A Champion’s Mindset: Reframing Obstacles as Opportunities

So you walk in the gym to get some shots up and it hits you like a Ronda Rousey right hook. Workout apathy. All you want to do is lie down and sleep. The thought of even starting your workout makes you groan in despair.

How awesome would it be if you could avoid this feeling? That’s what this post is all about. When obstacles suddenly leap in front of you, this post will teach you how to respond by reframing those obstacles as opportunities.


It's Your Choice

Imagine that your basketball career is a hurdles race against every other player your age. Each hurdle represents an obstacle like boredom, fatigue or apathy. Every time you reach a hurdle, you have two choices. You can be pissed off that you have to jump over another hurdle OR, you can imagine that hurdle as a chance to overtake an opponent.

If you clear that hurdle, you’ll be leaving another competitor in the dust. In comparison to the rest of the world, you'll be that much better. In essence, your “world ranking” will improve by the number of people who get tripped up by that hurdle.

Imagine all the players who give up when they reach those obstacles. But not you. Every time you push through a tough workout, shoot 10 more shots when you're exhausted, or even just get to the gym when you'd rather be at home sleeping, you leapfrog a few competitors. Sustained over time, that's how you become elite.

You can gripe and complain about how difficult it is, or you can say to yourself, “someone else is going to get tripped up by this hurdle, but not me."


This type of thinking is more of an extrinsically motivated approach. But when you’re facing a daunting obstacle, anything that can motivate you to get past it can be useful.

(Quick side note: I’m a big proponent of intrinsic motivation. I believe it to be a much more sustainable and positive force than extrinsic motivation. Especially in sports, where competitions, rankings and games are ubiquitous and success is measured extrinsically. Being intrinsically motivated to perform at your best regardless of the outcome is extremely important to maintaining performance over the long run. Not to mention your sanity.)


 My Mental Tricks I Use to Crush Obstacles

This offseason, I’ve been doing a lot of training by myself. I haven’t been able to consistently train with my usual training partners or skills coach. It’s left me with a persistent challenge: how do I continue to work out hard and often when I’m the only person that will notice if I slack off? This is a common struggle for many players and one that I’ve faced occasionally but never so frequently as this offseason. (One effective solution to this problem is to develop good habits.)

By reframing obstacles as opportunities, I’ve been able to more successfully overcome them. Moreover, I no longer think of fatigue, workout apathy or boredom as negatives, but rather as a unique chance to leap over another hurdle and improve my "world ranking." 

I always know I can pull this line of thinking out of my bag of tricks to motivate myself. When I get tired during a drill, I think of the hundred other players who give up when they reach that same level of fatigue. Then I imagine blowing past them on the court and get fired up enough to complete the drill.

Little mental tricks like that are awesome for pushing past mental fatigue. Over time, I’ve cultivated a slew of them to use as motivation during workouts. *Stay tuned for an upcoming post on my mental tricks I use to push through fatigue.


The Takeaway: If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. If there were no obstacles to face, then everyone would be a professional athlete. It’s only by proving that you are willing to fight through those obstacles and challenges that you can reap the rewards of basketball success.  


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