The Psychology Behind Being an Athlete: Part I

I know a lot of people see the term "athlete" as being this unobtainable title. A word saved only for the fittest and most elite. But I disagree. I think that being an athlete is just as much a state of mind as it is a physical state. Merriam Webster defines an athlete as: "a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina". Sounds more doable right?

I recently came across an article on Sports Psyche by Jack Lyske, Ph.D. entitled "The Nine Mental Skills of Successful Athletes". I found his list very insightful. Over the next few weeks, I'm going to talk about the list and expand on each topic. In my latest youtube video, which you can watch here: , I talk about the first three things on Dr. Lyske's list.

  1. Choose and Maintain a Positive Attitude

  2. Maintain a High Level of Self-Motivation

  3. Set High, Realistic Goals

Let's talk about these first three things a little bit more.

Choose and Maintain a Positive Attitude

This is such a powerful thing! Most athletes understand that getting and staying positive is a conscious choice. Life gets hard sometimes. We get frustrated when we don't hit goals, or when the unexpected comes up and ruins our plans. But the important thing is to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and regroup. Make the decision to stay positive. Make the decision not to give up, not to develop a defeatist attitude.

Make the decision to love yourself and the journey. Keep your head up and keep moving forward.

Maintain a High Level of Self-Motivation

This is something that has come up time and time again in my videos. So many people ask the question "How do you stay motivated?". My answer will be different than other people. I stay motivated because I love the way being fit makes me feel both physically and mentally. For me that's enough. I love the confidence, mental clarity, quality of sleep, etc. But that may not be enough for someone else.

Some suggestions that have come up are: giving yourself a reward when you reach certain goals (not food related), create a vision board or post pictures of yourself around the house at a time you were at a healthy point in your life. The point here is that the motivation has to come from you. You can't rely on external sources of motivation.

Set High, Realistic Goals

So this one has a few levels to it. The first is to know and accept your starting point. If you set a goal to run a marathon but you're currently not running or engaged in any kind of fitness routine, you shouldn't expect to go run 12 miles the next weekend. Knowing your starting point brings us to the next level.

Setting smaller goals and milestones helps in getting to your larger goals. For instance, with the same goal mentioned earlier, running a marathon, you could start out with "Couch to 5k" program. Once you get to a 5k, then push for 10, and so on. But setting smaller goals is extremely important in reaching your ultimate goal.

Lastly, make sure you're setting big goals. Goals you actually have to work hard and commit to. The feeling of accomplishing these difficult goals you've set for yourself will be something truly special and will propel you forward in setting even higher goals for yourself in the future.


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