There's something about them, a calmness. You can feel their easygoing confidence just standing next to them during competition. Everyone hushes up when they speak and pays attention to their every move. Champions stand out from the crowd and you might even think they were born that way. As it turns out, they earned it; and so can you.
According to Lanny Bassham, Olympic gold medalist and author of "With Winning in Mind," a champion is someone who is in harmony with the idea of winning. If it is like you to win then winning becomes an option. If you are not comfortable with being the champion then you are unlikely to succeed. This goes beyond telling yourself that you are going to win; you must live, eat and breathe being a champion, getting up in the morning feeling like a natural-born winner, and going to bed thinking the same thing.
A champion earns belief in herself by working harder than her peers. She spends more time in the gym, practices her skills longer and constantly thinks about her sport. If you outlast everyone around you, working harder and sacrificing time that could have been spent elsewhere, then you'll naturally begin to believe that you deserve to be on top; that you've already earned it. And with such a measured approach to getting better, you'll take hard-earned pride in your newly developed fitness and skill set.
A young Larry Bird, growing up in a poor area of Indiana, would practice shooting his only basketball in the driveway during harsh winter weather. Cold temperatures would deflate the ball, so he'd bring it inside and set it near a hot stove to reinflate. Then he'd go back out there. Champions have a persistence that defies logic. If you are willing to endure hardships and humiliation, and overcome setbacks, then you'll show grit during competition. And when the going gets tough, you'll feel comfortable while others cave around you.
In the crucible of competition, late in a game, champions emerge. While other players choke under the weight of pressure, winners perform confidently. A champion does not allow the stress of the environment to dictate his mental state. He's worked hard enough and long enough, and believes in himself enough to drown out the noise. But he's also smart enough to work on his mental game, practicing how to shield himself from crushing tension. If you have a well-practiced coping strategy then you look forward to crunch time, performing at a high level while others falter. You may even become addicted to the feeling.
Gary Mack, author of "Mind Gym," says that champions, "Live their lives backward. They create a future, and then they live into it.” They are so confident of their direction that they see themselves as well-known winners and live accordingly. Every decision made in life, from what type of friends they keep to where they live, is dictated by the end game, by where they see themselves in the future. Living life backward reframes and redefines sacrifice. If you make all your decisions because of where you know you are going to be, then it doesn't feel like sacrifice at all. And every setback is just another story of how you got there.
- With Winning in Mind; Lanny Bassham
- The 7 Secrets of World Class Athletes; Steven Yellin and Buddy Biancalana
- Mind Gym; Gary Mack with David Casstevens
- Drive; Larry Bird with Bob Ryan
- Photo Credit Duane Prokop/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images