NO Deals

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At the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, Billy Mills would make history with his iconic sprint to win the gold medal in the 10,000 meters. He was so unknown, that a Japanese reporter asked him after his win “who are you?” He is still the last American to win the Gold medal in the 10,000 meters.

However, he was going to quit.

Before the last lap, he knew he had third place locked up, so he was going to pull up and let the battle be decided by the other two runners, Ron Clarke and Mohammed Gammoudi. He knew it was “safe” to pull up, but as he looked into the stands, he saw his wife crying… He couldn’t give up. NO DEAL!

A runner/cyclist friend of mine was an athlete who admitted that he could just “show up.” He was skilled enough to compete in basically anything he did.

However, he told me that his game changed once he quit making deals with himself.

During a race or competition, he used to say to himself, “Keep up with [that guy] until this point and then let him go.” He admitted he wasn’t as sharp as he needed to be mentally. Now, during a race or practice, he’ll set goals, he’ll just say, “Catch that guy.”

How often do we make deals instead of goals? 

With our children, “Honey, if you pick up your toys, you can get a snack.” With God, “lord, if you get me through this, I will never…” With ourselves, “If you [do this] then you can [do this].”

Making deals is just like a coach who uses sprints as the only means of discipline. It works, but only for a short while, the athletes soon grow to tolerate it, and not learn from it. Making deals is effective, but only for the short-term. It gets the job done, but it is not sustainable and it causes really bad habits.

When we make deals, we are limiting how good we can become. Deals do not build mental toughness. Our motivation and focus has changed. We are doing something to gain an immediate result, not long-term success. Making deals also gives us an “out”, a reason not to push further when it gets really tough…

Setting goals means having a plan of action without a fallback. It’s stating, “I will do this”, instead of  “do this, so you can.” It means keeping the focus on the immediate task at hand instead of focusing on the outcome.

Athletes don’t train for the trophy; they train for the feeling of holding the trophy. The only way to do that is to make goals, not deals.

“Good athletes practice until they get it right, great one’s practice until they can’t get it wrong.”

Dr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology Coach. His company DRB & associates is based in Indianapolis.  Some clients have included: University of Notre Dame, Marriott, and Walgreens. Check out the most recent book on Mental Toughness- Don’t Should on Your Kids: Build Their Mental Toughness   

How many times have we heard in sport or life, “I was robbed of that play “or “that game was stolen?” If we have said it or have been a part of it, then we know the thoughts and feelings that go along with it.

Well, literally, I was robbed!

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During an early morning swim at the YMCA, the aquatics director was soon standing over me letting me know my car was broken into.

Dammit!!

Now, my Mac Book, iPad, and video camera were all taken as part of this smash & grab job. BUT my thoughts immediately went to MY BOOK! Having worked on the book for the past year, it was quite a bit of time, effort, and money.

The Victim

I was upset, felt helpless, and even wanted to blame somebody for what happened. I went to all of these mental places the hours after this took place. But what really surprised me is the “feeling” that stuck inside my gut. I just felt “off.”

Since I help athletes, coaches, and teams perform better, I always want to be a product of my product. “The Variable is YOU.”

The easier part for me about the break-in was getting over it. I could do that!

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But, I actually wanted to use this obstacle as an opportunity…I don’t like feeling or acting like a victim. Winners don’t do that.

The only way I could have used this obstacle to improve was to be THANKFUL IT HAPPENED. Could I convince myself that this robbery actually was a blessing? Could I really turn my thoughts into  “why NOT me?”  Did having my car broken into actually save me from getting in a car accident later on? Was it a HINGE moment? 

How many of us get stuck, unable to get over what happened to us?  Yes, it sucks, but don’t stay in the “I was robbed” mentality. Instead, let it go, but more importantly use the experience to mentally get better.

When I was able to make this acceptance a part of my growth as a person, everything changed that day!! Oh yea, we have to practice it on a daily basis. It is easy to be positive when things are going well, but the true test is not where we stand in times of comfort, but during times of struggle.

Turn your obstacles into opportunities.


Dr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology Coach. His company DRB & associates is based in Indianapolis.  Some clients have included: University of Notre Dame, Marriott, and Walgreens. Check out the most recent book on Mental Toughness- Don’t Should on Your Kids: Build Their Mental Toughness