The Psychology Behind Being an Athlete: Part III

We're continuing on in our journey to discover what sets the mind of an athlete apart from the rest of the population. So far we've covered:

  1. Choosing and maintaining a positive attitude

  2. Maintaining a high level of self-motivation

  3. Setting high, realistic goals

  4. Dealing effectively with people

  5. Using positive self-talk

  6. Using positive mental imagery

Now we'll move on and discover the last three items on Dr. Lesyk's list "The Nine Mental Skills of Successful Athletes".

7. Manage Anxiety Effectively

This one I found interesting. It seems to go without saying that people who exercise regularly tend to manage stress and anxiety better than those who don't (Exercise and Stress: Get Moving to Manage Stress, 2020). However, what the good doctor is referring to here is that athletes understand that anxiety is just part of the game, literally. But this idea applies even to athletes who don't professionally compete.

Athletes understand that stress and anxiety are tools they can channel to improve their performance and drive them further. Anxiety can be used as a motivator if used correctly. Have an argument with your spouse? Go for a run. Stressful day at work? Go take it out on the punching bag (maybe you can imagine it's your co-worker's face that pissed you off in that meeting today). Dealing with ungrateful teenagers? Go hit that squat rack. You see where I'm going here. Channel what could be a negative into something positive.

8. Dealing Effectively with Emotions

This kind of ties in to number 7. Emotions are a natural part of life. They let you know you're alive. Sometimes they're negative, sometimes positive. But they are both bound to come up during your life. Understanding how to recognize emotions and deal with them effectively is a huge part of life, not just being an athlete.

Let's talk about this as it relates to food for a minute. When we have an unhealthy relationship with food we eat when we're happy, sad, disappointed, angry and everything in between. This has a lot to do with not knowing how to process emotions in a healthy way. I'm a big advocate of counseling and this is one of the big reasons why. You have to learn the tools necessary to be able to deal with emotions in a healthy way.

Now let's talk about how this equates to the gym or field. You have to understand that strong emotions are bound to come up. But an athlete understand that (just like stress) it's just part of the game. They understand the highs will be REALLY high and the lows will be REALLY low. But that's just part of the process and they can process it, accept it and move on with their lives.

9. Concentration

Athletes have to be able to leave everything behind when they step on the field, into the arena or the gym. They have to be able to focus on the here and now and not let anything distract them from their goal.

The same is true on your journey in fitness. Train yourself to go for your goals and not let life's craziness get in between you and that goal. It's TOUGH, but you can do it. You are strong, capable and driven. You can do anything you set your mind to. You've got this.


So here we've come to the end of the Nine Psychological Skills of Athletes. I hope I've been able to provide you with some useful knowledge and hope that you too can work on these skills and reach your goals. Whether they be fitness, health, career or family oriented, these skills will help you traverse this crazy thing we call "life" and find true happiness and health.


Exercise and stress: Get moving to manage stress. (2020, August 18). Retrieved April 18, 2021, from,%2Dgood%20neurotransmitters%2C%20called%20endorphins.

The nine mental skills of successful athletes. (1998). Retrieved April 18, 2021, from

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