Patrick MahomesWinning Habits of Professional Athletes, quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs, was asked by the press to describes his feelings about the announcement of a fellow player who was traded to another team.

“I was watching my brother play basketball,” replied Mahomes.  “He’s in the last few games of districts, so I was watching that.  They’re undefeated so I was excited about it.”

I want Patrick Mahomes to be my brother, too.

Unfortunately, professional athletes have been stamped with negative labels because of reports citing abusive, violent behavior.  A much larger number of professional athletes are role models. 

Many professional athletes possess life skills that reflect a strong work ethic.  Their habits offer tools for healthy living that can be valuable to everyone:

Athletes commit to daily workouts.  Most professional athletes get up early and begin the day with exercise.  They usually work out at the same time every day.  They push themselves to improve their skills, even if they are at the top of their game.  Even when they are tired.  Even when they don’t want to exercise.

Do you get enough exercise?

Athletes get at least 8 hours of sleep every night.  Most professional athletes go to bed and get up at the same time every day.  Usain Bolt, Olympic sprinter, names sleep as his first priority.  While sleep requirements vary from person to person, most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night (The Sleep Foundation, 2019).  If you’ve been awake for more than 16 hours, lack of sleep decreases your performance as much as if your blood alcohol level were .05% (the legal limit is .08%).  Adequate sleep reduces production of leptin, an appetite-regulating hormone which often causes weight gain (Cleveland Clinic, 2014).  Inadequate sleep increases accidents, memory lapses, and lack of emotional control.

Do you get enough sleep?

Athletes unplug from electronic devices when they sleep.  24-hour access to electronics makes it easier to retrieve information at any time of day, but they also interfere with your sleep.  The short-wavelength, artificial blue light emitted by computers and cell phones interferes with sleep.  Interaction with these devices shortly before or throughout the night stimulates your body and makes it harder to fall or stay asleep.  Over time, these effects can cause chronic sleep deficiency.

Do you unplug from your devices before you sleep?

Professional athletes eat healthy food.  Most professional athletes eat at least three meals.  They don’t try to manage their weight by skipping meals.  When you skip meals, your metabolism slows down.  A slow metabolism makes it harder to lose weight.  Misty May-Treanor, USA volleyball champion, believes breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Athletes consume healthy amounts of fruits, vegetables, fiber, protein, and carbohydrates.  They understand food is fuel their bodies need to perform well.  

What can you do to improve your diet?

Professional athletes hydrate their bodies with water.  Soft drinks, coffee, and sugary substitutes may taste better than water, but your body needs water to function.  Dehydration reduces your cognition and energy level.  Doctors encourage you to drink at least one third of your body weight in ounces.  For example, if you weigh 140 pounds, you should drink 70 ounces (or 8.75 cups) of water every day.  Use a water bottle marked with ounce measurements as a gauge.

Are you drinking enough water every day?

Professional athletes set goals.  It’s important to dream, but athletes understand dreams without goals are like arrows without targets.  By knowing what you want to achieve, you can plan when, where, and how to concentrate your efforts to successfully reach your goals.  Create a SMART goal that is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound.  The act of writing your goals packs your dream with power and sets the dream-to-action process on a course headed towards success.  

What are your goals you hope to reach?

Professional athletes track their progress.  Eliud Kipchoge, marathon runner, has a training book that tracks his workouts.  He uses the information to chart progress, strengthen his confidence, and set new goals.  Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, believed the act of writing goals sets things into motion. He explained, “Your mind accepts the challenge and will consciously and unconsciously work to achieve the goal.”

How do you keep track of your progress?  

Professional athletes visualize success.  In 1984, Mary Lou Retton vaulted into U.S. Olympic history and became the first U.S. gymnast to win the all-around gold medal. 

A reporter asked, “How does it feel to receive the first perfect 10 for the U.S. Olympic team?”

“Like it’s always felt,” she answered.

“But no one has ever done it before!” he exclaimed.

She laughed, “I’ve done it thousands of times in my mind.”

Professional athletes celebrate success long before they are rewarded for their accomplishments.  They use visualization to mentally “see” themselves doing what it takes to perform every movement necessary to reach their goals.  They consistently tell their minds exactly what they want their bodies to achieve.  They use positive affirmations to boost their confidence.  Athletes commit themselves to a practice of articulating goals, visualizing their success, and dedicating themselves to the work of transforming their desires into reality.

How can you use visualization to experience success?

Professional athletes believe they are surrounded with opportunities.  Friends of Katie Ledecky, Olympic swimmer, describe her as the happiest, most positive person they know.  Athletes know a negative attitude will hinder their success.  They possess an abundance mentality.  Their personal beliefs about themselves and opportunities available to them impacts their choices and commitment to their goals.  Life’s challenges are matters of perception; you can choose to see challenges as obstacles that separate you from success – or directional arrows that empower you with new skills, new wisdom, and new opportunities.

Do you have a positive attitude?

Professional athletes are lifelong learners.  Patrick Mahomes believes, “You have to keep learning, keep doing those things every single day so you learn more. So for me, I feel like if I get out there, I can make plays happen, and I’m just going to keep learning, keep getting better every single day.”

Athletes are curious; they look for opportunities to learn.  As lifelong learners, they understand new information keeps them at the top of their game.  Lifelong learning opens doors to replace old skills and habits with new tools that can be immediately applied to their lives.   Lifelong learning can open new doors for you, too.

Winning Habits of Professional AthletesWhat do you want to learn to accomplish your goals?

Researchers believe it takes about 21 – 66 days of regular practice (every day) for a new skill to become a habit.  Habits are shaped by commitment, determination, and perseverance.  Your habits become the tools needed to reach your goals.

Hockey legend, Wayne Gretsky, said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”  You are blessed with talents and gifts for a reason.  Use them.  Aim high.  Don’t be afraid to take your shots.

“Your life doesn’t just ‘happen.’  Whether you know it or not, it is carefully designed by you,” insisted Stephen Covey. “You choose happiness. You choose sadness. You choose decisiveness. You choose ambivalence. You choose success. You choose failure.”  He added, “Just remember that every moment, every situation, provides a new choice.”

Your thoughts guide your choices.  Your choices shape your future.

What choices will you make today?


Use these tips from How to Write SMART Personal Goals to jump start your progress to success.

Create your own positive affirmations with these tips from Put the Positive in Your Affirmation.

Having trouble creating positive self-talk? Learn to Replace Old Tapes with New Messages.

Shift your thinking from lack to abundance with these tips from Escape the Scarcity Mentality Jungle.

Do need help getting from where you’re at to where you want to go?  Check out the my personal goal-setting book, Dreams to Action Trailblazer’s Guide.  Free downloads from the book are available on my website.


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