At war with Satan
Every time you step into a workout, practice, or competition a mental battle ensues. It doesn’t matter if you’re the coach leading the athlete or the athlete following the coaches leading. You are constantly at war with the temptations Satan is throwing your way. He wants you to doubt your training, to be intimidated by your opponents, and to be afraid to fail. Satan will use whatever means necessary to derail you and get your mind off of your highest ambition in sports: glorifying God. Christian competitors who are able to conquer temptations and consistently have the right mindset are able to glorify God in an through every circumstance that come their way. This post is designed to help you consistently have the proper mindset so that you are able to shield of Satan’s temptation and keep your mind focused on glorifying God.
Masters of mindset
Mastering your mindset is a critical component to glorifying God in sports. Ultimately, no one is more able to master their mindset than the Christian, but few Christians truly understand what a good mindset is and how their faith enables them to be masters of it. Thus, before we talk about a Christian perspective on the subject we must first understand what the subject is.
Your attitudes form your mindset
Coaches often remind their athletes that “attitude is everything.” The best coaches and athletes know that choosing to have a great attitude can make all the difference. But what do people mean when they say “attitude”? What is an attitude? What’s the difference between a good attitude and a bad attitude?
In the context of sports attitudes are the ways that you think about your circumstances. The way you think and feel about your players, your coach, your teammates, the officials, etc. are your attitudes. When coaches urge their players to have a great attitude what the really mean to say is “Have a great mindset.”
Mindset: the established set of attitudes held by someone
When you take all of your attitudes and wrap them up into a package you have your mindset and your mindset makes all the difference. Mindset has become a buzz word in teaching and coaching circles. Why? In part, it’s because of research done by Stanford professor Carol Dweck. Her research on motivation has taught us that most people have either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. You can grab a copy of her book Mindset here, but below is an infographic that summarizes the core idea from her book.
Take some time to reread both sides of the graphic. Really let each characteristic of both mindsets sink in.
Growth Mindset vs Fixed Mindset
Which mindset is the mindset of the Christian?
Are either of these mindsets “biblical” mindsets? No, not exactly. Neither of them were created using the Bible as their guide. Neither of them are intended to draw you closer to Christ. These mindsets are the result of years of research done by top level psychologists at universities. The two opposing mindsets are the product of observing people of all ages as they perform tasks of various kinds.
To be clear, I’m not proposing that the growth mindset is a Christian mindset, but isn’t it obvious that the Christian ought to have a growth mindset? Who is more able to embrace the growth mindset than a person who believes in the power of Christ? The Christian is empowered by God’s Word and by the Holy Spirit to believe that growth is always possible. No one should be more persistent and less likely to give up than you, the Christian competitor.
Whether you are a coach or an athlete you (and the other Christians on your team) should be masters of the growth mindset. You should be continually empowered by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God to keep trying and to keep believing your best is yet to come.
What I am not saying
I want to be very careful to point out what I am not saying. I am not saying that if you have the growth mindset and believe in Christ as your Savior that you will always perform at your best and eventually become the best coach or athlete in the world. Having a proper mindset isn’t a guarantee of worldly achievement.
Christ didn’t come to this world and offer Himself as the perfect sacrifice for our sins so that we could try to use Him as some sort of mystical tool for worldly success. Instead, He came to make us right with God by paying the price for our sins. Once we understand what Christ has done for us we are free to see this life for what it is: an opportunity to glorify God and share the Gospel.
Therefore, I want you to embrace Christ as your Savior and to realize that Christians ought to be masters of the growth mindset because that’s the Christian thing to do. That’s the Christian way to view sports. I don’t want you to embrace these things hoping that doing so will lead to worldly success. It might, but that’s not the point here. The point is to think and act Christianly.
What I am saying
I am saying that if you really want to glorify God in sports than you will embrace the definition of success I talk about so often: Pursued you God-given potential and became more like Christ in the process. When that is your definition of success you are primarily focused on growing every day, on making improvements every day, and on making the most of every opportunity that comes before you. You’re going to want to do this because you believe that doing so will glorify God.
Now, look back at that definition of success I put in bold print. If you can look back and say you chased hard after your potential and you intentionally took the time to learn lessons from God along the way doesn’t that mean you had a growth mindset the whole time? Can you have a fixed mindset and be able to say you pursued your God-given potential and became more like Christ in the process? The answer is clearly no.
A caveat to the Growth Mindset
If you truly embrace the Growth Mindset you’re on the hook. It means no more excuses. Those who truly embrace the growth mindset recognize problems and work hard to find solutions. They may not always find exactly what they had hoped to find, but they own the journey and never blame others.
If I was you, the Christian coach or athlete, I would save that infographic above to my phone. Then I would get my other coaches together or my teammates together and have a conversation about which mindset our staff or our team tends to embrace.
If you’re at a Christian school this is a great tool for teaching yourself and the people around you the reality that no one should be more able to find and stay in the growth mindset than the Christian. It’s a great opportunity to encourage one another to cling to the promises of God and know that no matter what happens on the scoreboard you can be successful if you have the right definition of success and are focused on having a growth mindset.
If you’re not a Christian school this might be a great opportunity to share your faith. Maybe you can say, “I’m going to try and stay in a growth mindset because I know Christ made me knew when I first believed in Him and there’s always hope that I can get better physically, mentally, and spiritually.” That’s a simple statement that is pregnant with concepts. Who knows what questions your staff or teammates might ask.