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We Care About our Performance. And How We "Care" Matters!

Mindset Made Simple Tip #163 – Watch or listen HERE.

Most of you reading this Tip really care! You care a ton about your work and those you lead.

This is a good thing. And understanding about how we “care” when we are trying to perform is important.

I was watching practice last week during my visit to Portland State when Coach Gregg asked the team to run a drill that included shots from different distances on the court and an overall goal of makes. I think it was 82…and if I remember correctly, we got 81!


Once the drill stopped, the staff brought it in and I was able to add my observations.

My first one…some of us were being REALLY CAREFUL on some of our shots.

We didn’t have a ton of time right then to think too much about what being CAREFUL means to our accuracy, but we did agree that we don’t shoot as well in that mindset.

This got me thinking about three “CARE” mindsets that affect our performance. Unfortunately, only one is helpful.

We all know that the way we approach any task or challenge can significantly impact the outcome and our approach is chock-full of thoughts and emotions…which affect our behaviors. This applies to athletes striving for that gold medal, artists perfecting their craft, and leaders guiding their teams to success. But what do these mindsets entail, and how do they influence our performance?

We talked later about playing CAREFUL, CARELESS and CAREFREE.

I bet you can guess which one is best.

Let’s look at all three options.

As noted in practice, playing CAREFUL is not our ideal state.

Why? If we are playing too carefully, we are thinking too much. When we pull up to take a jumper, we need to be in trust mode, not think mode. Being careful turns on our conscious brain which starts asking questions, looking for problems and projecting outcomes. And as you know, there is no time for any of this when the ball is in our hands and ready to be released!

Being CAREFUL happens for a lot of reasons. We are afraid to miss. We are thinking about what the coach will say about the shot. We are thinking about the last 3 shots we missed and more.

I read somewhere a while back that said our muscles get together every night for a beer and say “If she’d only trust us!”

Playing CAREUL isn’t trustful. It’s think-full. And as Branch Rickey, the guy who signed Jackie Robinson to a major league contract said decades ago, a” full mind is an empty bat.” The same goes for basketball…a full mind is an empty hoop!

Playing CAREFUL isn’t good. How about playing CARELESS?

You’ve heard this before, “I don’t care what happens today” or “I just wish I didn’t care.” This comment had Dr. Joanna Lane, Director of Education and Program Development and National Fastpitch Coaches Association podcast host all fired up on a recent episode of “The Dirt.” She, like many of us, can’t take it when kids say they don’t care, wish they didn’t care or, even worse, act like they could CARE LESS.

I hear you, Joanna!

Whether we wish we couldn’t CARE LESS or play CARELESSLY, this usually indicates that we are letting our emotions get the best of us. And I don’t know about you, but times like this are not normally my best. We are acting as if we are not in control.

We react instead of using our response-ability (one of our power tools!).

We take ourselves out of the moment and into our heads. Notice I said WE take ourselves out of the moment…but we so often place the blame elsewhere.

We fall into “the gap”, that time between when we lose it and when we get back to the here and now…that important place where the current play is playing out!

Another way we are CARELESS is through reckless abandonment in play. It’s the outfielder who slams into the fence or puts her cleats into it when she has practiced a seat slide to both catch the ball and save herself from injury a million times. While this approach might seem daring and exciting and appear to be “all-out” behavior, it often leads to disaster. And disaster often keeps us from the #1 rule of peak performance – being available!

CARELESS play doesn’t work either.

CAREFREE seems to be the ticket to better performance.

CAREFREE sounds so laissez-faire….as if laissez-faire is a bad thing. Synonyms of laissez-faire are unrestrictive, relaxed, permissive.

Put it that way, it sounds pretty good to me.

But what CAREFREE means in my head is this…we are letting our tactical and technical training work. We are changing our muscles nightly conversations. They are now saying over that beer “She trusts us!”

What does this play look and feel like? In the words of Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a leading researcher in the field of positive psychology and flow states, "The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times... The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile."

It’s not about being relaxed. It’s about being PRESENT and ENGAGED mentally and physically. It’s about knowing when to think and when to trust!

How do we get there?

A great way is to take a page out of the Drew Brees playbook. On a two-mile stretch into the facility each day, the future Hall of Famer mentally rehearsed the two-minute offense or other plays as he drove, “practicing” before practice. He called it “getting the answers to the test” before test time.

Anyone can do this. Anytime. What plays do you run? Where do you often hesitate or lose focus? What are the critical times in the game for you…where do you need to be clutch?

REHEARSE THEM. This is a skill that is so underused yet so accessible, simple and effective.

One other way is to force ourselves to communicate and get outside of our own heads. Talking to others…or talking to ourselves in a rehearsed mantra of our W.I.N. (What’s Important Now) helps us take in what we are seeing because we are reporting on it.

We can then respond to it as it is happening because we are IN IT!

We all know when we are playing CAREFREE. Now it’s time to re-engineer it. How have we gotten there in the past? What were we thinking, feeling, doing? What was our focus, posture, self-talk?

Success leaves clues. We often think we need to look to others for those clues, but they exist in our successes as well!

Looking for clues on what leads us to CAREFUL and CARELESS play is helpful as well. When we fall into these approaches…and we will…being aware and ready to shift is success in itself.

It all goes back to being aware…as quickly as possible…to get back to playing CAREFREE.

We know how. Sometimes is hard. Even so, we get to decide what to do next.

As author Stephen Covey said, “I am not a product of my circumstances. I am the product of my choices.”

Here is to mastering CAREFREE performance…and the moments!


P.S. Hire me to work with your team for one day or all year. Let’s put together a mental training plan that works for your team. Shoot me an email at and let’s get started before 2023-24 program pricing increase begin!

Julie Jones

Mental Performance Coach

SSB Performance • 234-206-0946

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