It’s easy to tell someone to be confident, move on to the next play, lock in, don’t over-think it, don’t fear failure, or any of the many other mindsets we casually demand that our athletes perform. However, it is quite another to actually teach them how to go out and implement those skills when they need them the most.

I am fortunate to work each day with Division I student-athletes, US National Team members, and professional athletes. I’d like to share two clear truths from that work. First, while these individuals are highly skilled at their sport they are simply human and have the same moments of mental hurdles and challenges that everyone else has. The second is that conquering these challenges is skill based and can be learned in a similar process to how we learn our physical talents.

The 3 core principles of mental strength:

1. Stay present in the moment

When we re-play the last mistake, or pre-play the potential “what-if” scenario of what could happen we are not paying attention to the present moment. Performance-based stress and anxiety live in the past or future. We have no control to change the past, and only limited control over influencing the future, so stress and anxiety are the natural consequence when we place our attention on either.

Stay focused on the here and now and don't let your mind wander whether you're training alone or in a packed stadium.

2. Keep your focus on what you control

Too often I see athletes that are placing their attention on getting their coach or teammates to believe in them, or to impress a scout. Other times they’ll lose their temper because they’re focused on the referee’s last bad call. While it’s very typical and understandable that the athletes’ attention can drift to these places it is simply useless and ineffective, as they don’t control these things.

Instead I work on teaching my athletes to be clear on what they control (and what matters) within each moment, and then relentlessly pursuing keeping their focus there. No matter how many times it leaves this focus, we practice bringing it back again and again. The more you focus on what you do control rather than what not you’ll gain a sense of calm and composure.

3. Avoid judgment

We can find ourselves in judgment in three ways. First, we either judge ourselves or we feel judged by others. Second, we judge others. And third, we judge the event or the exercise that we’re currently in. Judgment is useless.

Worried about what others are thinking? Focusing on the performance of a colleague? Don't detract from the task only you can complete.

Now that I’ve highlighted the 3 core principles of mental strength, look at HOW to build them. This is the part that truly matters. Whether it’s on the court or field, or in a big meeting with a potential new client, in order to calm the nerves and quell the doubt we must first have awareness.

What am I feeling and why? If you’re experiencing big-time nerves the easiest thing we can do is take a breath and check in with the 3 principles. Am I present? Am I focused on what I control? Am I free of judgment? Identify which is missing and begin to refocus your attention to what you control within that very moment.

These skills are something that we can learn, practice, and work towards mastering. The more often you gain awareness – literally any time throughout your day – and repeat the process, the more you’re ingraining the new mental habits. I teach my athletes to sit for about 10-12 minutes per day and do what I call mindset workouts that drill the use of tactical breathing and mindfulness practices. If you want to have these skills when you need them most you must practice them just like any other strength you wish to improve on.

Please spend 10-15 minutes of your day practicing these skills. I’d love to hear how you make it work for you!


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by Biji Samuel 05.07.2017
Excellent post. 3 points which are relevant for any area of life.
by Stuart Singer Biji Samuel 01.08.2017
Great! I hope you find them useful for any thing that you're involved in that requires you to perform at your best! Try our App...DoSo - found on the App Store...
by Alex Moss 07.07.2017
Very truthful and relatable article! personally valued the Judgement section as it was something I needed to overcome
by Stuart Singer Alex Moss 01.08.2017
It's always a work in progress...use the skills and the more often you do the more it simply becomes your habit...
by Raphaël HOMAT 25.07.2017
Very interesting !
by Stuart Singer Raphaël HOMAT 01.08.2017
Thank you! I hope you can use these skills in your everyday life!
by Kevin M 25.07.2017
Used these throughout my competitive level basketball officiating career
Basic principals similar to neuro linguistic self talk & is based on psychocybernetics.
What's inspiring that if practiced often, there is no situation that surprises or cannot be prepare anyone for elevating to peak performance when called upon by the individual, athlete or official.
It was so awakening when you can create your own zone of peace, response & flow when needed
by Stuart Singer Kevin M 01.08.2017
That's it! It's like a muscle...the more you use it (work it out) the stronger it gets...
by Aaron Wafer 20.10.2017
This was a very good read. So powerful. With a mindset like this anything is possible. #Truth
Nina Weihrauch
Nina Weihrauch | Editor Aaron Wafer 14.11.2017
Hi Aaron,

thanks for your comment.
I'm also convinced that the right mindset is key to sustainable success in professional and private life.
Our community here on GamePlan A is here to help. Be an active member by joining the conversation and meet like-minded creators.

High five,

by iolani yamashiro-rahimi 20.03.2019
thank you!
by Derek 02.06.2019
Awesome! Perfectly describes where I'm at right now. Put into words what I feel and what I need. Thank you