The importance of mindfulness and meditation are more widely understood today than at any point in recent history. Once viewed as tools for yoga enthusiasts and spiritual types, these practices are now accepted by a growing number of people as essential elements of personal health and wellness.
Many now understand, for instance, that mindfulness is not some vague Zen concept, but rather a state of conscious awareness that can help them center their thoughts and feelings, and thereby process the world around them more effectively. Many people also grasp, as discussed in our post on How Meditation Can Reduce Stress, that regular meditation can relieve anxiety and thus provide very real health benefits relating to a range of illnesses and conditions.
Even as understanding in these areas grows however, there are still plenty who are skeptical, or who grasp the potential benefits but aren’t motivated to work toward mindfulness and meditation. In these cases, it can be immensely helpful for people to see examples o successful or admirable figures who buy into these same ideas. So for those who are skeptical or unmotivated regarding mindfulness or meditation — or if you know someone you’d like to help persuade — we wrote up this list of famously successful competitors who support mindfulness and meditation.
1. Carli Lloyd visualization and mindfulness
Carli Lloyd is a midfielder for the U.S. women’s national soccer team (USWNT), and one of the most successful players in the team’s history. She’s scored 124 goals in 299 national team appearances as of this writing and has won two World Cups and two FIFA Player of the Year awards. And while much of this can be chalked up to incredible skill and physical fitness, Lloyd has made clear that it’s her mentality that pushes her to such a high level.
Back in 2015 (when Lloyd won her first World Cup), she was quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer saying that she’d “taken that visualization part to another level.” Lloyd (and others on the USWNT) literally practices visualizing her success in her mind so that she achieves it on the field. This sort of thing is sometimes framed as sports psychology, but it is fundamentally a practice of mindfulness and meditation — one that Lloyd credits with her incredible success.
2. Derek Jeter and meditation
Derek Jeter has been retired from professional baseball for several years now. But in his career with the New York Yankees he compiled a Hall of Fame resume that places him among the most successful players of all time. Jeter was a 14-time All-Star, a five-time World Series winner, and a two-time recipient of the Hank Aaron Award (given to the league’s best hitter). He is also notable among retired athletes for having stepped almost immediately into business success in his sport, having put together a group to purchase and run the Miami Marlins in 2017.
He is simply one of those competitors who oozes success in everything he does, and he may well have meditation to thank for it. The baseball legend is known to meditate regularly, sometimes for as long as an hour at a time. He also keeps a journal (from which some fascinating excerpts wereonce published on Grantland), which is effectively a mindfulness practice — a means of seeking greater awareness and understanding. We’d say it’s all paid off handsomely for the man known simply as “The Captain.”
3. Bianca Andreescu visualization and meditation
Unlike Lloyd and Jeter, Bianca Andreescu is at the beginning of her career. But that beginning has many believing that she will ultimately be mentioned in the same breath as other legends of sport. Andreescu is a 20-year-old tennis phenom from Canada who burst onto the scene in 2019 by defeating the great Serena Williams in the U.S. Open final. She subsequently missed the entire 2020 season — first due to knee injury, then to the coronavirus interrupting the calendar — but she is still expected to be a fixture in major tournament championships moving forward.
Like Carli Lloyd, Andreescu has chalked some of her early successes up to a habit of visualization: She envisions her success on the court before she achieves it there. She is also said to have been meditating regularly since the age of 12.
4. Daniel Negreanu and mindfulness
Daniel Negreanu may not be a physical athlete like the others listed above, but he is every bit as successful as a competitor in high-stakes professional poker — almost a sort of sport unto itself. Still only 46 years old, Negreanu rose to prominence in the heyday of televised poker some 20 years ago. He has in total made it to the final table at World Series of Poker events 45 times, and has won six championship bracelets. And according to Poker.org’s post on the wealthiest poker players, Negreanu has earned more than $44 million in tournament winnings.
One simply can’t achieve that kind of success in poker without a strong mental edge, and Negreanu attributes his to mindfulness. He has even written on his own website about his journey into related practices, and how some of the younger players on the poker tour are also taking to meditation. Negreanu is a proponent of meditation, yoga, journaling, and even doing readings — all of which he says has helped him to maintain a certain calm at the tables.
5. Rory McIlroy and mindfulness
Rory McIlroy is a professional golfer from Northern Ireland, and one of the most successful athletes on tour. Once viewed by many (and still by some) as the best golfer to emerge since Tiger Woods, McIlroy has amassed four major championship wins and 18 total titles on the PGA Tour (with 14 on the European Tour as well). He is still only 31 years old, and still ranks among the best players in the game.
Despite all of that, McIlroy has also had a reputation for inconsistency or unpredictability at times, and he has turned to mindfulness to help solve those problems. He’s discussed his “three P’s” in recent years (persistence, perspective, and poise), and has spoken to the importance of working until these practices are natural. In short, in his quest to get back to the very top of his sport, McIlroy has turned to mindfulness.
Hopefully, these competitors can help to inspire anyone who still wishes to see the benefits of meditation and mindfulness in action! It’s wonderful that these practices are being understood and taken seriously by so many today. But some motivating real-world examples can’t hurt, and the people listed above are outstanding testaments to the power of a mindful approach to life.