Three Mindset Shifts That Allowed This Olympic Athlete to Succeed

Professional Volleyball Player By April Ross
Professional Volleyball Player

April Ross is an American professional beach volleyball player. She won a silver medal in the 2012 London Olympics, a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics. April trains and lives in Newport Beach and loves spinning class, reading, and yoga.

Image by Justin Casterline / Getty Images

Since her debut on the pro beach volleyball scene in 2006, April Ross has cemented her role as a champion and one of the most respected players in the sport. Known for her powerful serve, energy and competitive drive, April is authentic and engaging with an easygoing personality off the sand. A silver and bronze Olympic medalist, April is headed into Tokyo 2020 alongside Alix Klineman with their eyes set on winning the gold. In her first article on mindbodygreen, April told us how she's been able to achieve such success on the world stage while keeping cool, collected, and focused. Here are the top three mindset shifts she's made and what she's learned in the process. 

1. Do what you know needs to get done. 

If there's one thing going after my goals has taught me, it's that if you want to achieve something, you have to make a plan and execute it. It doesn't matter what else is happening in your life (given your mental and physical health are up to par)—you have to map out what needs to be done and simply get it done. Don't stop to think; do not pass go. Buckle down in this moment and do the hard stuff. Not after one more episode or after one more load of laundry. 

This is an essential skill, and it takes some practice to develop, but it is acquirable. By continuously choosing need-to-do over want-to-do, we cultivate a basic operating system that we're able to revert to when our motivation wanes. The way I use this concept is by starting with the outcome I would like to see. Then I work backward and map out what I need to do in order to accomplish this goal—whether it's a milestone or a daily task. I essentially create a checklist and refuse to make excuses. It is simply a decision that you hold yourself accountable for. 

And the best part about doing the hard things we want to put off is that once they're done, you get to stop worrying about them. What a great feeling. We believe we are saving energy when we procrastinate when in reality, procrastinating eats up exponentially more energy because we spend time worrying or feeling bad about ourselves for not doing it until we actually do it. There is so much peace of mind to be had by pushing through and doing what needs to be done, motivated or not. The hardest part is just starting anyway, and when you think about it, how easy is starting?

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2. Live in the present, and trust yourself. 

How do you do this? By successfully mastering the mindset outlined above. Through the process of learning how to conquer challenges in the present moment, we prove to ourselves that we can trust our future self to do what needs to be done when the time comes. Every time you meet adversity in the present and take care of it, the more you cultivate trust that your future self will be able to do so in the future—plus it frees you up from worry and anxiety.

If there's nothing you can immediately do about a situation, you can rest easy knowing that just like always, you'll be able to problem-solve and successfully attack the challenge when it comes. It can bring you back to be fully in the present moment, and whatever task you are involved in on your path to accomplishment and success. Because to maximize your potential in this life, you must give 110% to the present moment.

3. Remember that it's not THAT important.

Try telling me that before my first Olympics...it would have been a hard concept to swallow, but like everything, it comes with time and growth. This concept requires walking a really fine line and is only effective if you're extremely driven in the first place. When we want something really badly, sometimes we can hold on too tightly and put too much pressure on ourselves, which essentially robs the process of joy and sinks our dreams by causing us to burn out. 

We must give ourselves some room to make mistakes along the way—to not kick ourselves when we're down but instead understand that what we're trying to accomplish is a large part of our lives and enjoying the process makes the accomplishment worthwhile. We must allow ourselves room to fail and enough detachment to not let it devastate us so heavily that we're unable to learn the lessons necessary to achieve success. Failure and temporary losses will hurt (sometimes a lot), but we need to be able to bounce back. We have to take the lessons we've learned with us and avoid creating an environment where quitting seems like a good option. 

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Finally, remember that you will be OK.

There you have it—the three mindset shifts I practice daily to set myself up for success. It's easier said than done, but I find it helps to start by taking stock of the things that matter most to you in this life: your relationships with friends and family, your inner state, your health, and your safety/security, for example. Whatever your basic necessities are, you know that if you have those things, you'll be OK no matter what happens in your life or professional career. For me, this framework takes the pressure off, allows me to enjoy the ups and downs of the journey a little bit more, and gives me the flexibility to go with the flow. 

There are many different roads to our destination. If we are relaxed and open, we'll more easily see the signs the Universe is laying out for us. Make no mistake; I'm not telling you to slack off—quite the opposite. For these mindset shifts to work, you must continue to work your butt off while at the same time maintaining an arm's length distance from the results you want to see. Only then will we have the greatest chance of realizing our ultimate dreams.

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