Cultivating A Winning Mindset

Over the last thirty years, I’ve had my share of opportunities to coach and be coached. Whether it was coaching a softball team or a professional athlete, or even coaching a retiree toward greater mobility, there is one aspect to coaching that is the same across the board.

In every case, the coach needs to help the performer develop a winner’s mindset.

Every week, I focus one of my three articles on the mental/emotional/spiritual side of wellness. We call it “Think Right Thursday,” and it’s just as important as “Move Right Monday” and “Wellness Wednesday.” As I’ve said so often before, we are multi-faceted beings, and wellness is not just a matter of nutrition and exercise. If you have given up hope that you will be well, no course of treatment will make you healthy. If you don’t trust your doctor, it doesn’t matter what he says. And if you don’t believe you can get in shape, you won’t.

Removing The Mental Barriers To Winning

When I work with patients, we work hard together to identify and remove the mental barriers to wellness. Some people have been sick so long, they don’t believe they will get better, even if they really want to. Years of disappointment have created a barrier in their minds, and that barrier can actually limit their body’s ability to respond to treatment. Until they remove that barrier, I can lecture until I’m blue in the face and they won’t get results.

Sports coaches can always tell someone who came from a losing team. It’s in their posture, their vocabulary, and their hustle (or lack thereof). People who expect to lose live a life shielding themselves from disappointment.

I’ve learned from my colleagues that do financial seminars that the same is true in their arena. People who believe they will always be broke will always be broke, no matter how much money they make.

My friends who do relationship counseling say the same thing: people who believe they deserve to be abused always gravitate toward people who abuse them. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy: I believe I will be abused, so I get involved with abusers. Then, when they abuse me, it proves to me that I was right, and the cycle perpetuates itself for a lifetime until someone steps in and changes the mindset.

Truths And Half-Truths About Winning

I’ve spent a great deal of time reading on motivation, leadership, coaching, and the winning mindset. There are so many books written by great coaches and players from different sports and leaders from different industries. My shelf is cluttered with them. Most of the principles they teach are universal, like honor, sportsmanship, team, selflessness, courage, tenacity, and attention to the fundamentals, but there’s always someone who turns peoples’ heads by spouting crazy talk.

The books that always turn me off are the ones where they teach you to be the alpha dog that crushes everyone else. Selfish, self-serving alpha talk never pays off the way they think it does. Sure, they make a ton of money, but at what cost? They have no friends, no family, no fun, and spend the second half of their life cashing out their wealth to save their failing health.

It’s no way to live.

So, I’ve been thinking lately about the winning mindset. What are some of the fundamental truths that govern winning? Here are a few of my thoughts. This list is by no means comprehensive and is in no particular order.

(Some) Keys To A Winning Mindset


To win, I have to believe I can win. I might stumble into a win from time to time without belief, but I can’t sustain it unless I believe I have the chops to keep it up. Where does belief come from?


I believe I can win because I have consistently demonstrated my skill in my practice time. I repeat the fundamentals (dribble, pass, shoot) until I can do them in my sleep, and then I go back and tighten them up. If my practice is sloppy, my play is sloppy, and I can’t build any kind of confidence on that. Champions focus on the fundamentals above all else. Flashy play is like puffs of steam; the fundamentals are the steak.


Doing the same fundamentals at the same time, in the same place, with the same intensity, day after day, no matter how I feel. Because sometimes the job stinks and the pay isn’t what you thought it would be. Behavior that follows emotions stops every time. Behavior that follows principles always presses through the success. That requires tenacity.


When it rains, when it hails, when it’s dark, when it hurts, when I feel like I might throw up, when my dog is sick, when my best friend lets me down, when I don’t like the job anymore, when my new boss is a jerk, when disappointment is all I can see, when the tears flow hard, when it doesn’t seem worth it anymore, when I don’t remember why I’m still doing it…I’m still doing it. The grit to dig in and continue being consistent, no matter how hard it is, is unique to the winner.


Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. And practice is never perfect without coaching. If I coach myself, my play will never advance one step above where I am right now. I can only grow my skill by having a coach sit next to me and correct my actions. To me, my movements feel perfect; only an objective coach can see that my elbow is too tight or my little finger is too high. If I’m not willing to be coached by someone who knows more than I do, I am stuck right here and winning is a pipe dream.


Losers need to be motivated. Winners find motivation within themselves. It helps to know why you are doing something. “Lose ten pounds to be healthy” is not a why. It must get down to the emotional root of who you are. “I will do the ‘Move Right Monday’ exercises for five minutes at the top of every daylight hour for the next six weeks because I want to feel good about the way I look, have the energy to play with my kids after work, and crush my tennis partners” is a good start. Know your why, and know it in detail. When your muscles hurt and you want to go back to bed, your why will push you through the difficulty, out to where results live. Your biggest results are always on the other side of your biggest challenge.


No man is an island. Lousy leaders focus on themselves. Good leaders raise up a team around themselves. Great leaders equip others to surpass them. Great leaders give their best effort, cheer on their teammates, and encourage excellence from everyone around them. The heart of a champion brings the best out in himself and others, allowing others to share the spotlight. I could talk all day about this because it’s a disappearing mindset in our culture. There is no such thing as a self-made success. Ever read the credits at the end of a film? If you think Robert Downey, Jr. is IronMan all by himself, you need to spend five minutes watching the team that puts him up on the screen.

Developing Others:

The best way to master a skill is to teach it to others. The discipline of having to think through an activity in enough detail to explain it to someone is a powerful way to reinforce it in your own mind. As Einstein once said, “if you can’t explain it to a four-year-old, you don’t really understand it yourself.”

Plus, giving freely to others requires a level of selflessness that only true winners possess. Just like financial generosity is a key to building wealth, being generous with your knowledge and time enhances every part of your life experience. It’s one of life’s most ingenious paradoxes, and it’s the reason so many people will never grow in life. If you help others get what they want, you will always end up getting what you want.

I’m Sure There’s More

There are probably dozens of parts to the winning mindset that have escaped me for now, but this is a pretty good start. Maybe I’ll write a follow-up piece next week.

It really doesn’t matter if you’re an athlete, a business professional, a teacher, a preacher, or a laborer. If you’re teachable, tenacious, and consistent, you can advance from where you are to where you want to go. If you’re selfless, you can achieve anything.

I hope this gives you some things to chew on for the weekend. I know I’m going to be thinking more about these points, especially as I think about how I can be a leader in my community. And I believe that, as we take some time to mull over these points, we will begin to see how they apply to our relationships, jobs, finances, health, and every area of life. Have you ever noticed you can be a winner in some areas of life, and not in others? You can probably think of times in your life when that has been the case.

As you read this, what stuck out the most to you? What was something you saw that you can change in your own life to increase your personal growth? I’d love to hear your takeaways from this article…you’ve already seen mine. Share your insights in the comments on Facebook.

And please take just a few seconds to share it on social media. You never know who might get an insight from this that helps them overcome a challenge they’re facing today.

You might be the answer to something that’s been bothering them.

“At the end of your feelings is NOTHING. At the end of your principles is a PROMISE.”  — Eric Thomas

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