What Does It Mean to Have a Winning Mindset?

The most heartbreaking conversations I have as a mental performance coach are with athletes who believe at their core that if they do not ‘win’ or achieve a particular outcome, all their hard work is for nothing. I wish I could say this is a rare occurrence, but unfortunately, this is a conversation I have almost daily. For too many athletes, a win is not just a goal they are pushing for; it is required to prove that they are enough and valuable as a person. The default thinking has shifted to a ‘win-at-all-cost’ mentality, leading to a lack of confidence, motivation, and burnout for the most talented athletes across every sport. The worst part about it is not unrealized potential but rather the loss of appreciation for all the incredible successes they had daily but could not see because they were blinded by something outside their control. In this post, I will challenge you to trade the expectation to win for a winning mindset that you can choose to step into daily. 


Let’s start with the #1 block athletes have with releasing the expectation to win.

In my coaching programs, the first topic I cover with every athlete, no matter what they are dealing with, is letting go of expectations. After we discuss what expectations are and examples specific to them, it never fails that I receive a comment or question that sounds something like, “But if I do not expect to win, then that means I am not trying my best, so expectations are good sometimes, right?”. As a recovering perfectionist, I understand exactly what they mean, so I navigate this very complex topic carefully.

There are two primary approaches people take to win and achieve success. The first is the Grind Method which operates from a belief that you must prove your worth, so keep your head down, grind hard, and one day, when you finally reach your goal, all your hard work will pay off, and you can feel satisfied. The second approach, the Growth Method, is for those who believe they are amazing today, but they work hard and push forward because they know they are capable of even more greatness tomorrow. Consider for a moment which one feels true for you. 

At first glance, the Grind method seems exciting and like the plot of a powerful sports movie, but think about how that plays out in real life. You wake up every day feeling that you have to prove yourself. Any hint of celebration or fun feels undeserved, and rest is simply out of the question because that means victory is slipping away. Motivation is driven by lack which makes the good days insignificant and the bad days proof that you are still not where you are supposed to be. Comparison is constant, and the success of others feels like a loss for you which leads to jealousy and resentment. This path is heavy with dissatisfaction, low self-esteem, and lack of confidence, which usually results in burnout. 

At Mandy Patterson Coaching, we teach the approach to success that allows for high self-confidence, passion, and daily joy, the growth mindset. It enables you to operate out of a place of acceptance for who you are, a celebration of your hard work and effort, and fearless action toward even more greatness. If this is hard to accept because it feels like complacency, consider how many times you have heard a story about the downfall of one of the ‘greats’ and wondered, “how could they throw it all away?” The reason is the pressure they placed on themself was unsustainable, and they crumpled under the weight of expectations.

Now that you understand the growth vs. grind mindset and how the two approaches affect your confidence, motivation level, and enjoyment daily, I hope you consider prioritizing a winning mindset over an expectation to win. 

Now, let’s talk about three daily actions to step into a winning mindset.  

3 Actions to Step into a Winning Mindset Daily

#1 Replace failure with opportunity

The only failures that exist are the ones we choose to allow. Before you stop reading and write me off completely, let me explain. Athletes who describe their performance as a “failure” are choosing to throw away the entire experience as a waste of time and effort. They are saying that there was a standard for their performance that they did not meet, and because of that, nothing they did matters. THIS IS THE REASON SO MANY ATHLETES ARE STRUGGLING WITH THEIR CONFIDENCE. An all-or-nothing mentality about performance causes athletes to judge and criticize themselves based on a standard of perfection. Athletes carry the weight of their entire careers, past and future, with every single play, and it is not fair to them, their teams, or parents who want nothing more than for their children to believe in themself. 

Replace the word ‘failure’ with ‘opportunity.’ By viewing mistakes as opportunities, we are focusing on growth and looking for ways to become better versions of ourselves every day. This mental shift will help you move out of judgment and stuckness into curiosity about how you can use this situation to become stronger. You will begin to see the ‘small wins’ and ways you progress daily, which will build your confidence, improve your motivation, and make the process more enjoyable.  

#2 Assess performance functionally, not perfectly

Instead of looking at performance as a win or loss, all or nothing, take a step back and assess it through a lens of growth. This will allow you to keep your confidence high and consistent instead of a rollercoaster ride of up and downs directly tied to your performance outcome. Here is how it works.

At the end of practice and competition, instead of asking, “How did it go?”, which usually results in an unhelpful ‘good’ or ‘bad’ (pass or fail), ask yourself these questions:

  1. What did I do well today? This allows you to focus on the good things first, which will build your confidence. It also acknowledges that we do good things every day, and they all matter, no matter how small.
  2. What could I have done better? Notice I did not say “what went wrong” because sometimes things are outside our control or do not go our way, and we can do nothing about it. By asking this question, you are looking for opportunities for growth and improvement instead of judging your performance and choosing to stay stuck. 
  3. How can I use my next practice to improve? This is where you take the things that could have gone better and get into action. You are taking ownership of your performance, controlling what you can, and focusing on bettering yourself daily. 

Adopting a functional mindset will allow you to maintain composure throughout the entire practice, stay motivated even on tough days, and put you in control of your confidence. As a bonus, this way of thinking will lead you to the desired outcomes and results without all the pressure.  

#3 Step outside of your comfort zone daily

When I look back at the moments in my life that led me to my greatest successes, the thing they have in common is that I was completely outside of my comfort zone. One that stands out was during my corporate journey when I volunteered to take a head executive in our company on a marketing trip. I was terrified to ask and even more uncomfortable on the 2-day trip, but raising my hand resulted in a major promotion that otherwise would not have been within reach. Reflecting on my decisions before that moment, I can see a series of small yesses that prepared me to say yes when it counted. If you look back at the moments you are most proud of, I bet you will see proof that stepping outside of your comfort zone was the exact thing that made the success so sweet. 

Release the fear of failure and become curious about what amazing things await you by trying something new. Let go of the fear that it will not go well, people will not like you, or you do not have what it takes because that is only your brain’s way of keeping you safe, not a sign that you should not move forward. Focus on the possibilities and good “what ifs” and get excited about what will come. Even if it is uncomfortable, awkward, or doesn’t end up like you thought, you are learning that you are brave and can do new things. You will strengthen your belief in yourself which will serve you well in your sports performance and life. 

There you have it! Now that you have learned what a winning mindset is and the actions you can take to step into it daily, you can confidently push forward toward your biggest goals in a way that motivates and inspires you. Are you ready to make this major mental shift but need a little guidance and support? I’ve got you! 

The content is great but real change happens in the application. The most important thing I do for my clients is to keep them accountable for applying their mental game skills every practice and game. I offer them support so they never have to stay stuck.

I am here to support you. A performance check coaching session is a great way for me to learn more about where you are and your goals and to identify any gaps. I am only able to work with a limited number of clients at a time to be most effective so If you are interested in learning more, make sure you reserve your spot today.

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