Avid poker player and all time greatest swimmer Michael Phelps has a lot to teach about the power of mindset. In his book No Limits: The Will to Succeed he explains how his coach Bob Bowman would push him in training even when he was an exhausted young boy. Every time he would tell his coach that he couldn’t take anymore, Bowman would tell him that there is a big difference between can’t and won’t. As Phelp’s retells it, Bowman told him, “Can’t – that’s a tough word. Let’s preserve our power and quit throwing around can’t when we really mean won’t.”

It’s clear that Phelps took Bowman’s advice to heart as he has won more Olympic gold medals than anyone else in history – he has 28 and his closest competitor has “only” 18! It’s telling that changing his mindset from can’t to won’t paid off in spades for Phelps. Your mindset is a powerful tool, too, and it can either be liberating or debilitating. In this article, I’m going to share 5 ways that you can improve your mindset such that you’ll make your own success more likely. Let’s get started!

Mindset is the term that psychologists use to describe “a mental frame or lens that selectively organizes and encodes information, thereby orienting an individual toward a unique way of understanding an experience and guidingone toward corresponding actions and responses.”

In other words, the mindsets you choose to adopt are the lenses through which you perceive the world. They are determined by your beliefs and attitudes and they largely determine your responses to the situations and events you encounter on a daily basis. For example, when you are at the poker table, do you expect that you can handle whatever challenges come your way or do you expect to be easily overwhelmed and tilt if things don’t go your way? It’s pretty easy to imagine which view is likely to be helpful and which is not!

The way we look at any situation has profound implications for our long-term success. Choosing to view losing as a challenge to be overcome is a positive mindset whereas taking the view that challenges are threats to be avoided is a negative mindset. And these are just a couple of the possible mindsets that you can operate from. The important thing to recognize is that our mindsets dictate our results to a large degree. As humans we are wired to act in accordance to what we think and believe. So if you want different results, you’re going to have to change your mindset.

Let’s take a look at 5 simple ways that you can adapt your mindsets so that you have an increased probability of realizing your full poker potential.

    1. Use empowering language. Pay attention to the thoughts that pop into your head and the words that you choose to say. Do you think and say things like “I’m no good at math” or “I’ll never be able to memorize all these preflop opening ranges” or “I could never learn to hand-read”? These are all negative thoughts that encourage you to give up. Instead say and think things like, “I’m going to figure it out” or “I choose to put my all into learning poker” or “I haven’t mastered hand-reading yet.”
    2. Surround yourself with good people. The people around us have a profound impact on both how we feel and how we behave. If you want to be a go-getter, associate with other go-getters. Are you surrounded by people who tell you that your goals and dreams are crazy or do you have friends and family who support you and remind you that you do have what it takes to be successful? They say you become the average of the five people you spend the most time around so choose wisely!
    3. Change your identity. The easiest way to change your mindset is to change your identity to that of a person who is like the kind of person you want to be. That is, you become the type of person who can achieve the things you want to achieve. Let’s say you want to conquer tilt. To change your identity to a tilt-free wonder, you need to start saying to yourself “I’m the kind of person who is calm, cool & collected even when things are going terribly wrong for me.” Follow this up by taking actions that a zen-like person would take. Ask yourself, “what would Tommy Angelo do in this spot?” and act accordingly. The more you do this, the more your identity and behaviors will be in congruence and eventually, you will be the kind of person who remains calm under pressure.
    4. Believe that which is helpful to believe. We have control over which thoughts we choose to believe, so it makes good sense to believe empowering thoughts. Most psychologists accept the view that the mind acts much like a suggestion box in that’s it’s always coming up with ideas – from the mundane to the downright maddening. You can train yourself to pay attention to helpful thoughts and beliefs while letting the rest go.
    5. Take control of your behavior. The most effective way to build a confident and positive mindset is to put in the work consistently. Work on your fundamentals and master your craft. Don’t just do work that’s good enough. Go above and beyond. Look at every “failure” as a learning situation and then put in the work to make sure you remediate whatever problems get thrown your way.

As Epictetus wisely opined, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” If you want to have the best chance at realizing your full potential on the felt (and in life), it’s vitally important to look at your reactions. Are you throwing up barriers in your own path? As Phelps learned, there is a big difference between can’t and won’t.

What about you? How is your mindset? Do you have the heart of a champion and the will to succeed or could you benefit from taking some time reflect on your mindset? If you want to get more instruction on the most beneficial mindsets for winning poker players to adopt, join my for my group coaching session on March 26, 2019 at 9pm EST.

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