The Play to Win Mindset

In 30+ years as a motivational speaker and writer, I’ve had the privilege of studying and learning from people who have accomplished a wide range of ambitious goals:

Although these goals were vastly different, the process used to achieve them was similar. They develop a positive mindset, they develop positive expectations, and then they turn those into positive results.

One of the best examples of someone with a “play to win” mindset is tennis great Roger Federer. This year, he won his 8th Wimbledon and his 19th tennis major (both all-time records) at the age of 35.

What makes his victory even more extraordinary is that he had knee surgery last year, which required a 6-month layoff from competition. Federer had also not won a major in five years.

In watching Roger perform, I wondered what has kept him at the top of his game for so long. He’s been able to sustain excellence despite fierce competition and frequent injuries. The champ has also had to deal with something we all eventually have to face: aging.

Here are five sequential steps you can take to develop a mindset that will propel you toward the realization of your goals and dreams:

1. Expectations: Believe in yourself

Have you noticed that you rarely perform better than you believe you can? For this reason, our expectations are the foundation for achievement. Your mindset is the single best predictor of your success.

When we expect great results and believe we have the ability to achieve, we have set the stage for victory.

People with a “play to win” mindset understand they can’t win unless they believe in their own success. You win from the inside out. Therefore, victory begins with establishing a winner’s mindset.

Having positive expectations alone isn’t enough to win, but your end result very much depends on how well you believe in your expectations.

Your mindset is the single best predictor of your success.

2. Evaluation: Plan your path

Once we have established where we want to go, we need to find a way to get there. It’s important to have progress benchmarks and success indicators to help us determine whether we are on the right track, or if we need to change our tactics.

These measurements ultimately give us the ability to show advancement toward our goal, so when things are not going as expected, we will better understand why.

3. Execution: Value the process

Execution is the necessary action we must take to go from inspiration to positive results. You cannot achieve extraordinary results without extraordinary follow-through.

A big part of execution is the learning process, and champions who play to win find value and inspiration in this process. They celebrate the small wins every day.

Harvard Business Review calls this the “progress principle.” Their research has found that intentionally celebrating the small wins boosts one’s inner work life and increases productivity.

Those who value the process:

– Have a more positive outlook that improves execution.
– Appreciate the entire experience: from training to execution.
– Embrace the positive steps that will lead to positive results.

Those who value only victory:

– Lose motivation over the long-term because they only have eyes on the victory.
– Experience highs very rarely.
Overvalue wins and undervalue the process required for victory.

Federer was asked how he successfully came back from surgery and a lengthy layoff. His response was, “ I enjoy every minute.” What that communicated to me was the value of the entire experience, including practice, training, discipline, and competition.

4. Expertise: Find your sweet spot

Because I was born with only one finger on my right hand, and two fingers on the left, I quickly realized that playing the piano was not my sweet spot. My life is not different from yours.

No one can do everything well, but all of us have our own unique sweet spot.

Winners spend little, if any, energy worrying about their weaknesses. Instead, they work on cultivating their strengths.

Practice When You Don’t Feel Like Practicing

We all go through phases where we feel unmotivated to practice. It may be because we’ve stopped seeing immediate improvement, or because we’ve become distracted.

Hall of Fame tennis player Arthur Ashe heard a fan say, “I would give everything I have to play like you.” Arthur replied, “I did give everything to play like that.”

Peak performers are perpetual students who always look for ways to improve. They understand that success can breed success. However, it can also cause complacency and indifference. In our fast-paced world, extraordinary can become ordinary in a relatively short time. To ensure excellence, commit to continuous improvement regardless of your feelings or circumstances.

No matter who you are or what you do, I believe that implementing these ideas will give you the best shot at success. By the way, if you hear a good mother-in-law joke, I am not interested in hearing it!

But you don’t have do develop this expertise on your own. High achievers rarely do — they identify and use resources such as coaches, mentors, and books to help motivate and challenge them in ways that advance them toward their goals. They expand their own capacity by tapping into other people’s expertise (OPE).

Early in my life, I was so obsessed with what I could not do, my weakness became a handicap. Do not focus on the challenges you cannot change. Those will block your potential!

When you work outside your sweet spot, no matter how much effort you put forth, you will likely achieve average success. Federer said, “Play within yourself.” That’s another way of saying, “Find and work within your sweet spot.”

5. Endurance: Stay positive!

Woody Allen said, “90% of success is showing up.” Often people give up and think, “I need a new dream to increase my resolve.” In reality they should stay the course. One strategy to building our endurance is gradual adaptation.

In other words, be consistent, build up slowly, and never take your eyes off the finish line. Endurance, therefore, is a unique combination of persistence and patience.

When I was struggling to complete my first book, the late Zig Ziglar gave me this advice, “Roger, can you write one page a day?” I responded, “Of course” He then said, “If you do that for two hundred days you will have completed your book.”

Champions understand that their choice of attitude is more important than the circumstances they face. Federer said, “I keep dreaming and believing.” If you keep believing, you can go far in life.

How to turn positive expectations into positive results

We all have incredible possibilities within us and the ability to achieve our dreams. Realizing this begins with believing that we can, and having the determination to see it through. In victory or defeat, find positive outcomes in your efforts.

One thought I share with audiences is “emotion creates motion.” That means that a positive mindset will give you the strength to bounce back after a setback. Emotions will dictate performance.

Federer reminds us that winners find solutions, and losers find excuses. Never give up on yourself or your dreams! When we develop a positive mindset, value the process, find our sweet spot, and stay positive, anything is possible.

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