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Think Like an Athlete: Achieve Your Life Goals With These 7 Mind Hacks

Reach your goals and get things done with these 7 invaluable tips.
by Therese Sivertsson | Jul 29 2016

A 100-meter race in under 10 seconds, a marathon in just over 2 hours. How are athletes able to achieve such superhuman feats? Natural talent, physique, and genes play a big role in these achievements, but it’s the right mindset that allows them to breach the boundaries of what’s thought to be humanly possible. This mindset is not exclusive to the world of sports, but rather something that you can practice and use to achieve your own goals. Whether you’re looking to get a promotion at work, charm the love of your life, eat healthier, or improve your life in any other way, taking a tip or 7(!) from the world of sports and Olympic Champions will help you get there.

1. Set Smart Goals

You have to set goals in order to achieve them. Athletes are champions in goal-setting and have different approaches to breaking down a far-off goal to make it manageable. The book Mind Gym talks about SMART Goals, that is, goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. Setting your goals according to this principle will make it clear to you what you have to do to achieve it, help focus your attention on the final outcome, and know when you’ve succeeded. Bottom line: dream big, but divide that big dream into smaller pieces that you can track, step by step.

Where we found it: Mind Gym by Gary Mack

2. Rethink success

What is success, really? Is it a promotion, a high test score, or finishing first? Or is success made of things more abstract, like fulfillment, happiness, or waking up with a smile every morning? Defining what success means to you will help you set adequate goals and celebrate the right achievements. A common misconception is that success = pushing yourself to your absolute limit, but you may achieve your goals faster by simply slowing down. How? Mind Gym says to think of human muscle tissue, which is made up of agonists and antagonists. When we run at top speed, agonists work their hardest to make us run faster while antagonists work as hard as they can to slow us down. If we would slow down a little, our antagonists would offer less resistance. Success, rather than existing at an extreme, might just be a matter of dialing back the intensity enough to let our bodies and minds do their best work.

Where we found it: Mind Gym by Gary Mack

3. Don’t dwell on failure

Another step towards becoming a champion is to learn to let go of failures and instead, focus on celebrating your successes. This is contrary to what many of us are taught in school—to minutely review our mistakes and learn from them—but focusing too much on what didn’t go so well might make you take your good performance for granted. When you do encounter hardships on the way to your goals, take a step back, take a deep breath, and try to understand what happened so you can learn from it (was it something in your control or was it something you couldn’t have avoided?), and then move on and leave the mishap behind you.

Where we found it: How Champions Think by Dr. Bob Rotella

4. Commit to your passion

In order to become really good at something, you have to actually want to be good at it, too. Nobody sets out to run a marathon in two hours unless they love to run—and the same goes for anything else you take on in life. Aiming for a promotion mainly because you think it is the natural next step in your career will make it hard for you to commit to this goal and feel excited about it. Without passion for the goal you’ve set for yourself, you’ll struggle to motivate yourself to put in the amount of work you’ll need to achieve it.

Where we found it: Mind Gym by Gary Mack, How Champions Think by Dr. Bob Rotella

5. Believe you’re a champion

If you think of yourself as a winner, whether in your career, in love, or in life in general, chances are higher you’ll become one. Muhammad Ali famously said: “To be a great champion you must believe that you’re the best. If you’re not, pretend you are.” The Mindful Athlete underscores the power of controlling your mind as a means to achieving your goals. Our beliefs about ourselves and the world form the basis of the habits we develop. If we think of ourselves as champions, we’ll start acting like champs, and vice versa.

Where we found it: The Mindful Athlete by George Mumford

6. Don’t listen to naysayers

Did you know a negative environment can stand in the way of you achieving your goals? There is no perfect correlation between optimism and success—but there is an almost perfect one between pessimism and failure. To begin with, negative action might stop you from taking action in the very first place as you may fear failure and ridicule. Rid yourself of naysayers and surround yourself with positive people who dare to dream big. This will inspire you and help motivate you on the journey towards your goals.

Where we found it: Mind Gym by Gary Mack, How Champions Think by Dr. Bob Rotella

7. Forget about perfection

Lastly, don’t aim for perfection. Humans are imperfect by nature and challenging yourself to a perfect outcome of whatever goal you take on will mow down your motivation. Let’s say that your goal is to finish university with perfect grades, and one of your steps to get there is that you will always get all answers right on every test that you take. If you lose a point at any step along the way, you’ve failed to achieve the perfection you were striving for and you’ll feel like you’ve ultimately failed your goal. What successful athletes do instead is set realistic goals, break them into trackable steps (see tip #1!), and reflect on the outcome in order to learn from the process.

Where we found it: Mind Gym by Gary Mack

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