Cultivating a Successful Mindset

By Amy Gross, Peak Performance & Mental Coach,

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”
—Maya Angelou

Your ability to develop a winning mindset depends largely on whether you can build and sustain a positive attitude. Regardless of whether you’re a glass half-empty or a glass half-full person, it’s important to consistently flex your optimism-conditioning muscles by clearing your mind, understanding your mind-body-emotion connection and becoming aware of how your narrative impacts your performance.

  1. Calm your mind. It’s difficult to maintain perspective and focus when your mind chatter takes over. The best way to quiet your mind is to train your brain on a regular basis. Make an effort to develop a daily brain renewal routine in order to maintain mental clarity and tap into your potential. Start experimenting with a few of the mind-settling techniques below to see what works for you:
    • Develop sleep hygiene practices (get into a regular sleep rhythm, have a sleep ritual, invest in blackout shades to keep your room dark)
    • Meditate
    • Listen to music
    • Take a walk in nature
    • Unplug from technology (put away your phone one hour before bed; and wait an hour before using technology in the morning)
    • Develop a yoga routine
    • Use guided imagery (to lift your mood, relax your mind and prepare for matches)
  1. Enhance the mind-body-emotion connection. Find the silver lining in challenging situations to help you shift from a negative to positive mental state. Identify areas of the body where you experience physical tension. Understand what bothers you and what brings you joy. Staying in touch with yourself is one of the keys to developing a positive mental attitude. It turns out, your attitude is the key to dealing with stress. According to health psychologist Kelly McGonigal, “it’s not our stress levels that need to change, but our attitude to stress itself. It’s our approach to stress that really matters.” To improve your outlook, get into the habit of applying a few of the tools below:
    • Write down three to five things you’re grateful for each day
    • Make a joy list
    • Focus on your breath
    • Keep a thought journal
    • Surround yourself with positive people
    • Accept your limitations and the limitations of others
    • Do something courageous each day (it can be small!)

Implementation Tip: If you notice how you experience symptoms of stress, you can incorporate tools that work best for you. If physical tension is an issue, you may need to take deep breaths. If you tend to be pessimistic under stress, practicing gratitude may be the action step for you.

  1. Understand the power of your narrative. Your personal narratives are the stories you tell yourself and others. They come from interpretations of your past experience and can have a huge impact on your future behavior. People who have a healthy narrative tend to say things that are uplifting and motivating. As a result, they act in ways that help them achieve their goals. For example, an athlete who uses a self-compassionate narrative after a loss will be able to bounce back and maintain a positive view of self, which will be beneficial when they get back to training. If you’re looking to change your narrative, practice the following:
    • Learn to let go of past troubles and figure out what to do next time, instead of clinging onto preexisting beliefs
    • Ask quality questions: Do I remember past events in a way that helps or hurts me? What is my self-narrative when I’m at my best? Are there ways to reframe my story, so it would serve me better?
    • Be purposeful about your narrative. Talk through a match in a way a coach would motivate his/her team or a scientist would approach an experiment
    • Add a couple of words to your sentences. Remember Carol Dweck’s research on the power of adding ‘yet’ to the end of your sentences.
    • Modify extreme or rigid language. Instead of, “I must compete,” empower yourself by saying, “I choose to compete” or “I want to be here.”