get overconfident, and it will always remind you of where you came from and how hard you had to work to get where you are. Nothing builds a determined mindset more than that. Be willing to jump out of your comfort zone, and anything is possible!

6) Patience

Are you willing to wait months, years, decades to accomplish your desired result? Imagine you are an Olympian who puts 4 years into training specifically to perform perfectly for a few seconds or minutes of competition. Would you have the passion and drive to wait that long for your shot at glory? Because that's what it takes to really achieve greatness at the highest level of sports. Majority of athletes are not phenoms who achieved success at a very young age. So it takes at least 100,000 hours or repetitions to even be considered a master of your sport. But, that doesn't guarantee results either, and other than the tedious years of training and competition, frankly the patient lifestyle is needed to create positive results in order to even reach the highest levels. Why? Because if you rush the process, then the performances will be lacking, causing irritability and regret. Typically, when ever athletes try to force the game, they tend not to react or make the best of split second decisions. In comparison, the athletes who let the game come to them, have a higher tendency of competing smarter with more consistent results. Therefore, patience is a VITAL part of achieving true success in sports. Patience comes from a way of thinking, if your head is sped up, then everything will follow suit. Try meditation, yoga or breathing techniques to calm the mind and get to a calmer head space. for more in-depth details check out our recent blog "The importance of meditation"

7) Optimistic

Control what you can control... heard that before? Being optimistic is a huge part in believing that ones success relies in your own hands. The ability to see the brighter side of any situation or challenge is KEY for seizing opportunities now or in the future. The first step is attributing success and failure to effort, instead of ability. Athletes must be aware that neither success nor failure are final. Often athletes can get down on themselves due to undesired results or failure, and that's natural. But, having the correct mindset to bounce back and know that next time could be improved or better, is helpful in remembering the reality that someone has to win and lose. And just because it wasn't your day today, that doesn't mean tomorrow won't be either. Plus, failure is often more beneficial for development compared to success, because it makes you have to work even harder. Trust your abilities and always put in your best effort, enjoy today, whatever happened yesterday learn from it, and what's to come tomorrow all depends on today!

Now many people will say it takes more than 7 qualities to really be a successful athlete, but some of them can be subjective or opinionated. So we wanted to really hone in on the specific ones that are definitely needed in order to thrive and level up your potential for performance. Some people naturally have 1 more than the other, but that's no excuse to work on something just because you don't naturally get it. Majority of people don't so just stay consistent with hard work, and eventually you can achieve these great qualities.

Stay Strong...Stay Healthy...Stay Consistent & Keep Developing yourself

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