7 Daily Habits of a Champion
Success. Easily said and yet difficult to define. Like victory, one’s journey as an athlete is discovering what ultimate success is for her. Success is not what the world expects, nor is it what others impose, but it is the deepest yearnings of an athlete’s heart: the goal she sets for herself. And when it is achieved, only she knows what true success is to her.
That is a champion. That is someone from whom the world can take nothing away.
So how do you live like a champion? How do you find the inner willpower that others lack, to turn your career and your life into something extraordinary?
It doesn’t happen on the grand stage, in the one hour, one minute, one second that defines your performance. It happens in the little decisions you make each day. Here are seven ways to turn your dreams into a reality:
1. Have Discipline
The bane of the average person’s existence: discipline. But you’re not average. You’re a champion. So you get up at 4:30 to go heat your shoulder before workout. You don’t eat the cookie at the dining hall just because it’s there. You prioritize your studies and your social life to make sure you can focus at practice.
Often times, discipline comes with routine. So make one that works for you. Don’t fall victim to excuses. Don’t trick yourself into believing you’re unique enough that you don’t need to pay attention to details. The habits you make during your career as an athlete will be the habits that set you apart for the rest of your life.
2. Be Proactive
Proactive people avoid the stress of being reactive. Whether it’s using a planner to get ahead on deadlines or planning a coffee date to resolve a misunderstanding weighing on your mind, being proactive helps you avoid the stress of procrastination and conflict.
You never know what life will throw at you next. Do your best to plan out the few things you can control so when the unexpected comes, it will hit you like a bump in the road rather than the final rock of stress that causes an avalanche of mental breakdown.
Being proactive could include meal planning, saying no to things that shouldn’t be a priority in your schedule, or planning ahead to make sure you get enough sleep. All the little things add up.
3. Be Grateful
The world may define a champion as someone who wins a medal, but a true champion is one who can be grateful no matter what place she earns. Seek to be both: the gold medal winner and the athlete who is grateful knowing she did the best she could do on that given day with those given circumstances.
Research shows that writing three things you’re grateful for each day improves your overall attitude and well being. With this approach, not only do you teach yourself how to be a champion no matter what the circumstances, but you release negative stressors, giving you more energy to be more productive. That’s what I call efficient.
4. Set Goals
To be a champion in life, you have to have to know where you’re aiming. Without vision champions perish. One can’t show up at a competition and expect to know what the goal is; vision requires daily refocus.
Write goal splits on a paper and tape it to your mirror. Visualize the key part of your swing or shot. Write the steps it will take to surpass your greatest competitor. How can you expect to get somewhere if you have no idea where you’re going?
5. Be Correctable
Champions are people who are willing to grow. Without change, you become stagnant. People who are willing to listen are people who are willing to improve. You cannot become a champion without others, no matter how individualized your sport is.
Don’t expect to get new results in your life or your sport without listening to those who have gone before you. It’s okay to innovate and it’s okay to be unique, but you have to be willing to respect others and have enough humility to admit constructive criticism doesn’t tear you down; it builds you up.
6. Watch the Details
Make details count and let details go. Champions figure out daily which details they need to make count and which they can let go of.
The tiny movement you are fixing in your stroke or the final push you make at the end of a practice are details that matter. Those are the details that set the champions apart from those who simply compete. Details win races. Details win championships.
But those details irrelevant to your vision can be released. Making that cake perfect for your friend’s party or playing back details of a conversation while you try to figure out why someone is mad at you, are details you can choose to let go. They drain your energy and your time, both of which are precious and vital for success. Consciously teach yourself which details to hone in on and which ones aren’t vital to reach your goals.
Champions know when to stop. No matter how hard you try, you cannot do everything. Full-throttle living catches up to you eventually. I know, I know, if you’re reading this article, you’re probably thinking, “Not me! I’m a true champion and I don’t need the rest the other weakling inhabitants of this planet require.”
I would have said the same thing to you in college. But the longer I live, the more I realize how important it is to enjoy life, to take a step back, and to spend time with others. We can’t live life at such a breakneck pace that we give ourselves whiplash every time something important interrupts our routine.
To be a champion is to live within the paradox that you cannot be fully alive without your sport, but you also cannot be fully alive without boundaries. The beauty of athletics is that they create the willpower to propel us to heights we never imagined, both within our sports and within the world.
Focus your energy where it matters. Figure out what rejuvenates you. Take a ten-minute walk around the park. Call a friend. A lack of rest creates exhaustion and isolation. Intentional rest creates margin and freedom.
If you put these seven concepts into practice, I have no doubt you will start to change your team, your life, and the world. Go. Be a champion. Live your life. And then share your story to inspire others to do the same!