“You see, a champion is never something you become… ever. It starts now by acting as a champion, committing yourself to practicing the habits and ways of a champion, choosing to engage in a lifestyle that demonstrates such qualities and characteristics on a consistent daily basis.”
The Way of the Champion, pg i
Looking back on his experience working with championship teams and athletes, sports psychologist and international speaker Jerry Lynch shares the habits and practices that separate the would-be champions from The Champions in The Way of the Champion.
At the heart of his strategy is the teaching of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War and other Tao wisdom, which he explains with the contributions of Chungliang Al Huang, an internationally recognized authority on the Tao.
But, The Way of the Champion does more than just share the mental habits and lifestyle of a Champion.
Perhaps the greatest benefit is the personal journey you take throughout the book, as you become more self-aware by answering and reflecting on the “Questions on the Quest” at the end of every chapter. These questions are meant to not only review the lessons learned, but also help you on your journey as a champion as you become more aware of where you are now, and where you’d like to get to.
And there’s one particular principle that stands out from the rest.
Focus Your Energy On What You Can Control
“Champions fully grasp the difference between what they can and can’t control in an event or
life situation, and choose to focus on the former.”
The Way of the Champion, page vi
As you learn about the mental habits and practices of The Champion, there is one key principle to keep in mind: Focus Your Energy on What You Can Control.
It’s easy to get caught up with results and outcomes.
With winning or losing. With hitting that “million dollar” sales mark.
But it’s crucial to understand that once you’ve set your goal, your focus needs to shift to the process of achieving that goal. Your focus needs to shift to the things you can control to help achieve that goal.
“Focus away from the results and more on the process. Focusing on the results creates anxiety,
stress, and a good deal of tension. Focusing on the process allows you to relax and
feel confident in what you can do.” (pg 28)
You truly cannot guarantee the specific outcome or result of any event in life.
But you can control how you think, act and behave on a daily basis at any given moment.
Here are two methods to help sharpen your focus.
Find Your Still Point
“To fulfill the advice of this Tao wisdom, I help all of my athletes and clients to
practice MINDFULNESS, a way or system to help quiet the mind (meditate), calm the body, and marinate the nervous system in positive images and self-talk.”
The Way of the Champion, pg 61
Knowing you should be focusing on the things you can control is one thing, and actually doing it is another. With all the distractions we have in this day and age, it’s easy to forget about what we “should be doing”; what with our constantly ringing cell phones, updating social media streams, and wanting to squeeze more out of every minute.
This is where the Tao state of mind, the still point, comes in. It’s a practice that’s been used by champion athletes such as Tiger Woods and championship teams such as the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers.
Do the following with eyes closed to find your still point:
1. Breathe in slowly through your nostrils, and as you do, feel the coolness of the air coming as it fills your lungs. Imagine the breath going to all parts of the body.
2. When your lungs are filled to capacity, hold or suspend your breath for five seconds.
3. Slowly exhale through the nostrils, and as you do, feel the warmth of the air as it exits the body.
4. Repeat this process seven or eight times, focusing on the alternating cool/warm temperatures of the breath. Notice how, with each breathe, you begin to get more deeply relaxed.
5. In this relaxed state, introduce images of success along with words, phrases, and affirmations that positively nurture, reinforce, encourage, and support who you are and what you do and where you desire to go. Be sure to focus on the process – on the things you can control – rather than purely the end results and outcomes.
6. The whole process takes only seven to ten minutes each day.
Practice Your I.P.R. (Instant Positive Response)
“I train athletes to do this by using their meditation technique to visualize, each day, circumstances that cause negative reactions, and to ‘feel’ themselves responding in positive ways.”
The Way of the Champion, pg 68
Whenever we’re faced with challenging times or blind-sided by an unexpected event, it’s easy to get caught up in the external circumstances, and forget about the things that are in our control. It’s easy to get caught up in how “bad” the situation seems to be.
But, as Jerry explains in The Way of the Champion, it’s important to practice our I.P.R. (Instant Positive Response) during these times.
Whenever you experience a mistake, error, setback or failure, take a deep breath and remind yourself that you are still in control of your thoughts, actions and behaviors in that moment. And then shift focus to what you can do, in that moment, to learn from, and face the challenges and bounce back from the perceived setback.
In fact, Jerry takes this one step further by recommending a daily meditative practice where you visualize the circumstances that cause negative reactions, and to feel yourself responding in positive ways. You can use the steps explained above to find your still point for this practice as well – just replace step 5 with the IPR practice.
The Way of the Champion is more than a personal development and leadership book – it’s a personal guide on your journey as a Champion.
“Everyone gets off track; the only difference between most people and the champion is that the latter, armed with heightened awareness and consciousness, gets back on track more quickly.” (pg. 202)