The best thing about winning the third set and the match in tennis today, was that my partner, Joe Marshall, enabled me to change my attitude by 180 degrees. Even though I have written about how important the correct attitude is in sports, as well as in life, I forget or am unable to always apply it in a stress situation.

Having won the first set in a tiebreaker and then losing the second, we were really after the third set…the big one. My team was down 3-5, I couldn’t get my first serve in, and Joe and I were missing easy winners. I automatically attempted to excuse myself and make him feel better by stating that “I guess we are both off today.” He slapped me (verbally) right down in a nice way, ordering me to focus on the next point, not think negatively, and certainly not give up. We then played our best points of the day, broke our opponents twice and won 7-5. I even served the winning game.

Given how many unforced errors we were making, I would never have believed we could come back from being so far behind. It was magical. And I had many great winning net volleys and overhead smashes, along with my partner’s numerous gets and points. How does this happen? How do a few words cause not only the renewed determination, but the ability to actually achieve the goal? How does a changed attitude lead to success?

I don’t know. I wish I did. Can you help me understand?

The awareness that it is possible should persuade me to never give up on the court and in my life. We all have our down days and periods, but maybe it just takes someone jarring us out of bad habits and poor attitudes to make us believe we can do it. I know people with positive attitudes are healthier than those who are negative. And those who believe in themselves have a better chance at succeeding in the task than those who are sure they will never achieve their goals.

But how does just believing something actually affect the outcome. Or even just striving and aiming for a target help you reach it? I’ve read that faith can move mountains. But how does that work?

Maybe it doesn’t matter “how,” but only that it does. The cancer-origin doctor I quoted earlier this week said he can see that people like the Japanese who didn’t eat much red meat didn’t have much cancer. Then when their diet changed to be more Western and included more red meat, the number of cancer patients “skyrocketed.” He has no idea exactly what the biological connection is. But he can see the cause and effect.

Ben Franklin eliminated from his vocabulary words like “I hate…it kills me…I could have died…” He said in his autobiography that these thoughts were negative, poisoned his brain, would cause harm. I never forgot that guidance that my father insisted I follow as a child. If I had been playing much tennis then, he might have said what Joe told me today.

Now let’s see if I can apply this advice more often in the future. Like the next time I play tennis. What could be more important?