When the World Chess Federation published their January list for 2013, it became official that Magnus Carlsen had achieved the highest rating in the history of Chess. Today he is still the World Chess Champion. His peak rating of 2882, achieved in 2014, is the highest in history.

    Magnus caught my attention a few years ago during an interview he did on the PBS Charlie Rose Show. I’ve always been keenly interested in what makes high achievers tick, so I was drawn in by his comment “It’s always better to be overly optimistic than it is to be pessimistic.” He went on to say; “There are many players that are immensely talented but they see too many dangers that aren’t there – and they miss opportunities.” His turning point came when he began to take more risks; “At first that shift in thinking was a complete disaster, but as my playing strengths caught up to my optimism it has worked out very well for me.”

    In my experience coaching business owners – this has always been true. When one makes a strategic shift in their thinking – it takes persistence and follow-through before the results begin to show up.

    Surely, Magnus met with considerable self-doubt and public scrutiny as he grew through his challenges. Nonetheless, he played on. When asked about winning he said; “Of course that is always my belief that I can beat anyone. If I didn’t have that belief there wouldn’t be any point in playing a match. I’ll play until I no longer have the motivation to win.”

    Research on motivation tells us that there are three key elements – purpose, mastery, and autonomy – to staying motivated at any level. What I have observed is that the pros take this to a level others do not. They connect to a very big reason often not directly related to what they are doing, they design a system for getting better and better, and they take ownership of everything affecting their results, and this always involves how they are thinking and the level of belief they have in themselves.

    What level are you playing at? Better yet – what level would you like to be playing at? What one thing could you do right now to raise the level of your game?