#4: How Our Thoughts Create Our Reality

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What if I told you that you could control the outcomes you get in life?

That by simply making one shift, you can change the results you’re getting?

See, the thing is that many athletes that I work with WANT something different – more playing time, better performance, to play at the higher level – but feel like they have no control over what’s happening in reality. 

They get stuck in loops that keep them playing and performing below what they’re capable of. 

Well, today’s episode is all about how to flip that script on its head. 

In fact, what we’re talking about today is so important that we call it one of our foundational concepts. I taught our first foundational concept in episode #3 (the three non-negotiables to elite performance), so if you missed that, go back and take a listen. 

Today is another key concept, and that’s: How our thoughts create our reality. 

We’re going to chat all about how outcomes are created, examples of why this is so important to an athlete’s success (or lack of), and what athletes (and parents/coaches) can be doing to ensure they are owning their outcomes and results. 

So, let’s dive in. 

How Thoughts Create Our Reality -> The Thought Wheel

When I say our thoughts create our reality, here’s what I mean.

I want you to image a wheel. On this wheel, there are five arrows that point to one another in a clockwise fashion. One leading into the other. We call this the thought wheel. 

How this works is first we start with a situation by the first arrow. 

We may or may not be able to control that situation. 

However, we do get to control how we think about that situation. 

So the second arrow coming out from the situation is “thought”. 

From our situation comes thoughts. 

Now, our thoughts influence how we feel, which leads to the third arrow “emotions.”

From our emotions we take (or don’t take) action, which is our third arrow. 

From our action, we get our results, the fifth arrow. 

This leads back to our situation and usually puts us back in the situation we were in before and reaffirms our thoughts. Keeping us stuck in this loop. 

Recap: Situation, Thought, Emotion, Action, Results


Here’s how this plays out in the real world. 

Ex. Get benched

  • “My coach hates me”
  • Defeated, embarrassed, bitter, sad, resentful
  • Don’t give their all
  • Stop having fun, aren’t playing their best, stays on the bench.

What if we change the thought?

  • Get benched
  • “There’s an opportunity here”
  • Optimistic, motivated, determined
  • Asks for feedback, watches film, works on weaknesses
  • Improves, enjoys the process, maybe more opportunities

Can you see how changing just one thought can change the outcome? That’s because our actions and our results are a reflection of what we think. 

Another reason why this works is because what we focus on expands. Sort of like a microscope, what we put under there just gets bigger. But, we get to decide what we put under our microscope and what we choose to focus on. 

It’s also what’s behind the saying “the grass is greener where you water it.” Funny story, last spring weeds were taking over a corner of our yard that was supposed to just be barkdust. I couldn’t figure it out! But in this one corner they were growing like a jungle! It was super frustrating because on top of that, the grass was getting brown. I did a little sleuthing and come to find out one of our sprinkler heads was pointing the wrong direction somehow. Instead of watering the grass, it was watering the weeds. Our weeds were thriving! And the grass was dying. 

I see this all the time in athletes, and people who are “watering the weeds” with their thoughts. They are giving attention and care to their negative, limiting thoughts, and therefore growing them bigger and bigger. 

The tricky part here is that sometimes we are unaware of what we’re thinking, and often hold limiting beliefs about ourselves that we see as fact. We don’t realize what we’re putting under our microscopes or where we’re watering. 

I see this all the time in athletes who say things like, “I’m too short to _______ “ or “I’m just not good at defense.” This can even go off the court into things athletes say to themselves that they think are just part of their personality. Things like “I’m lazy” “I’m not good at math.”

It can take some time to identify the thought that is leading to the outcome or result. But, awareness is key and the sooner we can get athletes thinking about their thoughts, the better. 

Because our thoughts create our outcomes. They determine our reality. So if our athletes are getting outcomes they don’t want, they can take a step back and realize they have more power than they think they do. They have the power to change their thoughts. 

I hope you see how important this is!

Like I said, it’s key to training our minds to perform our best. Research shows that we say over 50,000 things to ourselves a day. Knowing that our thoughts create our reality, we know that athletes who harness this awareness and are intentional with what they are telling themselves have the competitive advantage over athletes who let their thoughts run wild. 

Our brains are primed to go negative as a protective mechanism. Athletes that want to level up, play their best, and be confident know that it takes work to be intentional with what they say to themselves. 

What can we do to ensure this?

So, what can athletes, coaches, and parents be doing to ensure that our athletes are creating the realities they desire?

Here’s what I encourage athletes to do: challenge your thoughts!

Every single one of them! 

Athletes, you can pick any situation in your life right now. Maybe it’s one that you can’t change. Maybe it’s a result you don’t like or a situation you continually find yourself in. 

For example, one situation that I used to find myself in a lot was being stressed. Everything just was stressful. Never enough time to do anything! 

Come to find out, those were the thoughts I was telling myself, and that was the daily reality I was creating for myself. 

So, what is it for you? Now, really get honest with yourself. What THOUGHT are you telling yourself about your situation?

Are you like me and saying things like “there’s never enough time” or “it’s not worth it” or “I’ll never be able to be as good as her.”

Write them down. Then, go through the process. How is that thought making you feel? What actions are you likely taking as a result? What results are you getting?

Be honest with yourself. When I had to examine the “there’s not enough time” thought, I found that I was constantly feeling overwhelmed and unsure of where to devote my time. As a result of these feelings, I found that I was procrastinating and overcommitting, which meant less time and more stress. I was literally making my own thoughts come true!

The next step is to change that thought. What can you change it to in order for it to be more productive for you? “There’s enough time to do what’s important.” “If she can do it, I can too” “My height makes me quick and hard to defend” 

Now, I know what you’re thinking. And no, you don’t have to lie to yourself. Saying something like “I’m the tallest person in the room!” is unrealistic and your brain won’t believe you. The key is to think a true thought that is more productive. That way, you can focus on that rather than the thought keeping you in a negative loop. 

As parents and coaches we can do this in our own lives. We can also encourage our athletes to instead of focusing on the outcome or the situation itself, focus on what thoughts they are choosing to focus on around the situation. 

Doing so will put more power back in their hands and lead to more confidence knowing that they have more control than they think. 

So, there you have it! One of the most important ways we can create our own outcomes in life, through controlling what we are focusing our thoughts on. 

Helpful Links:

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