Walk Like a Winner

By Liz Bentley

This past summer when my tennis team was starting up, I asked a couple of teammates who should play court one – the top team – in the first match. They immediately replied, “You!” I had played court one a couple times the previous season but had not played all winter and was very rusty. They dismissed my concerns with the argument that when I walk on the court, I “walk like a winner, which intimidates the opponents before the match even starts.” My first instinct was to assume the comment was an avoidance tactic on their part – or perhaps just a funny comment we’d laugh about. But then I decided to practice what I preach and delve into this interesting feedback. “What does walking like a winner even look like?” I asked, to which they replied, “You walk tall with a confident posture and a relaxed attitude that makes people feel like you’re hard to beat.”

So with that, I had my new tennis strategy for the season. Every time I would walk on the court, I thought “I am going to walk tall with confidence like a winner and I am going to win this match.” As a result, my game became more focused; I didn’t get distracted by technical mistakes or get hung up on how to correct them. By staying focused and confident, the errors seemed to correct themselves. When losing, I didn’t get discouraged but continually told myself I could recover and win. When feeling fearful or nervous, I would pull my shoulders back and stand as tall and confidently as I could, and I noticed it shifted my mind and outcome.

The result of my efforts? I went undefeated on court one that season and won a competitive tournament with this one strategy. While I recognize the importance of working on skills and practicing to correct mistakes, it is critical to remember that mindset can trump all and can, in fact, dictate outcome. So here are some things to help you walk like a winner!

Be confident. You have to believe in yourself and your capabilities. While you are not perfect and have areas you need to work on, you need to know your strengths. Always be aware of what makes you special and unique – the qualities that position you differently from your competition. When you are not feeling confident, fake it. Mentally remind yourself that you are a winner and that you are capable of overcoming any adversity.

Keep score, winning does matter. I believe the famous saying, “it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose but how you play the game,” is only partially correct. It actually does matter whether you win or lose. Winning builds confidence; shows that your products, services, strategies and techniques are working; allows for progress and advancement; and overall indicates you are on the right track. Losing, on the other hand, signals that you need to make a shift, recover, reconsider your strategy, make changes and/ or practice more. What the saying does get right is that “how you play the game” matters too. Being a good sport, playing fair and living by your values pays big dividends. But, most importantly, winning matters so keep score in 2013. Make goals, create effective strategies, track your progress, and address your challenges so that you come up a winner.

Don’t play scared. A friend of mine recently told me about his son – a straight A student – relentlessly studying and then over-thinking test questions, taking too long and sometimes making unnecessary mistakes. This began to adversely affect his grades. This can happen to all of us. Being fearful of failure is natural and sometimes unavoidable. We often can feel overwhelmed by our challenges and over-think our situation which can lead to mistakes and poor decisions. We also can have self-sabotaging thoughts, e.g., “I’m a bad writer,” “I can’t make decisions quickly,” I’m impatient,” “I don’t like risk taking.” This sets us up for failure before the challenge can even be addressed. What we have to remember is that mindset dictates outcome. Address your challenges one at a time. Visualize your big picture goals while you take action to get there.

Revisit your dreams deferred. Review the dreams you put on hold because of your life circumstances and reconsider how to achieve them or modify them to your needs. A new year is about another chance. 2013 is an open book of opportunities waiting to be seized. Dreams deferred don’t have to be lost; they may need to be adjusted but can be captured. Reignite your imagination and get inspired to tackle exciting opportunities.

Be the architect of your life. Review the categories of your life – finances, physical wellness, relationships, career, community, family – to confirm that you like your life design and are excited by the course you are on. If you find there are areas you would like to change, see this new year as an opportunity for a redesign and move those issues to the top of the list. Only you control your life so seize this restart as a chance to renovate on any scale, large or small.

As author and journalist David Brooks summarized, “If you act powerfully, you begin to think powerfully.” Go into the new year walking like a winner. Be confident, position your strengths, stand tall with your shoulders back, and remember that you control your outcome.