top of page

Underdog or Front Runner? - What does a Successful Mindset Look Like?

Updated: Nov 3, 2022

I have two questions for you:

Question 1 - Who do you admire in the sports world for their mindset? (not achievement)

Question 2 - What is it you admire and how could you apply this in your daily life?

I asked the Phoenix Facebook Community these two questions.

This is a selection of some of the answers to the first question - who and why?

  • Sophie Hemming – (England Rugby) - Dedication

  • Serena Williams – (Tennis) - Motivation and Resilience

  • Muhammad Ali – (Boxing) - Sacrifice - Resilience

  • Ross Edgley – (Extreme sports) - Determination - Drive

  • Michael Jordan – (NBA Basketball) - Dedication - commitment

  • British Cycling Team - Mental Strength

  • Lebron James (NBA Basketball) Determination - resilience

  • Jack Johnson (Boxing) Determination - work ethic

  • Ellen McArthur, (solo long-distance yachtswoman.) - Grit, determination

  • Lewis Hamilton – (British racing driver) Overcoming failure/resilience

All of the above athletes are incredibly successful in their field. The qualities listed alongside them are all keys to success. Not just in sports, but in life too.

These are not just characteristics for success in sports - They are ingredients for success in life.

My own journey and personal growth reflect this. The characteristics/qualities/skills that got me through my most challenging times were positivity, determination and resilience.

Tapping into these skills and attributes to proactively work on, and create my future, has been a significant contributor to what I consider to be my success.

Taking the learning from our past events and using this information to create something that is better 'next time' is the exact approach athletes utilise in training. Every failure in training, every challenging session, and every test on their resilience and mindset all lead to their day of competition or game day.

  • What could be different if you were to take the same approach?

  • What could be different if you reframed your past experiences as training and growth opportunities to improve yourself, and your ability, to create a more successful outcome?

This isn't unique to me. The three attributes have all been a recurring theme in me achieving success. Qualities to survive became the qualities to thrive across all elements of my life.

In life, in sports and in my business.

What are your top qualities?

What got you through the tough times that when put into something positive and forward-focused could contribute to success?

What else can you take from the word of sport and apply to your personal life?

We don't just admire athletes for their achievements. Often we admire people in sports for their 'bounce back' their resilience and how they overcome failure.

'Eddie the Eagle' is a fantastic example of this! We love an underdog. We love a team or an individual who has to overcome challenges and failure to achieve success - whatever that looks like.

When you are the underdog how do you respond?

When you approach a hurdle or challenge, what internal resources do you draw upon to get you through?

When you are the 'front runner' how do you stay consistent, and stay motivated to stay in front?


What else can we learn from the sporting world to help us in our day-to-day lives?

Be your Own Cheerleader

What conversation do you have in your head when there is nobody around you to say positive words of encouragement to you?

Self-belief: Are you relying on others to believe in you or does it start with you?

It doesn't matter how many people cheer your name, if you don’t believe in yourself, then a key piece of success is missing.

You can have the best business plan in the world, however, if you are not passionate about your work, or believe in the mission and vision and direction you are heading, then you are missing a fundamental piece of the plan.

How are you Showing up for Yourself when Nobody Else is Around?

‘Off court’ is just as important.

Ask any athlete, it isn't just about 'showtime' every day, they have to 'show up' for their sport. Eat, sleep, live, breathe it.

Everything they do between the game days and the days of competition counts.

The consistency in how they show up daily is what leads to their success on the day of the competition.

What are you doing daily to help you achieve success?

From a business perspective, what are you doing when you are not with a customer or client? How are you showing up every day to keep your business growing and evolving?

Your Support Team

In the sports world, there is often big support for athletes even at an amateur level. Coaches, training partners, teammates, nutritionists, strength and conditioning coaches, fan base, manager etc.

What external resources are you drawing upon to help you achieve success? Who is helping you be the best you can be?

Once you have identified your internal resources, your own skills, knowledge and experience then you can identify where the gaps are that you need to bring in external resources to fill in this gap and help you.

You might be able to get by on your own, ask yourself what could be different. What level of success could you achieve with additional resources and an extended support team?

Continual Personal Development (CPD)

What are you doing when nobody is watching? How are you using your time to work on achieving your goals?

What is the difference that makes the difference?

If you want to be successful and achieve success then you are aspiring to be in a small percentage of the population.(2-5%)

You have to do what others are not doing. You have to show up every day and be consistent and you need to keep showing up and putting the work in. This means stepping out of your comfort zone and surrounding yourself with other people who are successful, people who inspire you and who you aspire to be like.

You have to do what others are not doing to keep you at that higher level. Whether it is to step up or to keep up, you need to build momentum and keep it going.


How do you show up daily for your goals?

You cannot just show up a week before or on the day and expect success to happen.

People who are successful, in sports, in life, in business, don’t just show up on the day, they show up every day.

It is the consistent macro and micro habits and behaviours that will make the difference to your level of success.

Are you doing everything that you need to do for success to happen?

You can give 100% every day. What that looks like may be different each day, however, that behaviour of showing up and being consistent will be the difference that makes the difference.

What's your story - How are you writing the chapters of success?

Where is your focus?

How are you visualising your success?

Are you writing your own story with new chapters and new adventures or are you telling an old story over and over?

Your ability and intelligence are determined by your effort and enthusiasm. (Growth Mindset, Dr Carol Dweck) You can work to change your level of success. Fail - Learn - Grow.

I truly believe that there is no such thing as failure only learning. The more we fail, the more we learn. The more we learn the more we grow.

This was something that strength training taught me. Pushing yourself to the point of failure. Failure became the aim. You push past the point where it feels good, comfortable, and confident into the zone where you fail. That is where the growth happens.

Failing/Learning is part of the experience and part of our growth journey therefore feedback is not a criticism but a way of learning other ways, and alternatives so that we can improve and build on our existing excellence.

What would a growth mindset look like for you with your goals?

Are the chapters that you have written so far still useful to you for telling the story,or is it time to focus on the chapters ahead and focus on the remaining chapters of your book and how you want the story to end?


Let's look a little further into some of the words that have come up:


You have to show up consistently and daily. You cannot show up and give 100% on a Monday, 90% on a Tuesday and then jack it all in by Wednesday and nothing else the rest of the week.

Show up every day, even with a small amount, and be consistent.


When you hit the first challenge, the first stumbling block, the first time somebody tells you that it isn't going to happen and that you made the wrong decision or the first time something happens that makes you second guess whether success is possible., that is when the resilience kicks in.

The more you get knocked down, the more you learn how to tap into the resilience that you have.

If you get knocked down and you choose not to get back up and try again but to leave it and try something different then you don’t learn how to test and strengthen your levels of resilience which is so incredibly important.


What is important to you? How are you motivating yourself?

How many times do you think Ross Edgely questioned what on earth he was doing, as he swam around Great Britain and why he was doing it? How many times do you think he asked himself why or debated whether or not to give up?

He had already achieved more than anyone else, technically he had achieved an unprecedented level of success.

Where was his motivation coming from, to keep going and finish what he started?

Intrinsic, positive motivation, with a forward focus on the goal he was working towards.

What is yours?


You won't achieve success without a certain level of sacrifice. Time, energy, finance.

You can’t just rock up and expect things to happen without any effort. If you want to improve your health then you have to reduce your consumption of certain foods that aren’t as healthy and invest some time in increasing your activity levels.

You can’t expect things to change without making changes.

When you make changes you have to sacrifice something. To start doing something you have to take time and energy from somewhere else. You have to balance out how much you want the goal that you are working towards and what you are willing to do to make that happen.

What are you willing to sacrifice to achieve success?

If you aren’t willing to sacrifice anything then the chances are then you are not going to succeed.


All three are very similar depending on your interpretation.

Where is your drive to keep going?

When you visualise the goal in front of you, how determined are you to keep going and keep pushing towards it?

People who are successful, are willing and determined, they see the goal in front of them and they are willing to do what needs to be done to get them to their goals.

Determined, stubborn and driven to make those things happen and keep the momentum going.

What is feeding your determination?

Success or Failure?

Internal or External?

The internal drive is key, and external drivers are excellent additional support, but you have to want to achieve and be willing to dig deep when it is needed. Other people cannot do that for you.

Mental Strength

See all of the above!

Work Ethic

What is your level of work ethic? Are you able to consistently show up?

Are you willing to consistently put in the required amount of effort to achieve success?

10% work is only ever going to bring you 10% results.

The 100% may look different to different people but you have to put in the amount that you want out of it. You have to contribute to that 100%.

You can show up consistently with a small amount and things will start to happen.

The quality of your life is a product of the habits you build and the choices you make, plus or minus the luck you encounter along the way.
You can't control luck, but you can control your habits and your choices. Direct your focus there.
~James Clear

Small steps, small new habits and behaviours will bring success when they are consistent.


Prefer a vlog to a blog? See me talk this through here

Cover photo credit: v.i.png

Phoenix Coaching Clarity Call

What could you achieve with Coaching Support?

First published in 2019

Revised and republished Aug 2022

222 views0 comments
bottom of page