How to apply the mindset of an athlete to your business and personal goals

When it comes to winning medals at world and Olympic level, it’s not just about physical fitness. Having the right mindset is just as important. Athletes have to be mentally strong, calm under pressure and resilient. And it’s not just on the day of competition, it’s the days, weeks, months and years of hard work and mental strength leading up to the event that brings the results. 

Developing an athlete’s mindset and applying this to your business or personal goals can help you succeed. Running coach and runner, Liz Champion explains how.

Train, train, train

Athletes work hard. Day after day, whatever the weather, they are out training. They may have a talent for running or sport, but talent is nothing without hard work. In a field full of talented athletes, it’s the daily effort, discipline and determination that will bring results. 

Be prepared to work out of your comfort zone

For athletes, the training effect comes when they step out of their comfort zone. They have to run faster and harder, stepping not just out of their comfort zones but pushing their body to its limit. By doing so, they unlock their potential, often achieving more than they thought they were capable of. 

Performing in the comfort zone does not drive improvement. To win, you need to work harder and push for those limits. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and push the boundaries. Adopt a ‘no limits’ approach. There really is no limit to what you can achieve. Don’t let fear and your own limiting beliefs stop you from fulfilling your potential. 

Develop a growth mindset 

A person with a growth mindset believes that their skills and abilities can be developed through hard work and dedication. They believe that their actions can change the outcome and they see the connection between hard work and improvement. For people with a growth mindset, talent is just the starting point. They are prepared to work hard, learn and develop, and are resilient. 

A person with a fixed mindset believes that their skills and abilities are fixed and can’t be learned or developed. For them, it is the talent that creates the success not how hard they work at something. 

Changing from a fixed to a growth mindset can help you achieve more in all areas of your life. If you find yourself approaching something from a fixed mindset, try adding ‘yet’ to the end of the sentence. So, for example, instead of saying or thinking, I’m not good at running’, say ‘I’m not good at running, yet.’

The four Ds: Desire, drive, discipline and determination

The four qualities that most athletes possess are desire, drive, discipline and determination. They have a desire to achieve, a burning ambition that keeps them motivated and focused. They have the drive to work hard to achieve that ambition, prioritising training, developing new skills and pushing themselves. 

They persevere, showing grit and determination against all odds to achieve their goal, and are disciplined in their approach. Without the four Ds, there is little chance of success. 

Have a plan

Whatever your goal, planning is essential. Athletes may have a main goal of the Olympics or World Championships, but they will also have smaller goals and other target races on the way. 

Decide what’s important to you and go for it. Write down your goal and then break it down into smaller goals. This will help keep you focused and positive as you work towards the main goal.

Don’t dwell on mistakes, learn from them

Winning every event or competition is impossible so dealing with disappointment, setbacks and mistakes in the right way is vital. Successful athletes analyse their performance, look at what went well and what went wrong, adjust their training and then move on to the next race or competition. They are willing to learn, develop and try new approaches. Successful athletes don’t dwell on mistakes, they accept the situation and then focus on the future. 

Be prepared to fail

Accept that failure is just a part of the process. Respond to the failure in a positive way. If you have a setback, get back up and try again, and be prepared to repeat, repeat, repeat. 

Celebrate the wins

Celebrating the wins, however big or small is important. This is what you’re working hard for, so take the time to recognise what you’ve achieved and be proud. 

Think about your team

Surround yourself with people who are achieving, people who can inspire you and push you to work harder. Athletes train with athletes who are better than them, who are achieving what they’d like to achieve, so that they push themselves and learn from others. 

It’s never too late

It is never too late to change your mindset and achieve your dreams. Believe that you can, and you will.



Liz Champion is a writer, runner and running coach from Yorkshire. She works with runners of all ages and abilities, coaching them to achieve their fitness goals.

Despite being overweight and hapless at sport as a child, Liz has won medals at county level and is currently chasing England Masters selection for 10k and half marathon distances.

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