Tag: Psychology

Super Bowl season is upon us.  This Sunday, at NRG Stadium in Houston, TX, the New England Patriots will meet the Atlanta Falcons to determine the 2017 NFL championship.  To the winner will go the spoils: the Lombardi trophy, homecoming parades, changes in team culture, fortifications of team and individual legacies.  To the loser?  Well, that’s complicated, and something that’s often overlooked.

The virtues of winning are well-established.  We’re conditioned to compete, and culturally, financially and biologically rewarded for winning.  Several scientific studies have shown a direct correlation between winning outcomes and testosterone and dopamine levels in the brain, which enhance both mental functioning and feelings of pleasure and well-being (Huettel, 2014). Researchers state that success and winning shape our brains more than genetics and drugs (Hardman, 2013). Success changes the chemistry of the brain, making you more focused, smarter, more confident and more aggressive.

But, as either the Falcons or Patriots will know only too well Sunday evening, losing just as much a part of competition as winning. The cost of winning, and the many rewards it provides, requires that every competition have a loser—or, in the case of the NFL, 31 of them.  Perhaps no one understands this reality more intimately than Jim Kelly, Hall of Fame quarterback for the Buffalo Bills, who lost four straight Super Bowls from 1991-1994.  “There’s always going to be a major emphasis on winning, because that’s just the way society is. That’s just the way our culture is: That you want to be number one at the end. And if you’re number two, at times, there’s no doubt that number two is looked upon as mediocre, as a person that didn’t achieve it, sometimes as losers” (CBS News, 2013).  Perhaps no one better understands victories, either.  Kelly has twice beaten cancer since retiring from the NFL.

The Super Bowl could be decided by a single kick, catch, coaching mistake, or even the 50/50 shot of a flip of a coin at the beginning (CBS News, 2013). Those seemingly insignificant actions are the fine line that ultimately will separate those who win from those who lose. Duke Neuroscientist Scott Huettel, who’s done much work with professional athletes, states that winning is overrated (Huettel, 2014).

So going into this Super Bowl Sunday, and let’s face it the rest of life, keep this in mind. Some of your biggest victories may stem from being able to stomach your worst losses. Winning is both a great feeling and beneficial to our health, but the work you put in to get there is what builds you as a person. Everyone needs to take a few losses here and there to give us a drive and a purpose to better ourselves and really evaluate our lives; something we might happen to overlook if we always won. Without that, where would we be in life? Afterall, majority of the reasons you continue on is because you’re doing something you love. The way you view any competition is what will define the way you see the reward. Whether you’re an NFL player, a high school athlete, or someone just trying to get through your daily life, you know you can’t win every challenge. It’s what you take from each loss, and even win, is what will shape your motivation for the next challenge.



Chase, C. (2017, January 23). Super Bowl LI: The 10 most important things to know about Falcons vs. Patriots | FOX Sports. Retrieved from http://www.foxsports.com/nfl/gallery/super-bowl-falcons-patriots-most-important-things-stats-tom-brady-matt-ryan-mvp-012317

CBS News. (2013, February 3). The psychology of winning – and losing – CBS News. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-psychology-of-winning-and-losing/

Robertson, I. H. (2012). The winner effect: The neuroscience of success and failure. New York: Thomas Dunne Books.

Huettel, S. (2014). An overall probability of winning heuristic for complex risky decisions: Choice and eye fixation evidence. 125 2: 73-87. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

Hardiman, A. (2013, June 20). Your Brain on Winning | Runner’s World. Retrieved from http://www.runnersworld.com/race-training/your-brain-on-winning




I’m sure that we have all experienced a time when we didn’t want to follow through with a task at hand. Either we got bored, felt like the task was too difficult to complete, became burnt out, or couldn’t see the benefits that would arise upon completion. Whatever the reason may be, we’ve been there. The good news is that there are various approaches that can be taken to fix this problem, one of them being, “keeping your eyes on the prize.”

Everything that we do is done for a reason. For example, baseball players both young and old are required to go to batting practice. It has become part of their pregame routine to take dozens of extra swings in preparation for competition. The purpose, as told by the Oakland hitting coach Chili Davis, is that “batting practice is a time to create and foster good habits. The guys who do it and do it right are the ones who are more successful.” (Caple, 2014) The same thing goes for volleyball players. “A setter will come close to making one third of all the ball contacts by the team.” (USA volleyball) This means that they better be darn good at what they do, or the team won’t be successful. But how do they achieve this skill? The answer is that they make goals for themselves and lean into them. They practice footwork, hand contact, vision, etc. time and time again so that they can deliver the perfect ball to their hitters. They want success for their team, so they keep their eyes on the prize during all of those days of practice and problem solving.

Another tactic that can be used to stay motivated is to take a different approach. Sometimes the way you are doing something won’t feel right or may seem more difficult than it should. In this case, taking a step back and re-analyzing your methodology towards the task may be a good option for you. Being able to identify a couple tweaks and changes that could be made may change your outlook and experience in ways you didn’t know were possible!

Lastly, reward yourself! Nothing worth having ever comes easy, right? So instead of just looking at the big picture (which may appear a little daunting), make small goals for yourself along the way. When you reach one of those milestones, reward yourself. One way you could do this is to treat yourself to a nice breakfast the next morning, or to document your success in writing. Reading and reliving your accomplishments may give you the right drive to continue forward on your journey. It is important to be able to recognize your own progress, which will not only allow you to celebrate the successes, but will also let you know how much further you have to go in reaching your primary goals.

“The discipline you learn and character you build from setting and achieving a goal can be more valuable than the achievement of the goal itself.” -Bo Bennett



Caple, J. (2014). Batting Practice: Swings and Misses

USA Volleyball (2013). Thoughts for Setters



Every third Monday of January we recognize and celebrate the lifelong impact that Martin Luther King Jr. made on our country. We celebrate this day to honor and commemorate MLK and his strong belief in combating racial discrimination. As you all know, King was the lead spokesman for non violent activism in the Civil Rights movement, and is often recognized by his “I am a dream speech”.

However, this blog isn’t to give you a history lesson on WHAT King did- stuff you already know.  This blog is to prompt some thinking about HOW he did it.   So how did he do it? How was one man able to bring about change and bring a country closer together despite significant challenges and adversity?

The answer starts with a firm belief in himself and his cause (or task).  He showed immense courage by standing firm in his belief in a nonviolent approach, even when others prosecuted him for it. He knew that violence would only make things worse for his people and so instead, he led peaceful protests. He gained followers by staying true to himself, his good character, and treated others with that same respect and conviction.

The same process, believing in oneself and the courage to act even when we are frightened or facing the most difficult of adversity, is fundamental to anyone who is attempting to do great things.

How can we use this model for ourselves and how can it help in accomplishing our goals in life or sport?

Similar to MLK, It all starts with believing in yourself and committing to a vision or dream.   With these two factors, we can manage and be okay with failure along the way, for failing means learning. The bigger we dream, the bigger chances we have to take, and nothing will ever go perfectly as planned but don’t be discouraged because we ought to measure ourselves by our progress versus perfection.  For some of the biggest growth in a person’s life happens in moments of adversity! As Neal Donald Walsch once said, “life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” Therefore, do what makes you uncomfortable.

Martin Luther King ran into many roadblocks along his journey that could have caused him to give up his dreams, but he kept going. Our encouragement to you today, is to fully embrace your hopes and dreams and go for them whole-heartedly, just as Martin Luther King Jr. did. You may just end up changing your story as well as changing the world!



Time and Date AS (2016). Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the United States

Schulke, F., Fernandez, B. (2014). About Dr. King: Overview

Biography.com Editors (2017). Martin Luther King Jr. Biography