Dan Garner STACK
When I come across motivational quotes or inspirational pictures on social media, I like to start putting them to use in my own mind.
A lot of these messages are more powerful than their surface value, and if you “dig in” to how it fits your current situation, you can have some very insightful moments.
I often do this for myself, but being a coach and working with so many hockey athletes, I find that I am more often doing it for them than I am doing it for myself. In the moments where they most need to hear some encouragement, perhaps I can summon the perfect words.
These motivational or “wisdom” quotes are popular for a reason—they resonate with people. If you have a psychological tool that you can use to decrease the pressure you feel, lower your anxiety, increase your confidence, and just allow you to reach that perfectly balanced flow-state between stress and apathy, that’s a very powerful thing.
Excellence Is A Habit
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
This quote by Aristotle is one of the most powerful messages I have ever come across. Making excellence a habit in your mind and then in your actions is a game plan that will never fail you. Once excellence becomes a habit, performing well in hockey is something that just flows and comes to you naturally, rather than you needing to nervously chase it.
Habits create ease and simplicity because you never have to think about something that is habitual. Therefore, habitual excellence creates a calm yet calculated hockey performance. There is a very visually clear “calm in the storm” that the all-time greatest hockey players had when out on the ice. No matter how much pressure was placed upon them, they still consistently remained level-headed and didn’t panic in the moment. When teaching this to my athletes to raise their performance to the next level, I consistently refer back to the idea of hurrying slowly.
Ironically enough, we live in a modern time where being mediocre is so common that in some cases it’s someone’s goal—just to be mediocre and then celebrate their averageness. People want to do so many things, they seldom become excellent at any of them. Mediocrity allows you to indulge in your desires for social interactions, eating out, partying, TV entertainment, and go along this path while never exhausting yourself. Or…so it seems so on the surface.
In order for you to move forward and become the best hockey player you can possibly be, you’re going to have to take a good, long, hard, look at yourself. Do you have a sense of inner-excellence? Is excellence something you can honestly say, by looking at your daily schedule, that you strive for on a daily basis?
If not, I would want you to take me up on this challenge and seek inner-excellence at all costs.
Inner-excellence is something that rejuvenates your competitive soul and refuels you on a daily basis so that the “exhaustion” that you thought you would run into when seeking your goals never truly hits.
Things done with an attitude of inner-excellence are actions performed with a personal investment in yourself in the task at hand. This matters.
When inner-excellence becomes your habitual way of approaching life and engaging in the gym, in your meal prep, and out on the ice, the quality of your hockey performance as well as the quality of your life as a whole becomes much greater.
You have to be your own MVP.
You have to start from excellence first from within and be your own biggest fan – because trust me, there are going to be more than enough people who won’t believe in you along the way. If you’re not your biggest fan, you’re going to be in a whole lot of trouble.
Inner-excellence starts with internal validation, not external validation. Inner-excellence is a way that you start thinking and behaving. It’s a performance-based mindset that tells you from the inside-out that no matter what your circumstances are you are always the one who is going to be held accountable for your thoughts, feelings, and actions.
Circumstance doesn’t change the standard. You need to meet the excellence standard if you want to make the hockey team next year, whether your circumstances were perfect or not.
Inner-excellence is a trait demonstrated by the best captains of all time because they are able to stay truly positive (and not fake positive) even in the most negative scenarios and situations. It’s about being able to deal with the adversity of being down 3-0 in a playoff series in an immediate and confident way.
When you’re the MVP of your own life and you have the excellence mindset, you live life “on” purpose and “with” purpose.
Get Excited, Don’t Get Overwhelmed
Hockey players with the excellence mindset perceive their interests as challenges, they get motivated by new challenges in the sport and do not carry with them the “fear of failure” mindset when taking on a new task.
Inner-excellence in a habit and when practiced regularly you will develop a very high level of self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-image. You have the “can do” attitude that a lot of us coaches preach, and this “can do” attitude provides you the willingness needed to prepare, invest, and sacrifice whatever is needed because you realize there are no shortcuts to hockey success.
Playing the blame-game isn’t even a thought that comes to mind to those with the excellence mindset because you want to go the extra mile just to find out what’s there. The challenge is invigorating, not exhausting.
Working on your inside will always show on the outside. Inner-excellence is your vehicle to committing to yourself in an honest and productive way. Within yourself, you’re fair, honest about your effort, honest about your character, and honest about your circumstances.
You have self-awareness in a self-supporting way.
This goes far beyond just your win/loss record and the numbers that are supposed to dictate what type of hockey player you are. Although you consider those numbers, they in no way define you or your ability – only you can dictate that because you have self-ownership of the process.
Practice Makes Perfect
You’re going to need confidence to dominate out on the ice, and confidence means that you know what to do when facing any new situation. Confidence can only be built with real experience and real action.
Nobody has ever studied their way into the NHL – the best hockey players on the planet continue to be successful because they learn to trust their talents, then re-invest in those talents, and then practice and exercise those talents.
Rinse and repeat, now you got yourself a pro-athlete.
This is what the habit of excellence is all about and this is what I have been discussing this entire article. When you practice your own inner-excellence long enough you get to experience what it feels like to “be in the zone”
Being in the zone is knowing you have the physical and mental tools to become completely immersed in what you are doing. You are connected to hockey and hockey is connected to you. You have transitioned from a training mode into a trusting mode – you trust all of your natural instincts will take over from here because you have naturally made your habits create excellence.
You’re not fighting with yourself.
You’re not blaming yourself or others.
You’re not thinking about the circumstances that led up to this moment.
You’re not thinking about the reasons why you should be nervous.
You’re absorbed in the moment.
You’re revitalized in the zone, it’s self-invigorating, not self-depleting.
Everything is clear.
You’re spiritually relaxed even though you’re exerting maximum physical efforts.
You’re calm in the storm because the storm doesn’t determine your outcome, you do.
Your mind is quiet when in the zone because it’s so engaged, there is no external noises or visual disturbances distracting you.
You’re anticipating moment to moment everything that is going to happen next.
You’re absorbed and immersed, not obsessed or concerned.
The Keys to Victory
All of this is accessible to you, and it begins with the simple act of doing what needs to be done. Practice and discipline in your life will create disciplined-practice and practiced-discipline. If you truly understand what those mean, those will be your keys to excellence becoming your habit and not becoming a single target.
The one with the excellence mindset will be big enough to turn away from the troubles but strong enough to face them when they have to. This is discipline, and discipline allows extraordinary things to happen to ordinary people.
Yes, even the less talented ones.
If you stay disciplined, something strange will happen.
You will suddenly become talented.
You will suddenly become less ordinary.
You will suddenly become less mediocre.
And you will start to excel as a real threat out on the ice. Goals won’t intimidate you anymore, they’ll get you fired up. You will start looking at other people who think about inner-excellence in terms of everything it “takes” to get there, but inside you know they don’t understand because you look at inner-excellence for everything that it “gives” back to you.
Commit to excellence, and above all, commit to yourself.