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A Real-Life Battle to Be Better. Three Ways to Fight!

Mindset Made Simple Tip #141 – Listen HERE.

Last week I came to you from the Cleveland Clinic as my dad was having his knee replaced . The surgery was a success! He walked as soon as he was awake and went home that day!! Good stuff!

What a difference a week makes!

This week we are at a different Cleveland Clinic facility, but this time we have a whole host of other issues. Major surgery is hard on octogenarians…and on those who care about them.

After 30 hours in the emergency department and various consults to figure out why he is struggling, he finally found more stable accommodations, for a few days at least.

What does this story have to do with mental performance? This story is a TEST of mental performance.

As we have navigated through this process, it has been a test of all I teach….presence, positivity, posture and process.

Admittedly, all four of the 4Ps of peak performance have been a challenge!

It’s a mental battle. It’s the same battle we all face when we go “there” when we need to be focused, ready and performing (“there” for me over the past few days has been frustration, anger, fear, impatience, focusing on uncontrollables and more!) This battle has thrust me into thinking with pure practicality about what is critically important as we work to help those around us perform at their best.

Some of the things our “get dad better team” has been facing are pretty daunting, like stopping the nurse before she gave meds that were already taken for the day or asking how much fluid his low-functioning heart can handle (yikes!) but most of the threats are self-imposed between our ears. And although the things we face on the field or in the boardroom may not be as life-threatening as worrying about meds, our brain and body don’t care. We fall into the same mental reactions because as, Bill Shankly, former European soccer player and manager of Liverpool said, “some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it's much more serious than that"...we care and want to win!

Physiologically, we are wired to survive. We respond to threats, be it standing at the foul line in the last moments of the Elite Eight or a true threat to our safety, very similarly. Anything that threatens our jobs, our performance, our reputations or those we love throws us into a flurry of thoughts and emotions that are not often conducive to being our best.

And apparently, I am threatened! And on cue, let the time-traveling, second-guessing and negativity bias ensue! “Why didn’t you ask this?” What happens if that happens?” “What if?” “Why that?” “This is B.S.” “If this doesn’t improve, our lives just changed’ and so much more!

I’ve been everywhere! And here is the frustrating part…I know how to manage it!

But being mindful and mentally tough is a practice. It’s not a place. It’s a skill, not an innate feature. It’s like fitness. When you train, you are fit. Stop training and you’re not.

In response to questioning my mindset, here are my practical tips and critical success factors for keeping our heads, no matter the threat! (Check out a “Where is Your Head” infographic HERE).

  1. It’s time to OBSERVE. You can’t read the label on the jar if you are inside the jar…and the label has the information we need to know what to do with the contents. It’s time to watch what is going on in our mind and body from the outside…taking a 30,000-foot view… a different perspective...instead of being controlled by it. FEELINGS AREN’T FACTS. Facts are facts. And we can deal with facts, no matter what they are, much more effectively if we can observe the thoughts and emotions that take our focus away from being able to gather and process information effectively.

  2. It’s time to SHIFT. If this week has taught me one thing it’s that the point I hammer home about our power coming from our ability to choose one thought over another is true. At ANY TIME, we can CHOOSE what thought takes up that precious space in our heads. This has been a lifesaver. It is something we can all practice. It starts with our observation…being aware and leads us to change our state, even if it’s just for the moment. Then we do it again…and again.

  3. It’s time to implement a SYSTEM. This was borne of the first two tips. As I OBSERVED that I needed to SHIFT, I realized that a SYSTEM to help me evaluate the moment and keep the information I needed straight may also help me think more productively and keep a more positive mindset. We all know that pressure makes us press. And when we press, our heart rate increases, our breathing shallows, our brain waves increase and the game speeds up. Systems help us regulate, just like that little light that flashes in your side view mirror when there is someone in your blind spot!

  • My first system? Have a go-to question. Questions shift us from problem to searching for solutions mode. I have been “W.I.N ing”, asking What’s Important Now and using author Jason Selk’s question from Relentless Solution Focus, “what is one thing I can do right now to make this situation better?” or something similar for quite a while.

This week has given me ample use of both each time the alerts in my mental or physical dashboard flash. The answer may be anything from “ask a question” to “take a deep breath”. The answer to the question may not be the end-all, be-all solution, but it allows me to move to the next moment intentionally…and momentum is built from moment to moment!

  • My second system? Get a notebook! Keeping the first things first and trying to remember what we need to do to make a difference when facing pressure is like trying to hold water in a bucket full of holes. Our mind is racing to keep up, all the while trying to find more things to worry about.

Sometimes something as simple as writing things down – our ideas, our questions, the information we have gathered and the information we need to perform – can help us move from our rushing emotional brain to our more rational thinking brain when we feel squeezed.

Keeping notes gives us confidence. How? Since it is impossible to evaluate our thoughts while they are in our head, it allows us to inspect our thoughts, impressions and information for importance and prioritization.

I have some of the athletes I train use this system. What do you need to do? What information do you need to act on? What are your if – then’s or when- then’s? I realize it is not always possible to stop in the middle of a game to take notes or read up on your plan. We have more opportunities to do so than we think and when we don’t, just knowing we have things in place allows us to move forward with facts.

Facts matter. They help us decide what deserves our focus to make adjustments or keep rolling! Stacking up positive facts boosts confidence!

If we want to be our best to help ourselves and those around us, it all comes down to managing our mindset. What do we see - OBSERVE? What can we do - SHIFT? And how can we best do it - SYSTEM?

No matter what comes next, if we can follow these simple ideas, we will be better prepared and better performers. Because in the end, she who keeps her head is smarter, stronger and better…and gives herself a better chance to win!

Manage the moments…and your mindset!


P.S. I’d love to help your team adjust their mental game! Contact me today at or call/text 234-206-0946 and let’s set up a session or a plan for your program!

Julie Jones

Mental Performance Coach

SSB Performance • 234-206-0946

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