Before you read on, try this quick exercise: Imagine you’re holding a basketball. You're going to close your eyes and picture yourself taking 10 free throws. After you take your 10 shots, open your eyes.
How many shots did you make?
Growing up, I always went away to summer camp. I’d been to camps in in New Hampshire, New York, and Massachusetts, but my favorite camp of my childhood was in Pennsylvania. One of the activities I chose at this wonderful camp near the Poconos was basketball. Despite a rough start to my basketball career, including breaking my foot at basketball camp when I was 10, and breaking my leg at the same camp when I was 12 (I’m sure they loved me), I still loved playing. One day during my hour of basketball at the Poconos camp (clearly I’d learned that an all-day basketball program would likely lead to yet another summer in a cast up to my knee), the coach brought all of us kids out onto the court. He told us all to close our eyes, imagine we had a ball in our hands, and that we were at the foul line. “I want you to picture yourself taking 10 free throws,” he said.
I closed my eyes, felt the imaginary ball in my hands, bent my knees, and took my shots. Ten in a row. When I was finished, I opened my eyes, and stood with the rest of the 40 or so kids as we waited for the coach to tell us what to do next. He loomed larger than life in front of us and asked “How many of you made all 10 of your shots?” I looked around as each kid raised his or her hand: every kid but me. He told everyone else to sit down and met me where I stood. “How many shots did you make?” This incredibly tall, totally cool coach I badly had wanted to impress looked down at 13 year old me. I told him I’d made 8 shots. “Why, in your own imagination, when you can do whatever you want and be the best, did you not make all 10 shots?” I bit my lip. “It’s just not realistic,” I said. “I was trying to be real, and I just don’t think I would have made all 10 shots. I kind of thought 8 was a stretch,” I explained. He said, “This is your life and your vision. If you don’t think you can make 10 shots, who’s going to think that for you?”
I don’t remember what I thought or felt at the time, other than being totally mortified for being singled out and not making all my imaginary shots. But the coach’s words – his insight – stuck with me to this day, 20 years later. If I don’t think I can make 10 shots, who’s going to think that for me?
Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” And this makes so much sense because MINDSET IS EVERYTHING. If you want a new job, but don’t think you match all of the qualifications and choose not to apply, that mindset of thinking you’re not good or qualified enough prevents you from taking that shot. If you want to join a local sports and social club’s softball team but are worried you’ll embarrass yourself and decide to stay home instead, that mindset holds you back from meeting new people and having fun. And if you close your eyes and imagine making 10 shots and choose to miss 2 because that seems “realistic,” well then you need to sit down and have a heart to heart with yourself.
What’s holding you back from letting yourself make 10 shots in a row and hear that swish every time? It’s your life, you’re in charge, and you get to decide what your mindset will be and what’s possible for you. No one is going to see great big things for you and actualize them – that has to come from you. Your mindset is the difference between saying yes or saying no, going into a situation assuming something is going to be hard instead of easy, anticipating something bad happening instead of something good. Choose your mindset. Close your eyes. Feel the ball. Now make all 10 shots.
Aly Brookland is an ontologically trained life and health coach through Accomplishment Coaching, a coach and leadership training program through the International Coach Federation (ICF). To subscribe to her blog, learn more about coaching, or request a sample session, visit www.alybrooklandcoaching.com.