It’s all in your head – Motivation By Mark Schwab

Waiting on pain/inspiration

“It’s all in your head.” It sure is. Remember hearing those words? Usually, it would be a comment made towards someone falling short of potential or “He’s a head case.” As if defective or hopeless – Be careful, if you’ve ever truly competed, then you know we’re all head cases. No one is exempt from struggling and managing their mind. It really is all in your head. Unfortunately, in wrestling/competition, the mind is often the least INTENTIONALLY trained area.

Our minds are tricky and allow us to lay dormant until there’s enough pain. Pain is the greatest motivator on the planet along with inspiration and desire, but can we wait until the pain or desire is great enough? Often the inspiration never hits, desire never comes and the pain that could have been used up front is now used on the backside in regret and we missed by just a little. Insure your gain wherever you can. Your results often hinge on inches and ounces.

Our sub-conscious / automatic mind features whatever’s easiest or instilled and provides universal soil that’ll grow whatever seeds we plant. Waiting is often an omission. We need to be intentional, use our conscious mind and act NOW. We miss opportunities to develop, sharpen and mature our response and patterns of thought. Ideally, we collaborate on bringing our two forces mind/body together.

Physical training promotes grit / mental toughness, yet there are areas very independent as a competitor that require awareness, attention, management, and development to ensure your most effective opportunity to compete to your potential, consistency and ideally inspirational performance. Competing is much like a warrior in battle. However, the greatest warriors not only battle but have mastered the extreme opposite in coolness, composure, management, in-control, never rattled, and know which barking dogs to respond to and when not. They have all the bases of battle covered; all the way to their heart rate down to a few beats a minute – Both extremes are necessary in particular the higher level one competes and especially college. Most college wrestlers improve skill-wise but just as many, who improve physically, decrease in mentality. They come in with big dreams and settle on winsome / lose some. They grow tired of the long seasons, cutting weight, extreme training, etc. I’ve seen it over and over and felt it myself. We strengthen our skill, technique, and positioning but our mind lags behind unless we INTENTIONALLY spend time nurturing. Most ignore their mental-climate until there’s pain; the same time that’s going to pass anyway could be spent sharpening their sword of thought, belief, management, and direction.

Maybe if the motivation to address our awareness and mental lot was more like a nagging toothache, it would drive us to take action, but we put-off and stall. I can’t tell you how many parents, coaches, and athletes are disregarding necessary and needed attention to their mental account right now. I can’t tell you how many people contact me and never follow up. I can’t tell you how many athletes know they need development or management but will discount it. I can’t tell you how many will miss their mark by inches or ounces that were/are within reach.

The pain of the most recent loss, underperformance or decline, subsides and even though we know we need attention and direction in our quality of thought, we don’t because it just doesn’t hurt enough and not enough desire to sustain. We gamble both knowingly and unknowingly. Most have no idea how to manage their mind, so they push it down, neglect, delay and just kind of hope it takes care of itself or some type of inspiration intervenes. Maybe we run more hills, drill more, still missing the mark of intentional focus on mental climate, prevention, management, and growth. Many of us treat our mindset like changing oil in our vehicle. We know we should change the oil, but we’re waiting until we feel more like doing it. We keep putting it off because day by day it doesn’t really seem to matter. We wait, postpone and ignore while waiting…even past the oil light coming on. Finally, when we do take action, the damage is done. – The engine is dirty, longevity of the engine is hindered, damaged engine parts, and lost thousands of gas miles due to ignoring something we knew needed attention and now, the cost is much greater.

When you heavily invest physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, it’s going to hurt a lot. When you have unrealized potential and dreams, and I know from personal experience, heartache, despair, mourning, and letdown endures. I remember walking up the stairs of Carver Arena in Iowa City after the NCAA wrestling tournament. My true-freshman year just completed. I was one of only four freshmen AA’s that year and only two true-freshmen AA’s finished with 49 wins – The most in NCAA history as a true-freshman. Here I was feeling ok and confident I’d strike again and next time on top. Well, my plan changed with a botched knee infection that turned into nine / 9 knee operations and off the wrestling mat for an entire year of my college career. What stinks worse is I still could have accomplished my goals. My knee had only 40 degrees of motion vs. 180 but I learned to wrestle effectively, came back my senior year and even major decisioned the champion during the season, but I didn’t know how to manage my thoughts, mind, and emotions. I was tired, full of doubt and if I would have had just something to focus on, draw-to, or go-to mentally, I know it would have made a difference. I made it to the NCAA semi-finals and lost 4-3 with 1:01 riding time. Talk about inches and ounces. I believe if I would have had any kind of mind management, it would have made the difference, but I didn’t know anything and neither did the people around me. I’m also guilty of self-sabotage. My point is our mental climate is paramount. Inches and ounces make the difference.

Your miscalculation of ignoring your mind’s potential has nothing to do with time, possibly knowledge but you can find out anything you desire online. Yet, it certainly comes down to desire discipline and willingness to focus on your mental estate.

Whatever you have to give-up to be intentional and enriching your garden of thought, is crumbs in the scheme of life and taking a run at dreams. Opportunity is only NOW. You only have this NOW! There is no next now…..

Fortifying your mental lot is an equal access stimulus. Absolutely anyone can nurture, encourage, and fuel their mind’s eye. It’s available to anyone willing to be intentional, disciplined and driven. There’s universal soil within all that grow and reap whatever we sow. No exceptions! Talk about a tremendous payout and advantage and it’s all right back where we started – In your head. Few will answer the call unless great pain or great desire strikes. Delay and Waiting will suffocate any dream. We’re like a library, tons of knowledge available, the potential is exceptional and yet, the library sits mostly empty, shelves full of unread books, unread knowledge, and unused potential. Our mental estate is a lot like the library. It’s there and available but we let it slide because little by little / day by day, we don’t see or feel the demise. It only comes up during pain, inspiration or in reflection after opportunities have ceased.

It doesn’t have to be this way. You have the answers to the test if you’ll just study. You have to pull your end of the rope, be intentional and keep pulling until you cross the finish line of your achievable vision. There are many competitors who have the skills, positioning, feel and development to be state-placer / champion or all-American / national champion. If they’ll collude their physical capability with their exercised mental endowment, they offer a very credible movement and at least present their best opportunity to compete and succeed. As the level of competition increases, so does the need for subjective competence. Woulda, coulda, shoulda is a horrible realization to face. A little awareness and discipline on the front side is crumbs over all. Don’t be denied or come up short based on crumbs. It’s all there in your head if you’ll gain knowledge, go inward, adjust and apply. Keep it simple.

Not changing the oil in your car is one thing – You can always get another car, but you only get one competition career and it goes fast, never get easier, no guarantees and it’s all in your head.

Mark Schwab was recently an assistant coach at the University of Northern Iowa. Previously he spent nine years as assistant coach at the University of Minnesota, helping the program to seven top-three team finishes at the NCAA Championships and two NCAA team titles. As a wrestler, Schwab was an All-American for the University of Northern Iowa during the late 1980s. Schwab earned his bachelor’s degree in 1990 from the University of Northern Iowa and his master’s degree from the University of Minnesota in 2003. Schwab returned to the University of Minnesota to get a second emphasis in sports psychology on his existing master’s and completed that in 2010. Email Mark at

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