Category Archives: Book

The Champions Mind by Jim Afremow, PhD

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So writing book reviews are hard even when you enjoy the book…. especially when you enjoy the book. I have had to do a few different book reviews over my time as a university student but never was it this hard to keep it short. I have so many good things to say about this book and there were so many sections that helped me, I just want to basically rewrite the book. But I’m not going to because that would not be a REVIEW and it would be super long, and this post is already….not short.

This book has completely changed how I think and act when it comes to sports and even life in general. It has helped me to set goals, see the positives in every situation, not beat myself before I even start, and taught me many other things that have made my training and, more importantly, my life more enjoyable.

After reading this book and now reviewing it, it seems to me that the first seven chapters give you mental tools and small examples of those tools. It is the first two chapters that I found most interesting and helpful, especially the second. Then they have a chapter all on Olympic level athletes and how they used the tools to get to that level. These stories were interesting and helped me to see how others put the tools into play. The last three chapters talk about taking all the tools you were introduced to in the first seven chapters, and read about other people using for Olympic level training, and how you take those skills and mold them into your own game plan and mental training. This section was much easier to get through as it again had some information that I found quite valuable. So what parts of the book did I find the most helpful? In the following paragraphs I am going to touch on my favourite three chapters and how they each made an impact on my life.

The first chapter; Be Your Own Champion has a lot of good questions and thought provoking statements throughout it. The section The Champion Question has one of the best questions. It will get you thinking about what you need to do, and stop doing in order to be the best version of yourself. The question? “What will your life look like when you have become your own champion?” So think about what your day, work, and/or training session would look like when you are a champion. What things would you do differently, what would you add into your life, and what things would you not do because they affect you negatively?  Other questions from this chapter that really got me thinking were “How will I be a champion today?” and “How was I a champion today?” You would ask these of yourself when you wake in the morning and when you go to bed at night, respectively. I found that asking myself how I will be a champion today helps me to prioritize and focus my day ahead.

A couple other sections of this first chapter that I really liked are called The Champion’s Will-Do-Now List and Lead By Creed and Deed. They both list ideas that will help keep you on task, stay positive, and motivate others. So for me, being a lists guy, these two sections were very attractive to me. The Champions Will-Do-Now List has some really good points to ward off procrastination. Things like scheduling out your day, and making sure that it is a realistic schedule. Setting priorities and being organized help tremendously as well. If I have my meals planned out and figure out which project I am going to work on at what time throughout the day I get way more done. If I just ‘let it happen”, there is a lot of nothing that ends up happening. The other point that is brought up is to keep your work area clean. The less clutter at your work desk, or station, the less stress you will have. Lead By Creed and Deed had some really good points about leadership. These are the ones I found hit me the most:

1. Develop a vision for success and stay enthusiastic pursuing it.

2. Great leaders invite feedback from others as opposed to blocking criticism. Always share credit and accept blame.

4. Care, really care, about others. Take an interest in the person wearing the uniform, not just that person’s performance.

6. Realize that your impact goes beyond your performance; lead by example, on and off the field.

9. Share in all of the sacrifices and hardships of the team, never asking others to do what you are unwilling to do.

This first chapter also goes on to talk more about working within a team, whether that is in sport or outside of sport, as well as how to deal with change and disappointment.

My favourite chapter in this book is chapter two; Master The Mental Skills. This chapter explains mental skills and drills that will help you attain a champion’s mindset so you can achieve your full potential. Goal Setting is the first section in this chapter and rightfully so I think. I think it is one of the most crucial parts of becoming the best you you can be, hence why I wrote a whole post just on goal setting (Goals. Of the hockey sort, or maybe not) and why I will probably write more eventually. Without goals there is little direction for your action. Another section I really liked in this chapter was Self-Talk. This section has a very interesting story “Feed the Good Wolf”, which was some of the inspiration behind my post Why Not Be Positive. If you have not heard this story or legend (I prefer to call it a legend because to me that makes it more powerful) you are missing out. For those of you who have not heard of “Feed the Good Wolf” here is the LEGEND:

A grandfather explains to his warrior grandson that there are two wolves within each of us: One wolf is positive and beneficial, while the other wolf is negative and destructive. These two wolves fight for control over us. The grandson is curious and asks, “Which wolf will win?” The grandfather replies, “The one you feed.”

BOOM. There it is. Short. Sweet. To the Point. How you talk and think to yourself will effect how you perform, live, and feel. Make sure your thoughts and words feed the good wolf.

There was a lot of good information in all the other chapters but the one other chapter that I found helpfull was chapter seven: Zen in The Zone. Chapter seven is another very interesting chapter and one I found very useful. It has different stories about teaching Zen along with how it can be connected to sports and a self-reflection question to further your thinking. Below are the sections I found most helpful.

Maybe – The story that goes with this one is that a farmer keeps saying maybe to things. It starts out the farmer had a horse run away and his friends came over and said “such bad luck”. The farmer said ‘maybe”. then the next day the horse came back with four more wild horses. “Such good luck”, the farmers’ friends said. “Maybe”, said the farmer. The next day the farmer’s son tried to ride one of the wild horses and fell off and broke his leg. “Such bad luck” said the farmer’s friends. “Maybe” said the farmer. The next day military officers came to draft young men into the army and seeing the son’s broken leg, passed him by. Not judging an outcome until later when it has had time to play itself out to its entirety will help you to keep calm and relax. This section was also part of the reason I wrote the blog Sometimes You Win and Sometimes You Learn, Because There is a Reason. which has to do with not judging things right away. Sometimes “bad” things happen but then days, weeks, or sometimes years later you are thankful for that “bad” thing because it taught you something or allowed you to do something you otherwise would not have done. Self-reflection question: Do I stay calm and centered when the sport gods hurl hardships my way?

Working Very Hard – The story for this one is slightly confusing and it isn’t until after they explain it that I understood what it meant. Basically it means that you need to be focusing on what you are doing in the moment, day-to-day, rather than worrying so much about the end result you want. If you are always looking where you want to end up then you are not giving the attention to detail that your day-to-day activities require and thus will not get to your end goal. Take care of the process and the results will take care of themselves. Self-reflection Question: Am I just mindlessly working hard, or am I aware of what I am doing?

The King and the Peace Contest – This story is kind of weird and long but basically it gets at that real peace comes from inside yourself. Staying calm mentally in a big game or situation is very crucial to the success of that game or situation. The only way external factors can affect your mental calmness is if you let it. Self-refection question: Do I keep cool and composed in the heat of competition?

Breathing – Practicing deep breathing will ease stress and bring about a state of relaxation. When you breath shallow oxygen intake decreases and muscle tension increases. So you want to relax? Deep breaths! Self-reflection question: Do I breathe easily and deeply throughout my day?

Destiny – You control your own destiny. You can only accomplish what you profoundly believe you can accomplish. Therefore believe that you are destined for great things in your sport and work hard in your daily tasks to achieve your dreams. Self-reflection question: How great could I play if I thought and acted as if it were impossible to fail?

Chasing Two Rabbits – This one is really simple. He who chases two rabbits catches neither. Pick one thing to work on and really go for it. Self-reflection question: Do I place all of my energy and effort on doing one good thing at a time?

These simple zen stories, along with others, really helped me to get myself into “the zone” for training sessions, gave me inspiration for other blog posts, and help me perform my job to the best of my ability. Like I said earlier these three chapters were my favourite but I did learn a lot from the other chapters as well.

Chapter three: Be In It To Win It contains sections like coming up with a slogan, what music you listen to, staying within yourself, and trusting your abilities. Chapter four; The Wisdom of A Champion speaks to mistakes, failures, knowing your why, and controlling what you can. Chapter five; Exercise, Nutrition, Pain, Injuries, and Regeneration is about exactly what it says it is about. The difference with this one is that each section has points and steps to help you work through injuries, nutrition, etc.

Chapter six: Take Control of Your Personal Destiny has psychological studies that will give you information on tools like meditation, how performing sports in a group can help or hinder your performance, and the benefits of a gratitude journal.

Chapter eight: Golden Reflections is the chapter that has all the stories of the Olympic athletes. Chapter nine: Your World-Class Game Plan starts with a mental game scorecard where you rate yourself on the different aspects of your mental game. This chapter then goes on to talk about how to prepare for a game, practice, big event, change, etc. Chapter ten: Long-Term Survival of The Most Mentally Fit has many examples within it of athletes who were or have been very successful in their respective sports for a long time and how they did it. Things like setting golden priorities, being resilient, or not overextending yourself. There is then a very short Epilogue: The Ultimate Victory is Yours and two very important lists in the Appendixes. The first is Be a Champion Student-Athlete and the second is Be a Champion Sleeper.

This book also had tons of great quotes, so last but not least I leave you with some of my favourite quotes out of this book. There are many to choose from but these are the ones that really hit home for me.

QUOTES:

“Champions aren’t made in the gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them – a desire, a dream, a vision.” – Muhammad Ali

“The vision of a champion is someone who is bent over, drenched in sweat, at the point of exhaustion when no one else is watching.” – Anson Dorrance

“The time is now, the place is here.” – Dan Millman

“Every survival kit should include a sense of humour.” – Anonymous

“Warriors don’t slouch into battle.” Anonymous

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin

As always Stay Positive, Be Better, and Go Get It!

Why Not Be Positive?

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Think for a second or two. Think of that thing you want to try. Think of that goal you want to reach. Think of the type of influence you want to have on your family, friends, community, country, even the world! For some of you this may be easy, some of you this may take more than a second, or two seconds, or two minutes. Some of you may want to influence the world, some of you may not have plans that large. Some of you may already have goals in mind or on paper, some of you may not have had anyone ask you these questions before. So take some time and think about it. Now, how many of you wrote some of those things down? Or how many of you thought of them and didn’t write them down because “I can’t do that” or “that’s not possible”? Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right – Henry Ford. Little fun fact for you, that is my favourite quote.

When you have something you want to do or achieve how do you approach it? Is the first thing that comes to mind “I can’t” or “that’s too hard”? Or do you tell yourself “I can” or “I’ll do my best”. Thinking in a positive light can help to keep, or start, your life going in a positive direction. If you don’t think you can do something, chances are you wont do it, whether you actually “try” or not. If you think you can do it, at least you give yourself a fighting chance rather than accepting defeat before you even start. I know that life ain’t ALL sunshine and rainbows but there is sunshine and rainbows here and there throughout it. Why not try to have as much sunshine and as many rainbows as you can? Sometimes the rain might go on for a bit longer than you would like, but if you stay positive and keep trying, eventually the sun and rainbow will show up. And when they do, it will all have been worth it. And if you fail, contrary to popular belief, the world will not end. Failing isn’t fun but it’s not bad either. In most day-to-day situations it gives you an opportunity to try again or refocus with a better approach and more knowledge and experience.

So next time you want to achieve a goal, or try something new, say “I Can” instead of “I Can’t”. You never know how soon the sunshine and rainbow might make an appearance.

Stay Positive and Go Get It!

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