Feed Your Belief

One of the most consistent myths athletes (and any of us) believe is that our performance in the moment is dictated by our thinking in the moment.

 This is an easy myth to confront. To prove this idea false, try this simple experiment:

Grab a seat and stay seated while you imagine a scenario. Vividly imagine yourself standing and walking out the nearest door/exit. See your motions in your mind (from your own eyes/perspective). Imagine how it feels to move your muscles. Imagine the sensations you feel as you walk and open the door or pass through the exit. When finished, read the rest of this post.

 Were you able to imagine walking out the door while you stayed seated? Of course you were. Your thoughts were conducting one action while your belief, a special type of thought, was insisting you perform a different action (in this case, the belief was that you would stay seated).

In my work, I’ve found two major reasons for buying into the myth that momentary thoughts dictate action. First, we tell athletes that’s the case. Second, we act according to our thoughts because we believe we must act according to our thoughts.

It’s not the thoughts that matter. It’s the belief. Performance comes from belief. If we believe thoughts will dictate action, they will tend to. If we believe with a deep understanding that momentary thoughts can vary while a deeper trust in our actions reigns supreme, then we can take action based on trust without wasting a second worrying about the normal variations we experience in momentary thoughts, such as those thoughts that encourage confidence or doubt.

 As I noted above, beliefs are special types of thoughts. While weak momentary thoughts are subject to swaying with the breezes of our moods – the instances of optimism/pessimism, can do/can’t do, possibility/impossibility – beliefs are hardy and withstand fluctuations in mood. Think about some of your deepest beliefs, such as the world being round. Is that belief subject to your mood? Or will you always endorse the idea that the world is round no matter how low your mood?

The same type of deep trusting belief is possible for performance. You simply have to feed that belief. As you move through life, you can verify this again and again through consistent performance that defies doubt and dips in your mood.

Trust in your ability. Practice to improve. Believe in yourself. Believe in your mind over matter existence that transcends momentary thoughts. This is the path to breakthrough performance and making the play under any conditions, including those of your own momentary thoughts.

There Are No Mistakes

Do not fear mistakes. There are none. 

-Jazz great Miles Davis


If you want to change or improve, belief is important.

If we see mind over matter as a power struggle we must win, we will often believe that matter is winning. We will believe toughness must be built. We will believe that we progress and regress constantly, at best moving slowly but steadily toward our goal destination in the weeks, months, and years ahead.

While this a reasonable view, it’s not necessarily accurate.

Matter is never winning. It just seems that way because our thoughts rise and fall like a roller coaster. This ebb and flow of thoughts creates different characteristics of thinking, and we project these characteristics onto the world we see in front of us.

Beliefs are certain type of thought. Beliefs are enduring thoughts that occur to us over and over across relatively long periods of time. Beliefs do not dictate our thoughts. We can be very inconsistent, but for the most part, beliefs endure.

If we believe mind over matter is a fact of our existence, which is an accurate belief as far as I can tell, it’s possible to see progression and regression as states of mind. Therefore, it’s possible to understand that there is no real progression or regression, rather, there are only changes in the way one is thinking in the moment.

While this might seem like a bland, neutral, vanilla position, it can actually be quite liberating and thrilling. Understanding the neutrality of the world can help free us from the belief that the world has shackled us with limits it imposes from the outside. Freeing yourself from the tyranny of matter can lead to breakthroughs.

Rather than believing there is a goal destination that will do something to us or for us (this is a matter over mind belief), you can see goals within each moment, what I like to call plays to be made. When we live with an accurate understanding of our mind over matter existence, we can see plays to be made every second of every day. This is not bland at all, and indeed can be quite awe inspiring.

As our experience progresses and we make play after play after play (sometimes missing them but always remembering another play to be exists right now), we improve (based on outside perspectives such as a scorecard or scoreboard), sometimes dramatically.

When we don’t improve based on outside perspectives, if we give in to matter over mind, we start to buy into the power struggle and see ourselves as losing . While we sometimes thrive on this challenge, we sometimes see it as a daunting struggle we can’t win.

If we understand our mind over matter existence, we will begin to see that lack of improvement is simply a projection of our own thoughts. If we can do this, we are more likely to value each experience for what it is. This is where the idea, “We learn from our mistakes,” comes from, and if we extend that outward, we might arrive at the conclusion, “There are no mistakes.”

In a matter over mind world, we are oppressed or rewarded by the outside world. In a matter over mind world, we are at its mercy or benevolence. In a mind over matter world, we are free to make of it what we can. Imagine what might be possible if you knew there were no mistakes and focused on doing what you can in each moment.

It’s Only Cold on One Sideline

“It’s only cold on one sideline,” is a favorite phrase of my high school football coach, Ralph Munger, a legend in Michigan high school football. He had a great saying for every weather condition.

“It’s only hot on one sideline.”

“It’s only raining on one sideline.”

“It’s only snowing on one sideline.”

Whatever the weather forecast, Coach had a saying for it.

When coach said, “It’s only cold on one sideline,” he wanted us to understand the power of mind over matter. Many coaches have talked about the power of mind over matter. “If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter,” is a phrase often heard around football.

Mind over matter is often thought to be about the power struggle between mind and matter, but there is a more powerful reality. Mind over matter isn’t about a power struggle, it’s about a fact of life. Our minds create the matters (i.e., situations) of life from the inside-out.

Even though it seems like the outside world has a tremendous impact on our thoughts and feelings, we actually create our experience of the world from the inside (our minds, mindsets, thoughts) to the outside (people, things, and situations of the world outside each of us). Our experience of life is always created from the inside-out, never the outside-in. Believing thoughts and feelings happen from the outside-in is a common thing, but it’s an illusion.

Consider some common outside-in ideas a player might have in mind.

– A big game makes me nervous.

– Coach criticizing me is stressing me out.

– Winning a championship ring would make me happy.

A big game, criticism, a championship ring, or anything else outside oneself has no power to make anyone think or feel anything in particular.

Consider that for a moment because it is all you really need to know to gain incredible freedom in your life. Situations, people, and things have no power to influence our feelings. We create our experience of situations, people, and things from the inside-out.