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.

The Mood Roller Coaster

I have yet to run into someone who doesn’t admit to an up and down pattern in their moods. Yes, some people are typically up, and others are typically down. Some of us have very steep up and downs. Others have more gently rolling ups and downs. Others have a mix depending on where we are in the ride.But nobody has ever told me that they are in the same mood all the time. We all ride some type of mood roller coaster.

Here is a key to understanding our moods and this ride we are on. We often think of moods as feelings, but I find it is more accurate to think of moods as a characteristic of thought. Moods are highly linked to our thought capabilities.

Think of it this way: We feel our thoughts, and when we are feeling our moods, we are feeling an indicator of whether our thoughts are up or down.

Like the high position on a roller coaster, up moods are characterized by a high perspective, being able to see more.

As we plunge, our focus is more and more narrow, more stuck on the low point in front of us.

As indicators of our thinking, up moods are characterized by more openness, can do thinking, confidence, security. Down moods are characterized by more narrow-mindedness, can’t do thinking, doubts, insecurity.

Rather than seeing our thoughts and feelings as something we catch from the outside world, think of them as characteristics that ebb and flow naturally within us. We then project them into the outside world based on our position on the mood roller coaster.

States like passion, tenacity, enthusiasm, and happiness aren’t things we catch from the outside world. They are lights we shine upon it while we are up.

Anger, frustration, and irritation aren’t feelings the outside world forces upon us. They are projectiles we hurl at it from a low mood.

This ebb and flow of moods is very natural, and one thing that seems to provide most people comfort in their low points is to remember that no matter how low we sink, the ride always rises again.

The Little Things


“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make the big things happen.”
-John Wooden, Legendary College Basketball Coach


In explaining what it means to make the play, I often point people toward their own areas of expertise, their own endeavors, their own lives, and ask, “What are the little things that make the big things happen? Those are the plays to be made.”

Here is a letter I wrote to my daughter’s basketball team helping explain this concept. I think it will help clear it up for you, and it’s a great resource to share if you have kids. It’s about basketball, but I think you will be able to easily apply it to other activities.

Here’s the letter:


Ladies, what a pleasure it is to get to coach this great team.

Did you know that great teams look at every single day, every single practice, and every single rep in every practice as an opportunity to either get better or get worse. Do you agree? What little things are you striving to improve today?

As we move forward and continue to get better as a team, it is very important that we improve our performance on the little things.

What are the little things? The little things are the important little pieces of the puzzle that make big things – like winning – happen.

Here is a list of little things you might improve today:
Boxing out;
Playing defense with our feet;
Not reaching and not committing silly fouls;
Improving shooting form; Improving ball handling;
Improving passing;
Improving catching;
Calling out picks;
Moving around picks;
Playing great help defense;
Calling and running offensive plays;
Picking up teammates with enthusiasm.

Can you think of others?

What little things are you committed to improving today?

What is your commitment level to getting better at the little things today?


We then talk more about their ideas about the little things, and they give themselves a silent rating of their own commitment at moment, just a little reminder self-pointing in a certain direction.

So in making your own plays out there in life – be it sports, school, family, business, education, law, etc. – I ask you:

What little things are you committed to improving today?

What is your commitment level to getting better at the little things today?

I hope your day is great and you rise and shine.

Open Expectations

In yesterday’s post about grit, I mentioned that a way to increase grit is to be aware that the conditions/situations of the world have no control over you. One great way to do this is to remind yourself that outcomes have no control over you. This is true whether outcomes are positive or negative. To point yourself in this direction, see if you can have open expectations.

Open expectations are neither high goals nor low goals. In a way, they are a sort of anti-goal that should help create a mindset for all types of possibilities.

Open expectations set no ceiling nor floor for what can happen. It’s an expectation that, “Anything can happen, and I can handle it all.”

With open expectations, I have found in myself and my clients the following:

  • No fear or anxiety when high performance occurs. There is no glass ceiling. Performance can soar without the restriction of high expectations. In essence, performance can surpass one’s wildest dreams.
  • An opponent playing well doesn’t phase us because we know it has no bearing on our own mindset and emotions. Their playing well was within our expectations all along.
  • The unexpected does not phase us. We were completely open to anything and everything happening. However, the more possibility we can imagine, the more we can prepare for, and the smaller the unexpected world becomes.
  • We are filled with supreme confidence that comes from an understanding that we are not our outcomes nor our performances. These are temporary and fleeting, and we are greater than that. We always have an opportunity to make new plays. We can handle anything that comes our way.

When I start explaining this idea, some people jump to the conclusion that I am suggesting abandoning high expectations or goals of any type. This is not the case.

If you want to set goals or have expectations, do it. After all, I’m a proponent that we don’t control our thinking (though I do believe we influence it, thinking is sort of like paddling a canoe in a river, we have some influence, but so does the river, which limits and influences us to some extent), so how could I suggest you abandon a goal that has occurred to you. It may not be possible for you to unsee the goal once it is clear in your mind. I might just suggest that you not become so attached to the goal that you ascribe it some magical power to make you happy. The world doesn’t work this way, so I like to point in the direction of clarity.

Also, understand that having high expectations does not mean you will reach them, just as having doubts doesn’t mean you won’t reach them. Having doubts and high expectations are states of mind, not objective indicators about what is possible. Understand that your thoughts create your experience of the world and all the possibilities it entails. If you want to have high expectations and find it possible to imagine, by all means, do it. I would simply point out two other things: 1) It might also help to have open expectations about what could be possible in both a negative and positive direction. 2) Both doubts and confidence are normal and temporary. If you like confidence, try to steer in that direction when you can.

I hope you give open expectations a try. I hope you find, as I have, that it is a tremendous mindset for allowing our inner fire to burn brightly.