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The Mindset of a Champion

I was in a fastpitch softball playoff game in Sarasota, Florida when my father showed up drunk and proceeded to berate me in front of my teammates. At 12 years old, it was one of the most humiliating events of my life.

Crumbling under the weight of the shame, I failed to get a hit in two at-bats. Rage filled every pore of my being, and I had a meltdown at the end of the 4th inning. Coach Stinnett quickly pulled me aside and shook me lovingly, only to give me one of the purest lessons of my life. This is what he said: “Champions play to win. Champions don’t focus on what goes wrong. Champions use difficult circumstances to focus on winning. Champions only focus on winning. They play to win.”

“You are a champion. Now play to win!”

Wow. What a powerful insight. So, from someplace I can’t explain, that’s what I did; that game, that day, and forever since. I simply approach everything from the perspective of a champion.

How do you play to win?

Over the years, as I’ve taught this lesson to others and written about it frequently, I’ve grappled with how to capture the magical component that has truly transformed my life from poverty and abuse to success and joy.

I am frequently asked, “How exactly do you play to win? What is it that we should DO differently?”

To answer that question, I’ve observed business leaders in turn-around situations. And as a sports fan, I’ve studied athletes in championship games.

What did they DO exactly? How did they play to win?

Take it from the Pros

As Share On Purpose prepares for our fifth annual Fantasy Football draft, I am reminded of the most dramatic display of using a championship mindset that I’ve seen on the football field. It was the 2017 Super Bowl between the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots.

In the third quarter, the Falcons led the game 28-3. For fans in the stands and watching from around the world, the game appeared to be over. No team had ever overcome a double-digit, second-half deficit to win a Super Bowl. There was simply no way even the best champion could find a way to win, right? Wrong.

The Patriots methodically scored 25 unanswered points to eventually tie the game, 28–28, with 57 seconds left in the game. New England won the overtime coin toss and went on to win the Super Bowl.

Admittedly, I am not a New England Patriots fan; but as I was watching the miraculous comeback unfolding, I wondered, “How are they doing this? How are they playing to win when the odds are overwhelmingly against them?”

I moved closer to the TV searching for an answer to these “how” questions.

Quickly, I realized the answer was in the player’s eyes

Through intensely observing the eyes and body language of the players on both teams, I imagined their self-talk.

With the score 28-3, the Patriots DECIDED to win. You could see it in their eyes. They looked for ways to win. They shut down any thought in their mind that a loss was possible.‍

Think about that for a second. When things go wrong, what do most of us do? We worry about failing and allow our thoughts to shift to what else could go wrong. That is not what champions do. Champions don’t worry about failing, they simply shift their focus to do what it takes.

New England’s first touchdown in their comeback series was ugly. They made dozens of mistakes, but it didn’t matter how it looked. They shifted their focus to the next play. They looked FORWARD, not back.

On the other side of the field, Atlanta’s quarterback, Matt Ryan, seemed to be wondering: What if we lose? What if we’re too tired? What if I can’t score another touchdown? What if we fail?

Champions PLAY TO WIN. They control their thoughts and ask different questions. When things go wrong, they ask, how can I win?

Training to be a Champion

I teach the Share On Purpose team how to shift their thoughts from asking the question, what if I fail, to instead asking, how do I win?

So, how do you play to win? Simple:

  • Pay attention to what you’re thinking at all times. Make your thoughts conscious.
  • Remind yourself that you have 100% control over your thoughts and emotions. They don’t control you. YOU CONTROL THEM.
  • Remind yourself that you can train yourself to shift your thoughts and emotions. It’s like a hidden muscle waiting to be activated. You just have to practice.
  • When your thoughts drift to doubt and you worry about failing, SHIFT.
  • Shift your thoughts by challenging every doubt. Rather than worrying about failing, ask yourself, HOW DO I WIN?
  • Shift your mind. Focus only on the ways you can use this situation to find a way to win.
  • Shift your eyes. Look forward.
  • Shift your body language. Winners use their body and “state” to elevate their thoughts. Shoulders back, head up. Play to win.

Are you ready to join a “play to win” team? Check out our available positions here.