Book Summary: The Mindful Athlete

Book: The Mindful Athlete


This book is a useful field guide for mindfulness training, both in your personal and professional life. The author does a great job at laying out concepts and techniques that we can all apply in our daily lives.

Mindful Athlete

The following are the passages I took away from the book The Mindful Athlete by George MumfordAll content credit goes to the author(s).

Ground Zero: A Sense of Urgency

“The only way out is always through.” — ROBERT FROST

  • “The gift of desperation compels us to move forward. Without fire in our lives, we sometimes don’t have the internal combustion necessary to change and take risks.”
  • “Having your ass on fire—or what I call AOF—not only moves us human beings into action, but compels us to seek our truths and act with conviction in life.”

Mindfulness: Eye of the Hurricane

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” – Victor Frankl

  • “When you practice mindfulness, you become aware that there is a difference between being aware that you are angry or anxious, and being mindful of your anger or your anxiety. To be mindful of your anger or anxiety, you must be aware of yourself “on purpose” and observe your reactions to things in a non-attached way, as if you were observing yourself from outside of yourself. You just notice your own mind and what’s passing through it without identifying personally with those thoughts and feelings.”

Awareness of Breath

  • Awareness of breathing, quite simply, is one of the most fundamental techniques for moving into mindfulness… The more deeply you focus exclusively on your breathing, the more profoundly anchored you are to that space.”

The Brake and the Accelerator

  • The sympathetic nervous system is connected to the “fight or flight” response that’s hardwired into our DNA and activated by fear, anxiety, and stress. There’s certainly plenty of that going on during a competitive game, as well as in the world at large. When you’re stressed or anxious, the sympathetic nervous system goes into action, releasing and literally flooding your body with stress hormones. And when these stress hormones build up, your immune system starts to break down along with your ability to think clearly and respond appropriately.”
  • The parasympathetic nervous system basically does the opposite of what the sympathetic nervous system does. Instead of speeding things up and flooding us with stress hormones, it actually slows us down. It lowers our blood pressure and slows down our heart rate. The parasympathetic nervous system actually releases a neurochemical called acetylcholine, which is a key ingredient that supports the process of relaxation.”

Relaxation Response

“The mind has to be empty to see clearly.” — KRISHNAMURTI

  • “The more deeply and consciously you breathe, the more deeply and consciously you activate your parasympathetic nervous system, slowing down your body, infusing it with energy while you simultaneously relax and become more fully present in the moment.”

Outcome Expectation

  • Outcome expectation is what it sounds like: focusing on what we expect an outcome will be. To streamline it even further, let’s say that an outcome can be either positive or negative. If we believe things will work out, we go into a competition or a practice with a positive attitude and confidence. In other words, we expect a positive outcome. On the other hand, if we expect things to be difficult, our attitude will take our cues from that belief and our actions will follow suit, often creating the outcome we expected.”


  • Kinesthetic imagery or kinesthetic visualization, means experiencing things in our body through the mind and thus “mentally rehearsing” something… We can mentally rehearse whatever goal we have in mind. Using outcome expectation as the frame, we actually rewire our brains to reflect that activity as if we were really doing it.”

Implicit Learning

  • “With mindful intention and attention, we can rewire the brain and create a neural net that automatically carries out these instructions, thus freeing the mind to be present in the moment.”

Intention Setting

  • Intention is purely mental. When you marry intention with positive mind-states through outcome expectation, visualization, and practice, you’re able to achieve great things on and off the court.”

Deep Listening

  • Deep Listening is the practice of stopping and listening without judgment or advice. Before you can listen deeply to someone else, you need to begin by deeply listening to yourself. Sit down, clear your mind, and ask yourself in silence: What do I really want? What is my life for? Intention will emerge if you go deep enough.”

Deliberate Practice

  • Deliberate practice involves focusing on and practicing one specific thing that you want to improve in your game—and practicing it with intention and concentration, mentally visualizing or rehearsing while you practice and thus experiencing the move in your body.”

The Discomfort Zone

  • “If you apply deliberate practice to that move, work on error correction consciously and intentionally, the mistakes you make will eventually tell you what you need to work on—and how. The process is like a missile that self-corrects. But we have to know the fundamentals of what we’re doing—and then we have to repeat them over and over again, each time moving incrementally out of our comfort zones.”


  • Poise is the ability to keep calm and stay connected to that center space at all times, without getting thrown off-balance. When we do get thrown off-balance, we remember to come back to the fullness of the present moment through conscious breathing and mindful meditation.”

Cultivating Insight

  • “We all have emotional blueprints that have been laid down since childhood, and it’s here that we find the patterns and limited thinking that create our inner obstacles that make it difficult for us to believe in ourselves or to readily see ourselves clearly. These include deep insecurities, subtle self-critical messages, and negative self-talk that are always there, under the surface, ready to flare up, trip us up, and validate our unworthiness at the slightest mishap.”
  • Cultivating insight and accruing wisdom about our inner lives is the only way to become aware of the blueprints that have laid the foundation for our enduring beliefs and internal obstacles.”

Comfort Zones and Challenge

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” — WAYNE DYER

  • Self-efficacy, or stress hardiness, is the galvanizing force behind what I call the three Cs:
    • Commitment to your growth and development
    • Control over how you respond to stressors
    • Viewing every crisis or pressure as a Challenge.”

Error Correction

  • “The first step in this process involves self-reflection instead of self-blame. You reflect and ask yourself: ‘Well, why did that happen? , What can I do to change that?'”

Embracing Failure

  • “We need to recognize failures as opportunities and mistakes as feedback for learning. We need to realize that, like moving out of our comfort zones, failures are potent Challenges for personal growth, as well as opportunities to Control how you respond to challenges and how you keep your Commitment to growth, no matter what. And, by the way, when you move out of your comfort zone, you’re bound to “fail”—but with the right mindset, you are always ‘failing up’.”

Accruing Wisdom

  • “Once we’ve been able to pay attention to that inner critic without judgment, to see where it lives in our emotional blueprint, why it’s there, and how and why we feed our wolves or hindrances, then we start to accrue essential wisdom. We’re suddenly able to observe unwholesome thought patterns, belief systems, and attachments associated with our hindrances.”

Emotional Integrity

  • As Sharon Salzberg put it in Lovingkindness, “We must stop fragmenting our lives. Telling lies at work and then expecting great truths in meditation is nonsensical. Using our sexual energy in a way that harms ourselves or others, and then expecting to know transcendent love in another arena, is mindless. Every aspect of our lives is connected to every other aspect of our lives. This truth is the basis for an awakened life.”

Responding > Reacting

  • “You can’t keep what’s happening from happening. But you can choose how to respond. It’s about responding to the flow of life around us rather than reacting, because responding facilitates flow; reacting obstructs it.”

Helplessness and Power

  • “Usually, in times of extreme crisis, the first thing people do is let their guard down and ask for help from Somewhere or Something. The real dilemma for most people has to do with feeling a lack of power in their lives.”

Faith and Trust

  • “Faith, is about having confidence and being open to new ideas. Faith becomes conviction when you actually see and experience faith at work. This, in turn, motivates you to move forward and fosters a strong belief in self-efficacy; you believe that no matter what happens, you can handle it.”

Once again, all content credit goes to the author of this book. I’ve simply shared the bits I’ve enjoyed the most and found most useful.

That’s it for now. Cheers ’till next time!


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