Avoid Mental Mistakes: Get Rid of These Two Sentences

Tiger Woods does a great job of managing his own external ‘advertising campaign’.

Mental mistakes. If you want to minimize them, then take these two phrases out of your vocab:

  1. IT’s – “I’m tired”
  2. DFLI’s – “I don’t feel like it.”

If you do, I’d argue that you will have essentially removed over 50% of the negative mental habits you’ll face as a high performance athlete. Those two phrases are typically the tipping point for a downward spiraling conversation, in thought, that’s not in the best interest of any athlete – or coach for the matter – interested in optimal performance.

These phrases are (self-) sabotaging.

Why 50%…?

Good question! It’s probably more. I just like to under-promise and over-deliver.

At the end of the day, from having worked with thousands of athletes at all levels of the performance spectrum, both male and female, I’ve noticed that there’s an ever so subtle difference between the ones that excel amidst adversity and the ones that get ‘stuck in the muck’ of the common challenges faced in elite sport.

Little Things Make A Big Difference

Tired, bored, down, headache, sore, bad day, hard test, mad, frustrated, break up… Awesome! That’s the life of a high performance athlete.

Every athlete that’s playing competitive sports is going through a similar set of challenges. (In fact, to take it a step further, someone, somewhere, would love to have YOUR problems!).

Flip the mental script. Learn to think about adversity differently. It’s a choice. Think of it as an opportunity to respond famously to a less-than-ideal situation.

The athletes that are able to perform at consistently high levels, when it’s most required, think about themselves and their circumstances differently than their teammates and competitors.

What You Say Is Important

PHOTO CREDIT: OrlandoSentinel.com

Tiger Woods, in his prime, would never talk about being in a slump or playing poorly.

(I know, I know, there were a lot of other things that he didn’t talk about publicly either…! But, like / dislike / or otherwise, there’s still some useful lessons we can learn from Mr. Woods. Stay with me…)

Tiger did a great job of managing his own external ‘advertising campaign’. In interviews he’d more likely say, “You know what, I was great of the tee. I did a good job of getting on the green. Once I’m on the green, I need to do a little better job of finishing off the green.”

He rarely, if at all, made pronouncements that were not in his best interest. Yet, athletes – all aspiring to play at a similar level in their sport, do it all the time.

The most common way, I’ve found, is those presumably innocuous IT’s and DFLI’s.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that pro athletes have unshakeable enthusiasm each day. Not true. They work on it just like you need to—some quite religiously, to be honest.

Dena Evans over the years has shared a Winston Churchill quote with PGC Basketball grads that’s become a favourite of mine too:

“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”

How Easy Will It Be?

There’s nothing innovative about having a positive attitude. It’s mostly just a matter of eliminating the clutter and changing one’s less-productive mental habits.

Developing the right set of mental habits is quite simple. It’s just not easy. It’s going to take work.

It takes discipline and vigilance to change the way you think. But, it can be done.

I read recently that basketball shooting coach for the Dallas Mavericks, Bob Thate, told Jason Kidd that “it would take thousands of jumpers over several years to erase a lifetime of neglect.” The pair then went on to work together nearly every day, in season and out, overhauling Kidd’s mechanics.

Years later, we’re all now seeing the result of that purposeful practice. It took a lot of work.

And, just like changing shooting form, it’s going to take a lot of focused effort to overhaul your mental mechanics.

Two (2) Mental Mistakes: Which Ones Are You Making?

Now is the time to self-assess and see which of these two negative habits you fall prey to committing. Then, fixum! But don’t forget to share the changes in your game – and life – you experience in the comments below!

What are you waiting for?! Get started right now.


“There’s no place for ‘I don’t feel like it’ in high level competitive sports.”

—Scott Hawk, WNBA Connecticut Sun, Assistant Coach (2003–2012)

“You can’t get too much done in life if you only work on the days you feel good.”

—Jerry West, NBA Champion & 14x NBA All-Star