Outside In & Inside Out

By Shanta Crichlow

Attitude can make or break an athlete’s experience and effectiveness. Positive attitudes advance the athlete on and off the field. Negative attitudes erect additional barriers (physical and mental), closes doors and enhances the challenges that naturally come with being an athlete.


Google offers these two definitions for attitude (1) “a settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically one that is reflected in a person’s behavior”. And, (2) “a position of the body proper to or implying an action or mental state.” It’s two sides of the same attitude-coin: outside-in and inside-out, and athletes have to be able to check them both.


More often than not, I was anxious about going to practice. I enjoyed being great at my sport, I wanted to win, but the process of working toward the goal was difficult and tiring physically, mentally and emotionally. I dreaded what the workout for the day would be. When I stepped on the track however, I had to do two things: I had to (1) check the outward expression of my attitude, and (2) check the attitude of my mind that could express itself in negative way. And it wasn’t me alone; some of my teammates embodied that same character and they just happened to be the high performers on the teams.


My outward expression, although it may genuinely be how I felt, was not the burden for my coach or teammates to suffer; it was mine. If I chose to showcase what I was thinking and feeling by way of sulking, grumbling and complaining, it would have the potential to bring down the other members of my team. Just like theirs had the potential to do the same to me (no one likes kill-joy). It made my coach’s job harder and ultimately the workout even harder for me. (Negative energy added emotional weight that my body could feel; that made it harder to execute my workout well).


I’d do the best I could in the moment to manage the outward expression of my negative emotions and jolt them to where I needed them to be. I could shake off the negative energy, do jumping jacks, fix my facial expression, force a smile, anything to keep from sulking and to keep my grumbling and heavy sighs to myself. But it couldn’t stop there. The goal was not to fake the attitude but check it for the good of others and get my head in focus. The next step was harder and took more time than a couple minutes before practice. I had to do the work from the inside out.


The internal work is the permanent goal; it’s longer and it’s a process. My negative outward expressions were coming from the attitude of my mind…the way I felt about practice. I could conceal my attitude to get the job done, but I had to do the work to keep that attitude from negatively affecting me from the inside. I had to change my thoughts. Rather than dreading what practice would be, how exhausted I would feel or how much it would hurt, I had an Attitude Check. I chose instead to think about the prize I was aiming for, how much better I would be if I Showed Up and the execution of the workout.


The same responsibility of Attitude Check flows into life beyond athletics. If we’ve ever been accused of having an attitude or an attitude problem (I’m sure at least a few of us have), that accusation (correct or incorrect) might be based on what others observe. It could be a harsh tone, or careless words. My kids like to roll theirs eyes, exhale or give me their version of the “the death stare” (I mastered it better). These outward expressions are oftentimes putting on display the thoughts floating around in our heads (whether we realize it or not). Sometimes we just know we’re doing it and don’t care.


We all have bad days; we all go through less than favorable seasons in our life, but our attitude (both the internal and outward expression) can make or break our experience and effectiveness. Positive attitudes in spite of the circumstance we are in can advance us. Negative attitudes (even if warranted) erect additional barriers (physical and mental), closes doors and enhances the challenges that naturally come with life and the job.


I love the direction in Philippians 4:8 that says, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” The attitude that we harbor inside us impacts our health and flows out of us into our daily lives. The attitude we project on others also matters not because there’s some imaginary need to “be fake” but because our simple interactions with others can make someone else’s day that much better and bless us in return. It’s also an indication of personal, environmental or work adjustments we might need to make.


When we re-direct our thoughts, we redirect our inward emotions and redirect our outward expressions and therefore our life. Attitude Check!

    1. What could your outward expression be saying about you on the job and in life?

    2. What are the recurring thoughts that float around in your mind when you’re on the job or doing something you don’t really like?

    3. What is one thing (anything) that is good or pleasant in that space that you could direct your attention to?
  • Leave your comments below and continue this journey with me. We’ll harness insight from the sports we know, love, and play and implement them in life beyond athletics. We’re all still going pro even if it’s not in our sport.



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