Question: How do you work on your mental game? What tactics do you think a person should use to improve their confidence and focus? —Samantha Williams; Chattanooga, Tennessee

Answer: This isn’t the easiest question to answer, because it’s like teaching someone how to dally: You’ve got to find the groove that works for you. But, I can say what works for me.

When I was rodeoing, we talked a lot about having a short memory as the key to my mental game. For some people, that comes naturally. Others must work at it.

I like to focus on what I can control. I like to work hard on my craft. How hard I work is on me, so it helps me, mentally, to know that I put in the time I need to set myself up for success.

If you’re feeling nerves before a run, think: Have I headed or heeled a steer before? Have I ever not succeeded? Did it change the course of my life terribly? The answer to the last question is always no. Keeping that in perspective is critical.

I choose to look at my roping or rodeo season as just that—a whole season. If I looked at it day-to-day or week-to-week, I’d have more losses than wins. That would eat you up. It’s a matter of choosing what to focus on.

Ultimately, the biggest key for me is gratitude. Some might talk about gratitude a lot, but there’s actually a way to build it into your mindset. Take inventory on things that you have to be thankful for.

Before you say to me, “You’ve got 26 world titles, what isn’t there to be thankful for?” I want you to know that I’m talking about health. I’m talking about horses. I’m talking about family—the stuff that really matters. Take stock of everything you have in life. Now think, wait—what was I so upset about earlier?

Throwing a fit about roping is like throwing a fit over something you wanted to get on Christmas morning and didn’t get. Most of the time, we want to succeed. It’s not that we have to succeed or we’ll die. When you don’t have success, keep evolving. Keep getting better daily. I know people that, if they have a bad day, there’s no way they’ll have a good day tomorrow because they just won’t let themselves get over it. They won’t focus on their gratitude and they won’t focus on the work. 

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