My whole life, I’ve researched what has made elite athletes who they are. I’ve coached over 500 athletes from every continent except Antarctica. I’ve earned the most prestigious certifications in coaching and training, read books on sports psychology, peak performance, mental imagery training, and leadership. I’ve studied the secrets of elite performers like Michael Jordan, Tom Brady, and Duke’s Coach K. And I’ve asked nearly every person with any knowledge on the subject one question:
“What's the one thing people need to do to attain peak performance?”
And after years of learning, coaching, training, researching, and listening to top athletes, I’ve discovered the single most powerful secret of elite human performance:
Become completely addicted to accomplishing your athletic goals and constantly visualize the journey to achieving them.
That’s it? Yes, as long as you truly make it so nothing else seems to matter to you and your mind can't imagine not achieving your goal, no matter how much you have to sacrifice. But it’s not that simple to actually do. Just think about it: how many times have you said to yourself, “I’d like to lean out,” or “I want to achieve a new personal record,” or “I want to play pro basketball”? But of all those times, how often did it feel like it was a matter of life and death?
Not “I could” or “I should” but “I must”? How often have you sacrificed everything else in your life to achieve something? Have you ever visualized attaining a goal so clearly that when you actually do attain it, it almost feels like déjà vu because you’ve seen it happening in your mind for years? Or are you someone that half-asses your goals, makes excuses, blames others, and lives in regret about what could or should have been last month, last year, or decades ago?
Well, I’ve got news: that’s most people. But that kind of mindset ends today.
If you want to unlock peak performance, you have to create a vision of your dream so strong it’s more real than anything else in your life. It's more real than reality itself.
This is the core of what I call the elite athlete mindset.
Elite athletes know how to make a crystal-clear goal, a big one that might seem unrealistic to friends and family. They never lose sight of it and do whatever it takes to achieve it even when it seems impossible. See, “realistic” is one of my least favorite words in the English language. All it does it put barriers on the human mind. So forget about being “realistic.” I’m asking you not to be afraid of what you would really want if there were no way you’d fail at it.
I’m asking 100% rigorous honesty with yourself about your dreams. That’s why today I want you to write down, in as much detail as possible, your truest, deepest, most authentic, biggest Athletic Goal. But there’s a trick to creating the right kind of Athletic Goal for you to succeed.
Here are the 3 key components I’ve learned from my research and experience over the years:
Aim for the Bullseye. When you make your goal, it needs to be precise. You need to be able to see, hear, smell, and touch it. Be detailed. Most basketball players are taught “shoot just above the rim.” This visualization technique is okay, but it’s not elite. Sports psychology teaches us that the more precise the aim, the more precise the vision we have in our mind, the better our results. For this reason, I teach basketball players to shoot for the rung the net is hanging from that is directly in front of them. That rung is about 1/2 of an inch. That’s all I have their eyes, mind, and body focus on. Same thing with marathon runners. I hear a lot of them say, “I want to finish in under four hours.” If you think that way you’re still focused on the number “four.” But “four” is not the actual goal. In fact “four” is a sign of not achieving the goal, because it's not what they're going for. Instead, I want their goal to be: “I’m going to run in 3 hours and 55 minutes.” That way they know that 4:00 is not acceptable. They are laser-focused in on 3:55. When they dream at night, they should dream 3:55. The same goes for you. What if you got more specific with your goal? I want you to visualize it: when will you accomplish it? What are your emotions when you achieve it? How does your body feel? Who is around you? Where will you celebrate after achieving it? And when? The more detail you visualize, the better your bullseye.
Put a Number on It ASAP. All the time clients say, “I want to lose some weight” or “I just want to get healthy” or “I want to move better.” These are probably the worst goals possible. Why? Because they are all rooted in fear and they are not measurable. These kinds of goals just work to soften the blow when the person fails at them. Think about it: how would you know if you lost “some” weight? If you “got healthy?” If you “moved better?” Instead, you have to put some numbers on it. A better goal would be “I achieve 9% body fat by February 11" or “I complete 95% of the workouts scheduled in my training program in the next six months.” Then you can measure it, achieve it, and move on to even bigger dreams.
That said, never sell yourself short. Other clients like to say, “I’d like to lose five pounds.” I ask them, “Would you be happy then?” And they usually say, “Well, no then I’d lose five more.” Before you know it, they want to lose twenty pounds. Their true desire is to lose twenty pounds, but they’re only willing to admit to five at first. I say screw that. Be honest with yourself and aim high. If you want to lose twenty pounds, get a full college scholarship to a Top 25 university, or run your next marathon in 2 hours and 49 minutes, admit it to yourself, put a number on it, then go do it! But now, we’re talking about your most important athletic dream and that requires A+ effort. That means there’s no more vagueness. And if you know you need to achieve this goal in exactly six months, three weeks, and two days, you sure as hell better be doing everything you can to maximize your performance over those next 203 days.
When Are You Gonna Do It? Goals need to have an end date. Goals need to have an end date. Goals need to have an end date. I could write an entire book with that one sentence, but still, so many people won’t give their goals an end date. Again, this is fear based. I see so many people fail in their fitness goals because they don’t have a clear vision of when they are going to accomplish them. So they lose focus, procrastinate, make excuses, rationalize it, and even justify how it's better to stop going after them altogether.
So let me ask you: “When are you going to accomplish your biggest goals?” I want you to know the precise day that you are going to achieve them. Think about it. If you had a deadline in school, or you have one in work, there is no putting it off forever. You sometimes have to get something done, like brushing your teeth before you leave your home in the morning. You don't wake up thinking about whether you should, or could brush your teeth sometime later. You must brush your teeth before you leave in the morning and you do (at least I hope so). But now, we’re talking about your most important athletic dream and that requires A+ effort. That means there’s no more vagueness. And if you know you need to achieve this goal in exactly six months, three weeks, and two days, you sure as hell better be doing everything you can to maximize your performance over those next 203 days.
Now let's go over the 3 points.
Bullseye: Is your vision crystal-clear? Are there vivid details so you can paint a picture of it to anyone? Are you able to picture it in your mind as you read over what you wrote?
Numbers: Do you have numbers on it, so you know when you’ve achieved it? Do those numbers reflect your real dream or are you letting fear hold you back from your truest self? Be honest with yourself here.
Deadline: When are you going to do this? Next month, next year, ten years from now? Write that specific date down and commit to it with your whole mind, body, and spirit.