A year ago, heading into Super Bowl LIV, Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre insisted on sending a message to Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Not about the Chiefs' schemes, or even the San Francisco 49ers' defenders.
Just two words that had nothing to do with the game.
"Enjoy yourself," Favre said, according to TMZ Sports. "Soak it in!"
Perhaps Favre speaks from experience.
Now 51, Favre appeared in his first Super Bowl in his fourth season as a starter, playing a key role in the Green Bay Packers winning Super Bowl XXXI. Widely considered a potential dynasty given its remarkable roster of players and coaches, the Packers were the heavy favorites to repeat as champions during the 1997 season but were upset by the Denver Broncos, 31-24.
Favre never played in another Super Bowl.
Mahomes is 25 years old, and he's already a Super Bowl and NFL MVP, vying for his second consecutive title.
According to his social media, Mahomes certainly doesn't seem to take the early success in his career for granted.
But many others do.
Here are three keys to relishing the big moments.
Yes, gratitude is like a muscle. The more you work at it, the stronger it gets. Besides, studies reinforce the benefits of practicing gratitude and the impact that can have on your mental, emotional, and even physical health.
A grateful athlete doesn't act as if they "deserve" things, whether it's an award or credit. There's no sense of entitlement. A grateful athlete also goes out of his or her way to show others they appreciate their effort and role.
Mahomes has a history of showing gratitude. He was thankful for the mentorship of Alex Smith, who was the starter during his rookie season. He was thankful that Tom Brady sought him out and provided encouragement after defeating Mahomes in his first postseason two years ago. And he's expressed gratitude to his coach Andy Reid, to various teammates, and after getting engaged.
For Christmas, Mahomes gifted his offensive linemen watches and his coaches suitcases packed with apparel and sunglasses.
"I mean you gotta take care of those guys up front," Mahomes told KCSP 610 Sports Radio. "I mean they take care of you every single day."
As for the coaches, Mahomes said, "Those guys spend like their whole entire life at the facilities preparing to put us in the best situation possible, so you wanna take care of those guys as well."
Before one can truly appreciate the big moments, they must learn to relish the small ones.
Sadly, COVID-19 has forced many to reassess priorities and simple pleasures. Sure, it's easy to miss the big, out-of-town tournaments. But lots of athletes are missing a chance to just practice, in-person, with teammates and coaches. There are great benefits to adjusting and communicating and practicing via Zoom. But those shoulder-to-shoulder moments are being missed, too.
So learn to appreciate the small moments, like the short conversations while putting on your practice gear, or the extra coaching on a drill or exercise. Before a practice or a game, take a moment to reflect and appreciate your health, your team, the officials, and even your opponent.
All of those things — big and small — provide you the opportunity to practice and/ or compete.
Jarome Iginla played most of his Hall of Fame career for the Calgary Flames, and he led them to the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals. He led his team with three goals in the finals, but the Flames lost Game 7, 2-1.
That was his only Stanley Cup appearance in 21 NHL seasons.
But Iginla was appreciative of the many other highlights in his career, including over 600 goals and helping Canada win two Olympic gold medals.
"I wish we had more success over the past few years," Iginla said after the Flames traded him in April 2013, "but I'm happy that we tried."
Be in the moment
Pre-COVID, how many times did you walk into a restaurant and see people sitting together at one table all on their cell phones? The same thing happens in sports, when a team wins a game and its players grab their cell phones and "go live" or take constant photos and videos for social media.
Multi-tasking has become popular, and people constantly push the limits of how much they can do at once. But the fact is, you're not fully in the moment if you're taking nonstop pictures and video. Being present is being mindful, and that means you are engaged in what's happening around you. With phone in hand, you're seeing through its lens. But when you are mindful, all your senses are at work, and you can adjust to what you see, hear, smell and even feel.
Sometimes the most memorable things are imperfect, less obvious.
That does not mean refusing to take pictures or videos but focus more on living in the moment and not capturing the moment. If possible, ask a friend with some photographic skills to accompany you. At the higher levels, though, teams hire photographers and videographers, so trust them to do their jobs.
Otherwise, quickly pre-determine a few moments that you do want to capture and then keep the phone in your pocket the rest of the time.
But don't prioritize a picture over an experience.