Finding my game face, that determined mindset that helps me accomplish a goal, wasn’t easy after my fiancé was killed and I was critically injured in an accident nineteen years ago. I had to rely on the “never give up” attitude and work ethic that I had learned from my days on the basketball court to help me move forward with my life and begin to heal. Though the future was something I didn’t want to think about at the time, I set some goals, put on my game face, complete with narrowed eyes and clenched jaw, and battled one day at a time to find the life I have today as a coach, a wife, a mother and a lover of the game.

Putting my dreams on paper has always helped me. The summer before I started high school I set the goal to take 5000 shots so I could improve my game and get ready for high school basketball. I achieved my goal, my summer camp’s version of the Peace.Love.Basektball Summer Shooting Challenge and made the varsity basketball team my first year of high school. The next year I became a starter. My senior year, I achieved my ultimate goal, a full-ride athletic scholarship to play basketball. My goals were being realized, but there were many goals along the way that I didn’t achieve. I didn’t make my goal of First Team All-Greater Spokane League. It was painful to watch that one die, along with others, but they were great lessons. I learned that even when I worked hard, I didn’t always get what I wanted. However, I learned to regroup, establish new goals, put on my game face, and work toward my future.

After my accident, it was that “never give up” attitude, instilled in me from my years on the court, that kept me moving forward. I set the goal to walk and went from wheelchair to quad cane, quad cane to cane, and cane to walking. Then I set the goal to play basketball again and that is when my healing truly began. I worked through my grief, strengthened my battered body and found that life was still worth living.

It takes hard work and determination to achieve a goal, but first you must establish a goal that you believe in and then put it in writing. According to a study by Dr. Gail Matthews of Dominican University, people who write down their goals, share their goals with a friend, and send weekly updates to that friend are on average 33% more successful in accomplishing their stated goals than those who merely formulated their goals.

Take the time to make note of your dreams. You can write your goals in a soft leather journal with a fancy tie, in a word document titled “My Awesome Future”, or on the back of an old envelope, it matters not, just make it official and write it down. It’s helpful to write down when you want to achieve the goal, why you want to achieve it, action steps to reach it, possible obstacles that may arrive when working toward it and how you will overcome these obstacles, but don’t let all that scare you. If you need to, make it simple. Grab a pen, write one goal and get to work.

Put on your game face and start setting goals and you will create the future of your dreams.

The following is an excerpt from Sonya Elliott’s memoir Back on the Court: A Young Woman’s Triumphant Return to Life, Love and Basketball

“I need a new goal in my life. If I can’t have Mark, I want back the one other important part of my life. I want to play basketball again…I step on to the basketball court to begin my comeback. Holding the ball near my face, I drink in the familiar smell of leather and then drop the ball to the floor and begin to dribble. I need to dribble the basketball. I need to know that at least one small thing in my life hasn’t changed. Dribbling back and forth, back and forth, the rhythm of the ball works its magic on my body and soul. My mind focuses and I forget all that has gone wrong, if only for a moment.”