Mind Over Matter: 3 Mindset Shifts Winners Adopt

Khaleela Hodge (’24) reflects on how our attitude impacts both our success and our happiness. “So, when it comes to winning, it’s important that we see both those big and small wins, because at the end of the day, it’s those small wins that are going to build the foundation for those big wins.”

What if we lose?

What if we fail? 

What if we never make it? 

Every day we ask ourselves these what if questions, dreading the answer.

But what if I told you that you don’t have to do that anymore. 

Instead of worrying about negative outcomes, rather switch your mindset so that you’re focusing on the positive possibilities.

We will win.

We will succeed.

And we will make it.

Embracing a positive mindset allows us to shape our own future, instead of letting worry do it for us, making success that much more tangible. 

This realization truly hit me when I was talking to one of my hockey teammates. We were discussing our biggest rival team, when she asked me “what if we lose?” Considering the circumstances, this was a pretty legitimate question. Our rivals were undefeated in our league for over two years, and now we were supposed to somehow beat them, breaking their winning streak. 

However, the way I see it – and what I told my teammate is – you can only lose if losing is an option. Meaning, if you make losing an option, then you’re subconsciously telling yourself that you have two options, either win, or lose. But, if you eliminate that negative outcome, and tell yourself “I can either win or win,” then your brain embraces a positive mindset, thus only focusing on winning, and therefore doing whatever it can to put you in that winning position.

This idea of “positive manifestation” is super important when working towards success. Even if you think all the odds are against you, simply “tricking” your brain into thinking something can defy those odds. Cognitive psychologist Stephan Lewandowsky explains that by default we believe anything that we hear or see. This can occur because our brains are constantly exposed to truths, so we just anticipate that everything said to us is going to be more truths. So, if we feed our brains information, regardless of if it’s “false,” the odds of our brain registering that as truth is super high. Therefore, when we think positively, and tell ourselves “I can do this,” even if we “can’t,” our brain is going to think we can, allowing us to do things that might not have been possible otherwise. 

Therefore, when we view things (like playing a hard team) with that positive growth mindset, we’re opening up doors that wouldn’t have been there, allowing us to be so much more successful in our lives. 

So, how can we further adopt this winner mindset?

1. Redefine winning. 

Winning is defined as “being successful or victorious.” However, when most people think of winning, they look only at big wins. For example, beating their opponents in a game. But, oftentimes they don’t realize that they can still be successful or victorious with “small wins.” This can be something as simple as learning something new, making progress, or achieving a goal. 

It’s anything that helps you go from your current position to a more improved position. So, when it comes to winning, it’s important that we see both those big and small wins, because at the end of the day, it’s those small wins that are going to build the foundation for those big wins.

2. Set goals.

When you have that big win in mind, you can’t just expect to magically get there. Like I mentioned, it’s going to be those small wins that get you there. Therefore, start looking at these small wins as your mini goals. 

If your end goal is to win state championships, then you’re going to have to develop a series of steps, aka mini goals, to take to get there.

Take time to truly reflect on what your strengths and weaknesses are, and then put together goals to strengthen them. Every day, you should be working towards these goals, ensuring you don’t lose sight of your end goal.

For me, my big goal was to win state championships. Starting from the end of last season, I reflected on what I did good and what I needed to improve on. I found that while my skating and speed was good, one thing that needed improvement was my shot accuracy. Therefore, one of my mini goals was to improve my shot. From the time the season ended through the beginning of the season, I was consistently shooting pucks, each time focusing on improving my accuracy. After shooting over 1500 pucks, my shot has gotten so much better, and has taken my game to another level, putting me even closer to that goal of winning state championships. 

3. Never (ever) accept defeat.

Losing is the worst feeling ever. No one wants to lose. And when you do, it just feels terrible.

But, you know what’s worse than losing? Accepting the fact that you lost, and doing nothing about it. 

Every single day you’re going to face loss, failure, and defeat. This is only bad if you let this become your reality. The moment that you start capitalizing on these losses in order to find out where you need to improve, is the moment that you’re going to see huge growth. 

So, the next time you face defeat, go back to the goal making step, and truly reflect on what went wrong, and then set goals and put in the work to make sure it doesn’t go wrong again. 

At the end of the day, losing isn’t the end of the world. It’s just a wake up call that you can be doing more. It’s what’s going to help you figure out what you need to do in order to get that success and inevitably win. 

And winning, that isn’t the whole world either. It’s more so about constantly making progress and improving yourself so that you can set yourself up for success.   

Both winning and losing come straight back to your mindset. Will you be mentally strong enough to bounce back from a loss? But more importantly, will you take the time to learn the small lessons that will teach you how to become a winner?

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