How bad do you want it!? With basketball playoff season upon us, this question is thrown around by coaches, players, fans, and commentators alike. Everyone wants to know how badly a team wants it. But what does that even mean?

Relying on clichéd phrases like “How bad do you want it?” to try to motivate our teams, or ourselves for that matter, leaves them and us in a place of ambiguity of what exactly we are asking of them, and then a place of frustration when behavior is not manifested in the way we had conceptualized it. Part of our responsibility as a leader is to simplify and clarify. When we break down this vague question into four distinct parts, I think we as leaders and coaches position ourselves to leverage this question in a way that not only guides our team and us but also motivates.

Part I: “The It”

How B.A.D. do you want it? First and foremost, we must clarify our ‘it’. For what exactly are we striving? For what exactly are we asking our team to dedicate their time, energy, tears, and passion to achieving? Once we establish the outcome goal that we are seeking to attain, then, we should hammer down even further: what are the specific steps – or specific ‘its’ along the way – that will lead us to our ultimate ‘it’.

As a former soccer player at the University of Notre Dame, our ultimate ‘it’ was to win a National Championship. Once that was clearly defined, we set to work understanding the critical academic, social responsibility, physical, technical, tactical, and mental steps (‘its’) that would ultimately facilitate that goal. Long-term outcome goals motivate us, but the day-to-day, moment-by-moment process goals direct us. Drawing a simple staircase with the ultimate ‘it’ at the top and the specific steps that need to be taken to achieve that goal along the way can serve as a great guide for you and your team.

Part II: “B – Believe”

How B.A.D. do you want it? Do you believe in the depths of your being that you can achieve ‘it’? Belief is a critical factor that does not often get discussed. Discussing with our teams – or reminding ourselves – the reasons why they should believe they can achieve their ‘it’ embeds that belief deep within their hearts and minds so that when pressure comes and adversity strikes, it is not doubt that is stimulated but belief. Do you believe you can achieve it?

Part III: “A – All In”

How B.A.D. do you want it? Are you all in on achieving your ‘it’? Right now, raise your arm as high as you can and hold it there…seriously, do it. Ok. Now…raise it a little more. That’s all in! That little extra stretch is what all in feels like. When we feel like we are giving everything – raising our arm as high as we can – can we give a little more? Leaders and teams that are all in always find a little more to give, and this is what people are looking for when asking just how bad you want it.

Part IV: “D – Do It”

How B.A.D. do you want it? Are you willing to do the work necessary to achieve your ‘it’? Quite frankly, I don’t care what your ‘it’ is. As a mental performance consultant, I’m more interested in what people are willing to do to get what they say that want. Eric Thomas says in one of his (awesome) speeches, “Most people say they want to be successful, but they don’t want it bad. They just kinda want it.” And ultimately, if you want to be successful – if you want to be a champion – then you have to do the things that successful people do, the way successful people do them. Find out what the people who have achieved your ‘it’ have done to get it…and go to work!

Champions wholeheartedly believe in their potential to achieve their ‘it’. Champions have an all-in mentality that drives how they approach every element of their game. And ultimately, Champions are willing to do the hard work that it takes to be successful. As we watch basketball tournaments around the country throughout this month, be looking for just how B.A.D. teams want ‘it’.

So next time you get asked, “How bad do you want it?” just know that what people really want to know is:

  • What’s your ‘it’?
  • Do you believe you can achieve it?
  • Are you all in?
  • Are you willing to do what it takes to get it?
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