Mindset Lessons From Tennis Legend – Serena Williams

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Let’s take a brief moment to set the stage….

What is the mindset of a champion?  It is flexible and strong.  Champions have the ability to deal with setbacks and hurdles, but they also have a very strong will to succeed and overcome failures as they arise.  They have a rock-solid belief in themselves which keeps them mentally adept and resilient.

As an American tennis player, Williams’ name is synonymous with the likes of tennis greats such as Graf, Navratilova and Evert. She has won gold medals at the Olympic Games, been the top seed for 253 weeks during her illustrious career and has become a household name, even for those who don’t follow the sport of tennis.

Serena dominated the game over the span of 27 years and revolutionized the game in many ways, not just with her bold fashion choices on the court and her wicked serve, but also her strong, unshakeable  mindset has been inspiration for many people all over the world. Faced many times with criticism, racism and defeat, she never gave up and her determination was unwavering.

She has definitely experienced her fair share of ups and downs but her attitude toward winning and achieving her goals exemplify a growth mindset, one we can use as an example and learn from.

There was a pivotal point in her career when she was attempting to break the record of winning 17 major tournaments.  She tried hard to win her 18th, but failed over and over again due to the immense pressure she had placed on herself to achieve this goal.

That’s when her coach had to step in and challenge Serena to shift her mindset.
“Why are you trying to get to 18 major wins?  Your goal should be 30 or 40.  18 is such a low goal.”

This conversation shifted Serena’s entire vision for what she wanted to aim for and what she thought was possible in her tennis career. 

After some reflection, Serena commented, “To me, it made so much sense.  I set my goal for what was in sight.  I think that subconsciously, a lot of people set their goal(s) on what is already there.  Why not reach for a higher goal?  I really learned from that.  Why would I reach for that when there’s more.”

This was a breakthrough for Williams.  It shifted both her mindset as well as her entire approach to the game.  She stopped focusing on the short term and relaxed, which changed the game for her and it became fun.

This shift in her mindset helped her go on to win four major tournaments in a row. 

So, we have the first key takeaway from this female tennis legend.

Don’t sell yourself short by aiming for ‘safe goals’.  Rather, set huge, scary goals that force you to work hard and get out of your comfort zone whilst chasing them down.

No one ever achieved greatness by playing it safe.

Stop playing it safe with your dreams and goals, testing the waters instead of diving in. Go all out & trust that the answers will come. You got this!  ~Shanshera Quinn

Williams is an excellent example of how to apply the growth mindset.  Despite being the top-ranked player in the world, she learned that failing was a positive thing.  She explains, “Sometimes you don’t know how to be better if you are always doing it right. You can just kinda stay in this plane.  Failing allows you to fall and rise up higher than you could if you didn’t fail.”

Failure allowed her to step back and provided a huge opportunity to grow into a better player.  Once she set her sights of winning not just 18, but 30 or 40 major titles, her mindset shifted but so did her identity.  It must be a rude awakening when, as an elite athlete, you realize that everything you have done thus far to reach the pinnacle of your career isn’t adequate to take you beyond the summit.

This is where uncertainty lies, self doubt lives and where mindset separates the good from the greatest.  You need a new vision of yourself in order to take yourself and your game to the next level.

Second key takeaway:

Sometimes you have to take a step back to take three steps forward. Every failed attempt gives us the chance to reassess.  It provides an opportunity to re-evaluate how we can reach the next level and what we really need to do.  Don’t view failure as the end, reframe it as an opportunity to improve. 

Serena’s winning attitude, “Every time I lose, I feel that I get 10x better.”  This is what champions are made of.  The ability to bounce back after defeat is crucial for moving forward in attaining our goals.

Never let a stumble be the end of your journey.
Failure is a necessary and inevitable part of life.  If we do not fail, we will never learn how to pick ourselves back up again and be stronger because of it.
One thing I have noticed when watching Serena at her tennis matches, is that she always looks extremely confident from the very moment she walks onto the court.  She lets everyone know, she means business and is there to conquer.  That’s a look of determination, “I am here to do whatever it takes to come out on top and win.”  Winning is embedded in her so strongly as part of her goals and dreams.  Staying the course has allowed it to happen for Serena.
Having confidence and belief in yourself is part of a champion’s mindset. You have to work on developing that yourself.  Work on improving your skills DAILY.
Third key takeaway from a winning mindset:

Show up confidently and believe in your abilities.  Tap into your inner determination, stay persistent and focus, focus, focus! Know exactly what it is you are aiming for and don’t let anything get in your way.
Show up in every single moment as if you’re meant to be there.

Take a stand for yourself and refuse to let other people steal your joy today and forever.
The winning combination:  determination, persistence, focus + tenacity = success
Although, Serena had 21 Grand Slam titles to her name, she was only one title away from beating Steffi Graf’s record in 2015, which she really wanted to achieve.  Putting immense pressure on herself, she came close but lost 3 championships in a row. 

Many tennis players may have thrown in the towel and retired happily with the reassurance they had accomplished so much during their careers and realizing the competition was getting considerably stronger and younger year after year. 

Knowing all this, did Serena quit her pro career?  No, she had a goal she was pursuing and was determined to make it happen.  There was no giving up, throwing in the towel, being satisfied with her accomplishments so far.  At Wimbledon 2016, she did it.

Fourth key takeaway:

Never give up and never look at everyone else in your field.  Comparing yourself to others isn’t being fair to yourself.  Your only competitor is YOU – every day, all day.  The only time you should think or consider others and what they have achieved is to internalize, “If they can do it, so can I.”  Stay focused on your vision and what you want to accomplish.  Forget the rest.

Even though she is a tennis player, these principles can be applied to your life or business as well.

Serena’s mindset is so powerful and a great example of how maintaining a growth mindset will help you reach new heights.

The mindset of a champion is:  Nothing is unreachable, nothing is unattainable.

Just in case you haven’t heard this yet today, let me be the first to tell you…

You’ve got this and I believe in you. You have the ability to uplevel your life.   Now, go out and show the world what you are made of, goal getters.

That’s all for today’s dose of motivation.  I hope to have inspired you to grow.

Till next time.
The mindset of a champion is:  Nothing is unreachable, nothing is unattainable.

We can all be a champion too, by applying the same mindset and determination that a true champion like Serena exemplifies.

Here are a few of my personal favourites from one of the most influential female athletes of all time and a true role model for girls and women around the world:

“When you lose, you get up, you make it better, you try again.”
“I think in life you should work on yourself until the day you die.”
“There’s always something you have to give up for success. Everything comes at a cost.  Just what are you willing to pay for it?”
“Everyone’s dream can come true if you just stick to it and work hard.”
“Work hard, train hard, think fast, think win.”
“I don’t like to lose at anything.  Yet, I have not grown from my victories, but from my setbacks.”
“You can be whatever size you are, and you can be beautiful both inside and out.”
“I always believe I can beat the best, achieve the best.  I always see myself in the top position.”
“The success of every woman should be the inspiration to another.  We should raise each other up.  Make sure you’re very courageous:  be strong, be extremely kind, and above all, be humble.”
“I really think a champion is defined not by their wins but by how they can recover when they fall.”
“You have to believe in yourself when no one else does.”
“Luck has nothing to do with it, because I have spent many, many hours, countless hours, on the court working for my one moment in time, not knowing when it would come.”
I love learning from top athletes and one common thread I see is they have this deep-rooted passion, a desire to make it no matter what gets in their way.  Along their journey, people tell them that they will never make it, their chances of succeeding are so low.  Does that get them down or cause them to give up?  No, they go after their dreams regardless.  They face adversity and laugh at it.  They say, “So, you think I can’t do this, well, just watch me.”  There’s a lot to be learned from this kind of attitude.

With love,

Lisa xoxo



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