7 Characteristics of Champions (the Inner Excellence kind)

By: Jim Murphy

7 Characteristics of Champions


  • Champion: n. a person who fights or defends a cause or on behalf of someone else.
  • With Inner Excellence (IX), we understand that fear is the biggest obstacle in performance and in life. Fear is a self-centered thing. It looks at the future and says, “What will happen to me? My career… my family?”
  • A champion, by definition, is not focused on self. A champion is focused on some purpose or some person beyond oneself.
  • When your greatest goal is for personal success, life can be very stressful. The stress is directly proportional to where on that path of success you feel you are. With so much of life out of your control, stress is inevitable.
  • When your greatest goal, however, is to become a certain type of person, the type who lives fully and loves greatly, the one who serves a cause or on behalf of others, excellence becomes the main pursuit and the results take care of themselves.

“To be a champion, I think you have to see the big picture. It’s not about winning and losing; it’s about everyday hard work and about thriving on a challenge. It’s about embracing the pain that you’ll experience at the end of a race and not being afraid. I think people think too hard and get afraid of a certain challenge.” – Summer Sanders, Olympic Gold Medalist, swimming

1. Champions focus on the process (of developing their inner world), not the result.

The result is always the by-product, that left-over bit after you’ve trained and performed. Results can be very useful to look back and learn, but also very distracting and misleading as a measure of performance. Since every result is in the past and future, we let results take care of themselves.

2. Champions seek self-mastery.

They use their work or sport (and life circumstances) to increase in self-awareness (who they are, how they want to live and feel and who they can become, as well as their strengths and weaknesses), their self-discipline (the ability to delay gratification and do what needs to be done regardless of feelings), and self-control (the ability to control your heart rate, blood pressure, sweat response and especially, your ego and emotions).

Their #1 goal is to learn and grow in love (its fearless), wisdom (the most valuable thing in the world) and courage (the ability to be wholehearted and fully engaged), and to pursue a meaningful, fulfilling life, the one that becomes a champion for others.

3. Champions use their sport or work to grow into the type of person they want to become.

The typical athlete is so caught up in results that it becomes a part of their identity. That’s fun when the results are great, stressful when not. Countless athletes have let their sport become their god, and not a loving one. It’s easy to become a slave to your work or sport when you think great performances bring love and acceptance.

4. Champions set their goals much higher than everyone else.

So many high performers have spent their entire lives chasing success or approval, money or numbers. Their biggest goal has been to achieve some ranking, some status, some way to gain approval, so they can finally relax, and be loved. I’ve seen it and experienced it over and over. That’s a life chasing temporary transactions that are neither meaningful nor empowering. Don’t spend your life chasing temporary satisfaction that you don’t even know will make you happy, let alone bring deep contentment, joy and confidence.

5. They have strict boundaries around their routines.

Inner Excellence, in general, is about two things: a certain mindset and your daily routines of thought and action. The average person without big dreams gets to hang out and do whatever they want every day, but the person with a dream needs to stay focused on learning and growing every day. They need to develop empowering mental and physical habits and strict boundaries around those habits.

6. They monitor their bodies closely.

In order to develop the self-control needed to be able to regulate your physiology (heart rate, blood pressure, etc.) you need to to have a close relationship with your body.

That means tracking (and/or having someone on your team who does) things like…

  • your sleep
  • heart rate variability (HRV – a measure of overall health that shows your readiness to train hard or if you need more rest)
  • how your body responds to the foods you eat
  • the specific needs of your sport

They use various tools to monitor and train their heart, mind and body. Some examples are the Oura RingThe MuseHeartmath’s Inner Balance, and Silent Mode.

7. They realize that belief is crucial to living their dreams, and beliefs are energy, so they have strict boundaries around their energy.

Your energy is a combination of many things…

  • your overall physical fitness
  • how deeply you’ve been sleeping
  • your nutrition
  • how well you’re hydrated
  • your emotions
  • your beliefs
  • your mindset
  • and your environment

To have strict boundaries around your energy means to be very intentional about your environment and what you allow your eyes to see and mind to dwell on, who you spend time with and how you’re fueling your heart and soul. You fuel it with everything you read, watch, listen to and people you spend time with.

Let me know how it’s going!

Love Jim


I’m writing this on the Blaine, Wa Starbucks patio overlooking the ocean. I’m headed to Vancouver, BC for two nights, then back to Seattle/Snohomish. Same thing next week.

Next week I’m going back to Vancouver to meet with a book coach on a new book I’m working on. The working title is INNER STRENGTH: Pedro’s Epic Adventure. It’s geared for kids (and the pro athlete who doesn’t read). Part of my meeting with the coach is to see if we make it a story/fable or more of a non-fiction instruction manuel. Either way, it will be very short, with pictures and big font. Let me know if you would recommend one or the other!

Also, if you’ve read Inner Excellence but haven’t left a review on Amazon yet, here’s a one-click link. Thank you!

Thank you so much for those of you who’ve volunteered to be early listeners for the IX audiobook. I’m super excited to get the book out to all of you very soon!


I finished this article at Sapporo Kitchen in Delta, BC. Amazing sushi. Let me know when you go next. 🙂


PREVIOUS POST How to Become the Type of Person That Achieves Extraordinary Things
NEXT POST The Inner Excellence Flow Chart - What Training Your Heart and Mind Looks Like

Be first in line – the VIP list

When you sign up for the VIP list, you’ll be the first to receive new articles, interviews, techniques and tools—straight to your inbox.

    Join the VIP list to get tips on how to train your mind and heart.