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April 9th, 2008

The Champion’s Mindset

Listen to what great athletes say when they make it to the big one and you’ll become almost psychic about who will and won’t win the championship.

This past Sunday I watched the Stanford women’s basketball team whoop Connecticut. Then I watched Tennessee eke by LSU.

Afterward I figured Stanford would win their first NCAA women’s basketball title. Afterall, they had averaged 90 points in their last two games, while Tennessee didn’t even break 50 points against LSU. Not only that, Stanford was red hot in the semi-finals while the Lady Vols looked like they came out of a freezer.

Stanford was going to win it all, I thought. No doubt about it.

But then I heard the post game interviews with Candice Wiggins of Stanford and Candace Parker of Tennessee. As soon as I heard what each player said, I changed my mind.

Pay close attention and you’ll immediately know why I reversed my thinking.

When Stanford star Candice Wiggins was interviewed after winning the semi-final round, she was thrilled to make it to the finals. That alone was a dream fulfilled. She did not speak a single word about winning the NCAA title.

Tennessee’s Candace Parker, however, said that “anything short of an NCAA championship would constitute a failure.”

Very different goals. And the specifics of your goals play a major role in how you perform.

Two nights ago I did an “energy read” of the teams in the men’s finals when Memphis was up by nine points. Even with two minutes left, upon gazing at the emotion coming off the players, I believed Kansas would pull it out. They did.

Last night I did the same sort of reading when Stanford was down by a couple points and had the rest of the game to turn it around. “They haven’t got a prayer,” I said to my wife. “Tennessee is on a mission.”

Tennessee’s defense took the high-powered eight-cylinder Stanford offense and reduced it to two cylinders.

Wiggins, normally smiling and cheerful in the midst of a big game, didn’t look too happy. Parker, on the other hand, had a Cheshire cat grin most of the night.

This “look” by the way, is one of the hallmarks of the truly great “Super Human” performers. Even in the midst of battle, elite athletes often look like they’re having a blast. When they’re in the zone, all physical and mental resistance is gone. Often you’ll be in awe of how cool, calm and collected they are.

Those who do not perform at the highest level rarely look truly comfortable in their own skin. They don’t know the peace of mind that comes with being on the journey toward a pre-determined objective. Instead, they’re hoping that the attainment of the goal will bring them happiness. It won’t. It can’t. It never does.

People wonder why champions tend to win over and over again. This is the 8th NCAA women’s basketball title for Tennessee coach Pat Summit, who is the all-time winningest coach in NCAA hoops history – and that includes both men and women coaches.

The answer lies in how you define your goals. You’d think this would be a no-brainer – but the truth is you see this mistake being made all the time, even at the highest levels of competition. All you need to do to pick a winner, most of the time, is listen to the interviews of players right after they make it into the Super Bowl, World Series or NCAA finals.

The eventual losing team has players who say their goal was to get to the finals. The winning team shows their excitement about making it to the big one – but they make it known that WINNING the championship is the main goal. Getting there is simply a stepping stone.

The greatest battles in sports take place when both teams in the finals have the same goal.

Keep this in mind as you travel through your day.

What do you want to create today. Focus on it and make it happen.

Matt Furey

P.S. May 16-18, I’ll be showing how to program “the look” into your mind and body, even while you exercise in an intense way. You’ll be in awe when you see how quickly this changes your emotional state for the entire day. A quick 5-minute workout when you feel blah can turn into 24-hours of uninterrupted bliss. Want to know more. Then go to GetTough.com and register NOW.

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