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Mindset: Is winning everything?

Words by: Mike Shaw

When it comes to accomplishing your goals, falling in love with the effort and strain process is critical. And guess what, if your reward system supports this process, you’ll land on more podiums and win more games.

How do you shift your reward system?

Deriving reward from the effort you put into achieving a goal, rather than the reward of achieving the goal, reinforces the growth mindset. Having a growth mindset means you believe through dedicated effort you can develop your abilities to achieve mastery (in everything you do).

The act of intentionally attaching a reward to effort and strain denotes the foundation of the growth mindset. Andrew Huberman of Huberman Labs at Stanford admits value to intentionally rewarding achievements, even the material ones, but at its core, a strong growth mindset comes from enjoying the dopamine release attached to effort.

It’s about enjoying friction. Each rep in the gym or at practice is something to appreciate because even though it’s difficult, the reps are getting you closer and closer to your goals. Take stock of your actions and readily reward your effort.

With this in mind, performing becomes the reward, not the performance itself or the end result.

What holds us back?

Epinephrine is adrenaline in the brain. It gets overloaded when you push yourself to your limit. When that happens, you might feel exhausted or get the feeling like you want to stop (e.g., you may want to take a substitution, change course, or give up).

Dopamine is your best friend in combating epinephrine and making sure that the effort process is not self-limiting. You have to dose your behaviours and thoughts with this idea that dopamine is good and attached to the process when the going gets tough.

You have to tell yourself you are on the right path when it feels like you want to give up.

The key to success

Dopamine is essential for the growth mindset, and possessing a growth mindset makes you more resilient. You’ll be less likely to shy away from challenges and much more likely to see obstacles as rewarding opportunities.

Elite athletes that compete and win are exceptional at overcoming adversity. They often get to where they are because they’re better at enduring the bumps in the road than other competitors.

People that make an effort and are intentional about recognizing the effort continue moving forward when there’s friction. Effort becomes the first hoop you have to jump through to trigger the epinephrine dopamine system.

Therefore, rewarding effort gives you more gas in the tank to feed the effort engine. It fuels the process and makes you more resilient.

What’s next?

So often when we’re at our limit and we fatigue mentally or physically, our first thought is about when it will get easier or when we will get to rest. This naturally occurring thought process isn’t serving us. When you recognize fatigue setting in, it’s an opportunity to self-trigger and remind yourself that strain is essential for progress.

When you trigger on fatigue, keep focused on your task, keep your goals in mind, keep rewarding effort, and keep going.


For more info on HeadStartPro, the Critical Error Reduction Techniques, a full list of performance-related habits, and other strategies for achieving peak performance check out our online courses for coaches and athletes:

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