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How Athletes Hack Their Minds To Achieve Their Goals AND Stop Sabotaging Themselves

The Habit Loop: How To Achieve Your Goals & Prevent Self-Sabotage Using This Simple 3-Step Method

We wouldn’t blame you if you thought hacking your own mind so you stopped sabotaging yourself (and started achieving your goals as an athlete), sounded a little crazy. It IS a little bit crazy. But with the Habit Loop, it’s much easier than you may think.

Hacking your mind to prevent self-sabotage is possible only because we are much more machine than we probably realise; and like all machines, we follow rules.

Rules that once you understand, can be bent, manipulated and exploited so you can win.

In fact, the majority of our behaviours and decisions are habitual, rather than something we consider as conscious.

It’s often been said by top-performers that your success is underpinned by your habits and your routines. The more consistent you are, the more success you realise.

The habits you establish, and the habits you don’t, end up determining how you spend your time, and at the end of the day, time is all you have. What you choose to do with your time is the only thing in your control. Ultimately, time spent well is the best way for you to achieve the goals you’ve set yourself.

So back to habits. Even the most disheveled, disorientated and disorganized athlete relies on habits to keep their life going.

The way you brush your teeth? A habit.

Your drive to work? A habit.

How you eat? A habit.

How you put your training gear on? A habit.

Your pre-game warm up? A habit.

You get my put.

Each day, your habits are providing the fuel for everything you do, even if you don’t realise it.

In this blog post, we’re going to leverage the power of habits, taking a concept from the book “The Power of Habit“, by Charles Duhigg.

Using his ‘Habit Loop’, I’m going to teach you how to hack your mind to start to implement behaviours you want into your routine, and get rid of behaviours you don’t.

Introducing The Habit Loop: The Fuel That Drives You — Even If You’d Never Realised It.

Charles Duhigg isn’t alone in his assessment of habits. Another critically acclaimed Author (and athlete) James Clear, in his book Atomic Habits agrees that all our habits essentially, follow the same framework known as the 3R’s:

  1. Reminder (the initial trigger/cue). 
  2. Response (the behavior/action/response). 
  3. Reward (the outcome of the behaviour). 
Achieve Your Goals As An Athlete With Charles Duhigg’s ‘Habit Loop’

Here is an example:

  • Your phone’s alarm goes off to get up for an early training session (cue/reminder). This is the reminder that initiates the behavior. The alarm acts as a the cue. It’s the prompt that starts the habitual behavior. But it’s cold and you’re tired.
  • You roll over, turn it off, tell yourself you’ll train in the afternoon, and go back to sleep for an extra hour and a half (routine). This is the actual behavior. When your phone goes off, you know that means you’ll have to get out of bed, even though you’re tired, and get to work.
  • Because you’ve turned it off, you get to go back to sleep (reward). This is the reward, you get extra sleep. But obviously, this reward comes with downside. You’ve missed your session. You’re already going to be playing catch up.

Each day, this habit loop repeats itself, Across all the different triggers and cues in your life, your go-to responses and pre-determined rewards rule your life.

Which isn’t always a good thing.

Identifying Your Positive & Negative Habit Loops

Now that you have an example of how habits control your life, you’re in the driver’s seat to engineer them so they serve you, not hold you back. Instead of your habits sabotaging your goals for your athletic career, they can be manipulated to serve you, instead. This sounds simple, because it really is. Here is why:

Because our cues/triggers won’t really change (hunger, waking up, fatigue etc), it means that the only thing we have to manipulate is how we respond to them. And, because our reward is always that — something we can feel good about, the only thing you ever need to control is how you respond and take action to the cues/triggers in your life.

Let’s evaluate a negative habit.

Trigger = You’re in the gym and you miss the last two reps of your back squat. Your coach tells you to rack it early. 

Response = You drops your head, your self-talk becomes negative, and you get frustrated. You get emotional.

Reward = You’re now almost guaranteed to get attention. By losing your cool, your coach feels like they have to diffuse the situation, find something else to blame (like your big night out, your lack of nutrition, or any other factor) in order to get you back on track. You get a kick of dopamine as your failed set is justified and validated.

Now, let’s flip it.

Trigger = You’re in the gym and you miss the last two reps of your back squat. Your coach tells you to rack it early. 

Response = You maintain your calm and listen to the Coaches’ feedback. You stay big and tall with your body language. You remind yourself that even the best in the world miss reps, miss shots, or miss opportunities. You take a deep, releasing breath and associate that exhalation with letting it all go. You take your rest and prepare for the next set. This time, you know what to focus on.  

Reward = You’re in a good headspace. You’re able to focus. You nail the next set. You get a much bigger kick of dopamine as your successful set, and management of failure is validated.

What a difference your response can make to a certain trigger and what an effect it can have on the reward or outcome.

The takeaway: Everything we do on a daily basis is driven by the “habit loop” of trigger, response, and reward. 

Notice that the only thing we changed here was the response? Notice that we focused on what we COULD control, not what we couldn’t?

Everything else stayed the same. This is the simplest and easiest way to leverage the way our brains create and follow habits. The trigger was the same (the missed reps) and the reward was the same (dopamine hit in the brain).

And while this is just one example, the same approach can be applied to any situation that results in you sabotaging your own ambitions and goals.

HOMEWORK:

Use existing routines to build new ones by following this simple 3-step process:

  1. Identify the habit (your response) you want to change. 
  2. Identify the trigger, response, and reward. 
  3. Adjust the response to something positive that yields the same reward.

Apply this concept to all your decisions in your life. Notice how everything can be distilled to this three-step-process? This is the trick we use to hack our athletes minds and get them to do things they don’t want to do.

Need our help? Reach out to us using the contact form on our website and we’ll be in touch.

Dig into our resources

Master Your Mental Game Mini-Course | Athletes Authority

Master your mental game Mini Course

Discover the mindset strategies of the World’s Greatest Athletes so you can turn your mind into a weapon of performance.

Athletes Authority | Foot & Ankle Protocol

THE KVLR™ PROTECTION SERIES

Bulletproof your weakest links with our body-part specific protection and resilience programs. These 12-week programs target the most common weak links in an athletes body and protects them from re-injury.

THE KVLR™ RECOVERY SYSTEM

Performance = fitness – fatigue. Reduce your fatigue and recover faster with our 3-step recovery system.

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We’ll use your email address to send you our information before the call. We also respect your privacy like it’s our own. We will never sell, distribute or divulge your information to anyone, ever.

Let's start with your contact details...

We’ll use your email address to send you our information before the call. We also respect your privacy like it’s our own. We will never sell, distribute or divulge your information to anyone, ever.

Let's start with your contact details...

We’ll use your email address to send you our information before the call. We also respect your privacy like it’s our own. We will never sell, distribute or divulge your information to anyone, ever.

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Monique Le Mottee

Athletic Physiotherapist & Rehab Coach

Qualifications:

  • Bachelors of Physiotherapy
  • Masters of Strength & Conditioning 

This may not be a PC thing to say, but when Lachlan and I met Mon, we were immediately in love. She got the role as an intern before she left the interview (which we never do).

We knew Mon would be an amazing fit from the get go — her passion for sports is infectious and she’s a dynamic young physiotherapist keen to combine her skills as a strength and conditioning coach. It’s the 1-2-3 combination we look for in our staff and any athletic facility can only dream of in a hire.

Since starting with us, we’ve had to put a pause on the amount of positive feedback we receive about her — it’s clogging my desk space.

You’ll see Mon on the gym floor, keeping our athletes tuned in the physio clinic and out on the pitch with the Mac Uni AFL team as their Head of Performance.

Justin Richardson

Athletic Physiotherapist & Rehab Coach

Qualifications:

  • Bachelors of Physiotherapy
  • Masters of Strength & Conditioning (undertaking) 

Justin has developed a passion for sports performance, finding his greatest interest in bridging the gap between traditional hands-on physiotherapy and the guidance and care required to get an athlete back to sport and performing at their best.

Having worked with the Cronulla Sharks and South Sydney Rabbitohs, he has a deep understanding of the requirements to succeed at a high level of sport and is committed to providing you with the expertise to help you get back to doing what you love.

Alan Robinson

Lead Sports Physiotherapist

Qualifications:

  • Bachelors of Applied Science (Physiotherapy)
  • Masters of Sports Physiotherapy

Alan is a titled APA Sports & Exercise Physiotherapist who has spent his whole career living and breathing sports rehabilitation.

His career as a physiotherapist has seen him work with the NSW Waratahs and the Sydney Blue Sox, managing injuries that range from the acute-stage to end-stage rehabilitation. His philosophy aims to address long term athletic development and bring high-performance rehabilitation to athletes.

His work has been in close proximity to rehabilitation coaches, strength & power coaches, head coaches and high-performance managers, making him an asset on your journey to rehabilitation and back to full health.

Tom Longworth

Sports Doctor

Qualifications:

  • Bachelors of Medicine
  • Post Graduate Diploma of Sport & Exercise Medicine

Dr Tom Longworth became a registrar of the Australasian College of Sports and Exercise Physicians in 2016 and is currently in his 3rd year of specialist training. He completed his medical degree with the University of Newcastle in 2010 and has had 5 years of experience in Emergency and intensive care medicine across Australia since graduating.

He has a wide variety of experience working with elite sports people, currently assistant medical officer at The Sydney Roosters Rugby League Club, team doctor for the Sydney FC Youth League and Head Doctor of the World Champion Jillaroos (Australian Women’s Rugby League Team). Other sports coverage includes the Sydney 7s rugby union, Australian school boy rugby union, Bledisloe Cup and National Rowing regattas as well as voluntary work abroad with the Surfing Doctors’ Association.

Dr Longworth has recently completed his postgraduate diploma in Sports and Exercise Medicine through the University of Bath (UK). He has published research relating to stem cell treatment for knee osteoarthritis and is currently investigating concussion incidence in the NRL, as well as conducting a trial on shin splint management.

Tom currently sees our athletes out of his home base at Eastern Suburbs Sports Medicine Centre.

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We’ll use your email address to send you our information before the call. We also respect your privacy like it’s our own. We will never sell, distribute or divulge your information to anyone, ever.

Lachlan Wilmot

DIRECTOR OF COACHING & PERFORMANCE

Qualifications:

  • Bachelors of Exercise and Sport Science
  • Honors in Rate of Force Development in Team Sport Athletes

Lachlan began his professional sports coaching career as the second ever employee at the GWS Giants in 2010-11 season prior to entering the AFL in 2012. Over 7 seasons, Lachlan grew a team of talented young men into back-to-back preliminary finals contenders. As the head of strength and power, his role was to turn teenagers into physically dominant men, developing their strength, power, speed and most importantly, their resistance to injury.

In 2018, Lachlan’s success afforded him the opportunity to shift codes, having been offered the role of High Performance Manager for the NRL’s Parramatta Eels.

In as little as one rebuild season, he had taken the wooden spooners of 2018 to the finals in 2019, where they inflicted the greatest defeat of the Brisbane Broncos in NRL history. By 2019, it was time for Lachlan to go ‘all-in’ on his other baby, Athletes Authority.

Now, Lachlan leads the performance program, designing the programs for all the athletes here. He works closely with the sports medicine team, just like he did in pro sport, to help athletes achieve more and reach new heights with their athletic careers.

Karl Goodman

FOUNDER & DIRECTOR OF BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

Karl began his career in coaching as a Personal Trainer back in 2007. After competing for NSW as a Baseballer, and then competing at an elite standard as a cyclist throughout university,  Karl received the opportunity to work with Gordon Rugby in the Shute Shield competition. From there, he found a way to marry his passion in sports and competition with coaching; selling his investment property to start Athletes Authority in early 2016.

Starting from humble beginnings, the facility vision was taken to another level when Lachlan and Karl partnered up in 2017 and Athletes Authority was incorporated. It was no longer just a gym training athletes; Athletes Authority was committed to becoming a brand athletes worldwide could rely on for quality coaching, advice and service.