Train Your Optimism in 4 Reps -By Tom Morris
Optimism is defined as hopefulness and confidence about the future or a successful outcome. In my 25-year coaching career and life, I know that this is a key factor to success. It’s the ability to not see the glass as half-empty nor half-full, but to see the glass as 100% full. 50% air and 50% water. This is a critical belief for all of us to have in tough times. Seeing hope, even when it looks like all hope is lost, is a characteristic that separates the average athlete from the elite athlete.
I have been fortunate to work with several elite athletes that have an optimistic mindset, but the one that jumps out more than any other is Ronnie. Ronnie is a tennis pro and he was one of the nation’s best as a collegiate. He’s stands 5’8, and he’s not overwhelmingly fast or strong, but he’s one of the toughest competitors I have ever met, without a doubt. He’s also an extremely optimistic athlete. In Ronnie’s world, he always has a chance, no matter who his opponent is or what the situation is. A few years ago, I got to watch him in the NCAA tournament as he battled for a spot in the Elite 8. The team match was tied up. Ronnie was on center court, and the entire season came down to him. If he won, the team advanced. If he lost, the season would be over. Ronnie was down 1-5. His opponent only needed to win one more game for the victory. Ronnie has the confidence that no matter how bad the situation is, he can get himself out of it. Calmly, he just kept playing. 2-5. 3-5. 4-5. 5-5. One point after another. One game after another, he brought himself right back in the match. The match ended 7-6, with Ronnie pulling off the huge victory and propelling his team to the Elite 8.
There are many reasons why Ronnie won that match, but it starts with believing victory is possible. Ronnie mirrors what researchers have studied for years. Dr. Jack Stinger’s research from multiple leading universities concludes: “When pessimistic athletes are confronted by unfortunate circumstances–such as, in tennis, a series of double faults, windy conditions or the belief that their opponent is cheating — they will weaken, get angry, tighten up, and believe they cannot succeed. This self-fulfilling prophecy almost always leads to continued poor performance, so the athlete will ultimately lose the set and match. These pessimistic thinkers don’t expect to win the next time out and with this negative expectation, they most likely will lose subsequent matches. This, of course, reinforces their negative view of themselves and their abilities, and the negativity snowball is rolling downhill.” (Dr. Jack Stinger). Comparatively, the optimistic athletes use these circumstances as an opportunity.
I have had a front row seat to some of the most competitive athletic environments on the planet, and I’ve witnessed firsthand the difference between an athlete with an optimistic mindset and a pessimistic one. The difference isn’t happiness or joy; it’s the ability to know you still have a chance for success, even when the odds are stacked against you.
If optimism is a component for the elite, then why isn’t everyone optimistic? Why doesn’t everyone see the good in the situation? Here are some strategies and “reps” to help you flex your optimism muscle.
Surround yourself with optimistic people. Surround yourself with people you want to be like. Surround yourself with people who have an optimistic growth mindset. They believe anything is possible, and if something negative does happen, they accept it and move on.
Accept and move on. The biggest thing that’s helped me have an optimistic mindset is accepting a situation, learning from it, and then making it better. This mentality promotes fearlessness. The more fearless you are, the more optimistic you can be. It also allows me to use my energy to change what I can control and not spend time and energy on what has already happen or is out of my control.
Make the effort. Make the effort to believe that every situation will give you a macro positive outcome, even if the micro outcome is not welcomed one. What is in front of us is not always desired or understood, but it’s what we make of it that will give us the best return.
Practice the optimism that you want to see in the world. A great coach once told me “you’re either an energy giver or an energy taker.” When you start giving the energy that you want to see, you will start seeing the world with the same energy. In my case, I have spent countless hours contemplating the energy I want to put out there, as there have been some hard times. Wouldn’t you know it…the minute I decided to turn my story into a way to help motivate others, all sorts of amazing things started happening. I have a foundation that others want to support, and I’ve attracted people who want to work with me and believe in what I do. Put energy out, and you will get it back twofold!
Optimism is a choice. It’s a choice and skill that you have to practice daily. A sort of muscle that you need to train. If you want to transform your view of the world, your optimism needs to be intentional. Spend time with optimistic people, and when things happen that you can’t change…accept them, learn from them, and move on. Believe that even bad situations will yield positive outcomes. Practice this every day. The more you do, the more you’ll start observing the world as a more optimistic place.
Tom Morris Profile:
REAL WORLD MOTIVATOR WHO WORKS AS THE DIRECTOR OF ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE AT INDIANA UNIVERSITY, HE SPECIALIZES IN STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING FOR OLYMPIC AND COLLEGIATE ATHLETES. HE IS NOT A “MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKER”. HE IS A MOTIVATOR THAT TAKES TIME AWAY FROM HIS FULLTIME JOB TO SHARE HIS STORY TO SHOW PEOPLE THAT ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.
EXPERIENCE:INDIANA UNIVERSITY, 2005-PRESENT
ASSISTANT ATHLETIC DIRECTOR OF ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE
LASALLE UNIVERSITY, 2004-2005
DIRECTOR OFATHLETIC PERFORMANCE
PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY, 2000-2003
ASSISTANT STRENGTH COACHCONTACT
(814) 777-1575 TJMORRIS@INDIANA.EDU HTTP://TOMSTEAMCHARITY.ORG/