It's All In Your Head: Eight Steps To Achieving The Winning Mindset

How do athletes mentally train to win? Below, Dr. John F. Murray, licensed clinical sports and performance psychologist, shares his elements of the "winning mindset". Warning: reading this may propel you to Win From Within and rise from mediocre office softball team outfielder to legit legend of the diamond.

The process of becoming an elite athlete is never glamorous. What we see on the football field on a fall Sunday afternoon or on Center Court on a June morning is far removed from the hard physical work that precedes athletic success. Mental work also plays a major role in an athlete’s success.

I’m not saying that anyone can just decide to excel in a particular sport and achieve it. Genetics and good coaching are huge factors, too. But sometime back when they were a kid, the elite athlete decided to never quit and to reach only for the prize – which helped prevent obstacles from deterring them.

In the past, athletes had to figure out the mental game on their own, or be lucky enough to have great mentors with the knowledge and passion to convey their wisdom. But with the advance of science and literature, today’s athletes have access to several tools and professional organizations to help them become the best player possible.

So what exactly happens when an athlete engages the mind fully and properly to their competitive advantage? In other words, what exactly comprises a “winning mindset?” Below are my 8 elements of a successful mindset for sports competition. Even great athletes fall short of this list from time to time, so consider this an ideal standard to shoot for as you train for your sport:

1. Extreme passion for and joy in whatever you are doing. It should come deeply from within and give you the sense that you would not rather be doing anything else in the world.

2. Superb work ethic and discipline, even when nobody is watching. This allows you to train and grow in the areas needed to improve, and make healthy decisions that support your quest.

3. Resiliency. You need to be able to bounce back quickly when things go wrong rather than get stuck or break.

4. Extreme belief in yourself and your mission and a sense that whenever you compete you will prevail. This can often come and go, but the goal is to have it have it become more permanent.

5. An ability to remain fascinated with and focused on the moment. When concentration is this good, the past is irrelevant and the future is still unknown. All that matters for the focused athlete is the present moment and the challenges presented.

6. Positive energy and stability. This allows an athlete to overcome the many forces that might otherwise lead to emotional chaos. It keeps his or her emotions under control, and keeps the highs lower and the lows higher. Depression, overexcitement, anxiety, anger, and boredom rarely intrude when this stability is reached.

7. A detailed, specific, and action-oriented sense of purpose. Exact goals drive behavior in training and competition. The target is clear and precise, and all energies are directed toward hitting the bulls-eye with proper goal-setting.

8. Ample use of mental rehearsal or imagery before, during, and after competition. The mentally supreme athlete realizes that he or she must play the game 100 times in their mind before stepping out onto the field or court.

Every minute is a minute to #WINFROMWITHIN. Tell Gatorade what that means to you by creating your personal Gatorade bottle featuring a photo of your choice (if it's of you in your heyday, you must be over 13 years of age). You can also check out the bottles in retail featuring Michael Jordan, Usain Bolt and Mia Hamm Win From Within moments.

Dr. John F. Murray is a licensed clinical and sports performance psychologist who works with athletes at every level and in every sport to enhance performance and well-being. Reach him here.

Image by Ramóna Udvardi, Studio@Gawker.