What did reknowned mental performance coach Trevor Moawad understand about the Serenity Prayer?

Trevor Moawad is perhaps best known for being a trusted confidant and mental performance coach to Russell Wilson, star quarterback for the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks. Sadly, Moawad died this week from a private battle with cancer. He was only 48 years old.

I did not know Trevor Moawad despite practicing in the same field. However, we had more than our profession in common. We were roughly the same age at the time of his death, which is a bit difficult to think about given that he died so young. We also share a philosophy of practice in our professional work.

Moawad is perhaps best known for teaching the concept of “neutral thinking” to Wilson and other athletes. He has written books and articles, as well as spoken fairly extensively on this topic. Perhaps the central tenet of neutral thinking is acceptance. Put another way, an external event is neither good or bad, but rather just IS.

When I was a sport psychology student in training, I gravitated to the importance of mindful awareness for improving mental performance. The most debilitating distractions that any athlete faces are judgment of the past or anxiety about the future. Remaining in the present moment and accepting what IS creates the conditions for optimal performance.

I was not familiar with Trevor Moawad or his work when I started my sport psychology training in 2017. However, I gravitated toward his teachings as I grew in the field because of our shared belief in accepting what IS gives any person the best chance to perform optimally without the mind getting in the way.

So, how did I develop my own philosophy of neutral thinking long before entering the sport psychology field?

I embraced neutral thinking through the Serenity Prayer as a recovering compulsive gambler.

God, grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change

Courage to change the things I can

And wisdom to know the difference.

Reading and studying the Serenity Prayer was the first time in my life I truly acknowledged the concept of neutral thinking. I became aware of the fact – as simple as it may seem – that there are just some things I can control and can’t control.

I became aware that I can control my attitude and effort. I can control how I choose to engage my thoughts, although I cannot stop thoughts from coming into my head. I cannot change other people. I cannot change external circumstances like the weather or bosses or the government.

In knowing what I can and cannot change, then I can make a choice about what to do with that information. Do I have the courage to embrace difficult situations and make an effort to achieve a desired outcome?

The wisdom that the Serenity Prayer identifies is the line of neutrality that Trevor Moawad preached. Can I clearly identify the difference between what I control in a given situation and what I do not?

For me, the Serenity Prayer has not only been an invaluable tool in my recovery, but it is foundational in my philosophy of practice as a mental performance coach even though I do not discuss it explicitly with my clients. I help my athletes to build the awareness to focus their energy and attention on the things they can control to optimize their performance.

Neutral thinking is something that I strive to practice in my life. I’ve been through a lot of things that could have easily received the label “negative” – divorce, major surgeries, giving up a well-paying job to go back to school. However, in each case, I made a choice and chose to view those situations as opportunities rather than roadblocks.

Rest in peace, Trevor Moawad. Thank you for sharing your teachings with the world and bringing recognition to a very important field. I am proud to say that I shared the same philosophy and mission as you.

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