People who have positive places to go to and established routines to follow can get so much more accomplished.
Presumably, an ideal home would be a place with a mother and father, a dog and a cat, several TV’s, a DVD player, an aquarium, a brother and sister, a study room, each kid with his own bedroom, own computer, own desk…
And that would just be for starters. The father would be home each day by 5:00 but able to get off work three or four times per week to visit the school, attend afternoon games, or take the whole loving family out on a surprise picnic right after school on a warm fall day by the side of a stream with the sun beaming down. Everyone would excitedly talk together yet listen curiously to each other.
Get real. A third of families don’t have a mother and father. Dogs and cats get in fights. The parent can’t get off work but has to take two jobs just to pay the bills. Or the parents have a pile of money but can’t stand each other. There are personality clashes, alcohol, problems…
No one ever promised you that your life would be problem-free. And hardly anyone’s life is. Some people live in incredibly difficult circumstances. Others have seemingly wonderful circumstances, but you can’t always be sure that what you see on the surface is what is really happening underneath.
Anyway, why talk about all of this? What does all this have to do with being a champion or with “positive places?” Everything. And I think it’s important to put all of this in context, to make sure there’s no impression that creating positive places in your life is necessarily easy.
Creating positive places in your life is often not easy. But it’s something you have to strive to do, even if the only positive place you can create is the space between your ears. That space is the most important. But once you’ve taken care of that space you have to try to make some other places as manageable, as positive, as perfect as possible for yourself.
Forget your problems and the obstacles. Most likely there will be some. Or many. Just focus on what you can do. How can you create a good study place? How can you create a good athletic training place? How can you create a good reflecting place? Some people have all three already and they don’t use them. They don’t even know what an advantage they have. So don’t bother yourself with what others have or don’t have. Concentrate on getting three places you need, and commit yourself to making the most of them.
Positive Place #1: An athletic training place
Do you have a place where you can go to work on your skills? Preferably a place where you can work uninterrupted, without distractions. For some it is a weight room, some a basketball court, some an empty field. Many people take an available training place for granted. Their neighborhood is saturated with courts and fields and facilities. For others, jogging would have to be through dangerous city streets, the only basketball court is jammed day and night with people, and there aren’t any weight rooms around except those that cost a lot of money to join.
Whatever your situation, try to makes sure you have a place you can go that is conducive to working diligently to improve. It’s not that you have to necessarily have the place all to yourself. But it should be an atmosphere where you can learn the joy of uninterrupted effort.
Do you know the joy of uninterrupted effort? Of a daily routine of piling up repetitions and concentrating on techniques? Some athletes have all the facilities but haven’t learned to think of the process as containing any joy. Others would love to repeat drills but can’t find a good place.
Find a place.
Establish a routine.
Change it as often as you need to in order to find a pattern that suits you.
But keep working till you find it.
People who have positive places to go to and established routines to follow can get so much more accomplished. They can build on their strengths and piggyback their efforts and propel their improvement. Plus, they are more likely to feel good about themselves in the process. As an athlete you need a place to go and a routine to follow. Work to develop your place and routine. And don’t worry if there’s no immediate joy. Your job—finding the joy—may be just as difficult as someone else’s job—finding a place. That’s okay. We didn’t start out saying there was one ideal situation anyway. Everyone’s different. But everyone can benefit from the self-discipline of place and routine.
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Positive Place #2: A Study Place
You probably have the idea already so there’s no reason for me to go into the same amount of detail. One kid has his own quiet room, a big desk, a nice lamp, baseball bookends, banners on the wall, calendars, charts, graphs, a revolving globe, a telescope aimed out a window, a computer, a cabinet filled with education software, self-study courses, a laser printer…but he can’t stand going into that room to study.
Another kid lives with eight people in two rooms. He likes learning, but there’s never peace and quiet. There’s barely space to breathe. There’s not one book in the house. A pencil or a piece of paper is hard to locate so when the phone rings, no one can take a message.
Everyone’s got different conditions. What matters is your ability to create adequate conditions for yourself. What are adequate conditions? Conditions you can thrive in. It doesn’t do any good to have all those globes and telescopes and computers if you don’t use them to your advantage.
As a student you need to work to create a place where you can go to study, and where you can develop a sense of joy about the process. Uninterrupted. You sit down, you open a book, you seek information. For some that sounds interesting all by itself. For others it’s pure hell already. Just the idea of sitting down with a book causes a restless feeling.
You can change your conditions and you can change your response to your conditions. You just have to realize that learning to sit down and grapple with ideas in books can be enjoyable, even for people who don’t right now consider it as such. It’s all a matter of training and of finding a place where you have a chance to succeed with that training.
Few people like running sprints the first time someone takes them out on a hot August day, makes them sprint again and again, and prevents them from resting as long as they’d like between sprints. You have to learn to enjoy physical conditioning. It’s not easy. In fact, it may very well never be your idea of great fun. But you can improve your enjoyment of it which you’ll have to do if you are attempting to perform like a champion.
The same applies to book-learning. You can’t get away with saying, “I just don’t like books. I hate sitting down with a book. That’s just the way I am.”
My reply is “Garbage. That’s not just the way ‘you am.’ That’s just the way you happen to be at this particular time.”
You don’t like what you haven’t been trained to like. You haven’t been properly exposed to books so you think that means you just don’t like books. If you think like that, your very thinking process may be erroneous.
There may not be anyone around to help you, but you can help yourself. Go to a quiet place and think and weigh and consider and contemplate. You may have to roll this concept over and over in your head until it makes sense:
You have to be willing to open your mind up to this possibility. And you may already have guessed a way to do this. But are you accustomed to going to a quiet place to think and weigh and consider? If you’re not, that’s something that you need to work on. It will help you to become a champion.
Positive Place #3: a quiet place of reflection
For you to make the most of your life, you have to realize you’re an individual, even if the people around you still treat you like a kid. You are in charge of your life and your destiny. You can blame your conditions and problems all you want, but thousands of people overcame conditions worse than yours and they could overcome your conditions right now. So can you. But you have to realize at the outset that no one is claiming it will be easy.
If you want to take charge of your life and start seeing things clearly, see how you want to spend your life, and figure out ways to maximize your time on this planet, you need to have a place to get away from it all so you can think and reflect. You don’t have to sit at the top of a lighthouse at Cape Sounion on the tip of southern Greece in order to get away from it all. A library in any major city might do the job fine. A closet in your own house may work, too. It’s not really the place that matters, it’s the state of mind you get when you go there. It’s a sense of perspective that you want. And then what?
It’s not so much that you want to think energetically as much as to just sit there and be aware of life, of yourself, of your surroundings, and of the part you are playing in the film of your life (which is unreeling every day whether you think of it like that or not).
What are you proud of?
What would you like to change?
What can you change?
What must you accept and make the best of?
How can you get added help?
Where can you get a boost?
Who might be able to help you?
At least once a week you ought to be disappearing into some quiet place and giving yourself a chance to get away from everything long enough so that the events around you can just sink in, and so that some new possibilities can float through.
Reflection is something nearly all champions do, in all fields, in all nations, in all times. But a lot of people, especially busy young students and athletes, have never even been told that this is an important ingredient of success at champion levels. In the rush to learn to read and spell and write and add and catch a ball and run and avoid drugs, sometimes important things get left out.
Don’t leave this place out. Or the other two. Find your three positive places and learn to enjoy the processes that occur in each of them. Experiment. Try. And try again. Trust your own power to change and improve yourself, and keep at it. Call for tiny improvements, not miracles.
Remember the famous line: All great journeys begin with a single step. So take some steps. Create your places. And let yourself flourish in them.
—Excerpted from the book, “Think Like a Champion.”
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PGC Basketball provides intense, no-nonsense basketball training for players and coaches. Our basketball camps are designed to teach players of all positions to play smart basketball, be coaches on the court, and be leaders in practices, games and in everyday life.
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