Serena Williams: Models of Motivational Mindsets
Updated: Jan 19, 2021
Two days before the start of the 2017 Australian Open, Serena Williams found out that she was pregnant. You’d think she dropped out of the tournament, right? Wrong. That year, Serena played at the Australian Open and came out a winner.
What is it that made her a champion, not only at the 2017 Australian Open, but at all 23 of the Grand Slams she has won? Serena seems to credit much of this success to her mentality. In an April 2017 interview with Gayle King, Serena provides insight on the mindset that drove her to become the female tennis player to hold the most Grand Slam titles of all time. As we listened to this interview, we found similarities between Serena’s mental attitude and veteran NFL agent Craig Domann’s Pro Mindset®.
“When he [Alexis Ohanian] proposed, I was almost — not almost, I was angry because it was right in the middle of my training season and I said, ‘I gotta win the Australian Open, I can’t fly to Rome.’”
Serena was so focused on winning that she refused to fly to Rome to celebrate her engagement with Alexis Ohanian. Some may believe her decision was a bit extreme. An engagement is one of the most important moments in life for many people. However, Serena wasn’t willing to give up her training, even for an event as important as her engagement. In other words, she had winning habits that pushed her to go to practice the day after she got engaged so that she could win the tournament.
Winning habits are a main component of the Pro Mindset. Craig Domann explains, “As an athlete, sometimes you don’t feel like it. Sometimes you’re not in the mood. If you have winning habits, you’re going to do it anyway.” Serena might not have wanted to train the day after Alexis proposed. In fact, she probably wanted to hop on the very next plane to Rome so she could spend time with her new fiancé. Nonetheless, she was back on the courts the very next day, training as hard as she would any other day, because of her winning habits.
“When I go out there, I really have to shut down my mind. I have to say to myself, ‘you know what, I’m just playing a great player, but today I have to be better. I don’t care who it is, if it’s my sister or if it’s my friend. Today is the day I have to show up and be better and I have to want it more than anyone else at this moment anywhere else in this world.”
When asked about how she feels when she faces her toughest opponent, her older sister Venus, Serena gave the answer above. Serena explained that Venus is her biggest competitor because she knows exactly how Serena plays and can predict where she’ll hit the ball next. Even with the knowledge that Venus is difficult to play against, however, Serena shows up on game day with the belief that she will beat her sister.
Craig Domann says that on game day, “We’ve got two choices. We’re either breathing the oxygen of belief, or we’re breathing the oxygen of doubt.” Serena breathes the oxygen of belief before every single game she plays. That’s why her victories never came as a surprise to her. At all 23 of the Grand Slam Championships she won, Serena walked on to the court with belief.
Winning habits and belief make up Serena’s tough mental attitude — the mindset that led her to break records and make history. They are also two of the seven main components of the Pro Mindset. To learn about the rest of the keys to the Pro Mindset, check out the Pro Mindset Podcast here.