Watch your thoughts for they become words,
watch your words for they become actions,
watch your actions, for they become habits,
watch your habits for they become your character,
watch your character for it becomes your destiny.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
Success is not an accident
No, if you asked him, I'm sure he would say that his success is no accident of genetics or luck. It's because of his devotion to the game, himself, and his constant drive for improvement. Below is a video from Unscriptd, discussing how obvious it was to anyone who was watching, even early on, that he would be great.
Winners Run Sprints
The greatest example I have ever heard of a coach trying to instill this champions mindset in a team comes from Coach Harbaugh. In his first spring with the Wolverines, he had the daunting task of changing the culture of a program some said had become "soft," or "entitled." Harbaugh, who has always approached life with a blue-collar, workman-like mentality, knew exactly the kind of attitude he wanted his team to have.
Anyone who has played sports can tell you how miserable running sprints at the end of a practice can be. You're tired, hungry, and you just want to go home. That's why sprints are often used as a punishment, or a deterrent. Slacking off during practice? Run sprints. Fumble the ball or throw an interception? Sprints. However, following a scrimmage during spring practice, Harbaugh did something that, in my role as a performance coach, was one of the greatest things I've ever heard: he made the winners run sprints while the losing squad watched.
At this point, I'm sure you're thinking what a lot of his current and former players must have thought: "this guy is crazy." But there was a method to his madness. To Harbaugh, sprints weren't a punishment. They were an opportunity to get better. The squad that won the scrimmage had won the opportunity to improve themselves, and the losing squad got to watch them get better while they stood around. I'm not sure you've ever seen a team that was disappointed to not be running sprints.
This constant striving for improvement is why some believe he wears out his welcome wherever he coaches. He pushes people too hard. He expects too much from them. But he's trying to create a culture, an attitude, a mindset. A champions mindset. Not everyone is going to buy in. It will rub some people the wrong way. But those players who buy in, those players who are willing to put in the effort to constantly improve, will become champions. They will rise to the top, above all of the complacency and "good enoughs."
And the best part is, they will carry this attitude and mindset with them for the rest of their lives, in everything they do. He is setting them up for success far beyond the football field.
How You Can Do It
- Make every rep count. Don't take any reps, runs, or rides off. Every single rep is an opportunity to improve yourself. If you're not taking advantage of every opportunity, you're doing yourself a disservice. Do you think the greats in your field (sports, music, whatever it may be) will be taking it easy? Saying "good enough?"
- Do one more. Whether it's one more rep, one more flight of stairs, one more mile: do one more. Continue to regularly push yourself, and you'll realize you're capable of more than you thought. What was a challenge yesterday will become a strength tomorrow.
- Do something today to become better than you were yesterday. It doesn't have to be directly related to your goal. For a football player, this might be taking a dance class, or doing yoga. For another person, it might be learning a new skill, or challenging yourself in some other way. Complacency is the enemy of improvement, so find some way to challenge yourself daily.
- View difficulties as challenges to overcome, not setbacks to avoid. Challenges are an opportunity to improve yourself. Don't miss that opportunity.
- View effort not as an outcome itself, but a necessary step towards improvement. Effort is not the end goal, but it is an important part of achieving whatever goal you have set for yourself. It's a step in the right direction. It's a marathon, not a sprint.
- Make your goals priority #1, and let everything else work towards that goal. If you're an athlete trying to become the best, you have to dedicate yourself to that. And that means making decisions elsewhere in your life to help you achieve that. Stop your Netflix binge one episode early in order to get to bed early before your morning workout. Instead of going out with friends for a night of fun on the town, stay in and review game film. Becoming the best means devoting your entire life to your goal, and making everything else fall in around it.