As a retired professional athlete, I’m often asked about the “secret” to my success. What was it that propelled me to the professional level? What advice do I have for athletes with college or professional aspirations?
The truth is, there is no secret to success. Reaching one’s goals is a long and arduous process requiring laser-focus and a commitment to excellence over time. That said, from my own experience and having seen the successes and failures of other professional athletes first-hand, I’ve observed a few characteristics that successful athletes have in common.
Whether you dream of one day playing your sport on the world stage or simply wish to improve your game for today, here are the 6 areas I strongly recommend all athletes focus on.
Don’t wait to feel motivated. Reaching your dreams requires daily activity, but inspiration can be fleeting. So, what’s the solution? Make a commitment to take at least one step toward your goal each day – and then follow through with action. Consistency is critical. Over time, small steps add up to significant progress.
Know what you’re aiming for. In other words, define where you’d like to end up. What does success look and feel like to you? There’s no guarantee that your path will be a straight line, or that you won’t need to make adjustments along the way. But if you never choose a destination, how will you know you’ve arrived?
Leave your comfort zone. While it may be tempting to be a big fish in a small pond, achieving excellence requires stepping outside your comfort zone and challenging yourself to be better. Set a standard of excellence for yourself. Instead of retreating from new experiences, muster the courage to face your fears and embrace the unknown.
Be curious. There’s no greater obstacle to excellence than believing you already have all the answers. Instead, listen to the feedback you get from coaches, parents, teachers and friends – and then use that information to improve.
Rebound quickly from mistakes. When you make a mistake in a game – even if it’s a major error – don’t dwell on it. No matter how badly you feel about messing up, your focus must be on the next play. After the game, spend a short time reflecting on what you might do differently in the future, and then put the past to rest and move on.
Expand your interests. While it’s important to dedicate time and effort to achieving excellence in your sport, take care not to become one-dimensional. Developing interests beyond athletics is a great way to keep your sports goals in perspective. In fact, sport psychologists recommend engaging in a range of hobbies and activities to relieve stress and prevent burnout.
While every athlete’s – and every human’s – path is unique, these simple suggestions can make a significant impact on your ability to achieve greatness in sports and in life. Combined with a positive mindset and consistent action, you’re almost certain to succeed.
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Chris Bart-Williams is the founder and owner of CBW Soccer Elite. After an extensive career in the English Premier League, Chris now uses his vast soccer knowledge to assist families throughout the college recruiting process and prepare players for the mental and physical challenges of collegiate soccer. You can reach Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org.