Develop mental toughness

 In Competition, Pressure, Stress

WHERE DOES MENTAL TOUGHNESS COME FROM?

Mental toughness – these two words are commonly used in sport. It is defined differently depending on who you ask. In Webster’s Dictionary, mental is defined as relating to the mind. Toughness is defined as strong and durable. This concludes that mental toughness means to have a strong and durable mind. So how does one get a strong and durable mind? (Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 1999). An athlete needs to put effort into developing the mind cognitively and the body physically. When the two work together, they create harmony that allows an athlete to experience their peak performance.

TRAITS

We are not (really) born with a strong and durable mind. We are born with some of the components but we have to develop the rest. In Gregory Mitchell’s article, Are We All Born Equal?, he talks about the traits we are born with and how we have an opportunity to more fully develop them.

We each differ in the degree of our various spiritual, mental, emotional and physical abilities, and in the manner in which the amounts of the various traits we are born with combine to create our individuality.

It is important to be realistic and recognize the strength and weakness of our various qualities. Then we can take advantage of the opportunities which are available to develop and improve ourselves, toward the goal of fulfilling our potential.

What this means is that we need to make an effort to learn new cognitive skills so that we are able to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. This is in our control. We all have this opportunity.

THE BIG TAKEAWAY

We all have the ability to develop mental toughness. Is mental toughness only about a mindset shift? Absolutely not! In Matt Kuzdub’s article, he discusses the other important elements of developing grit; part of mental toughness.

No matter how gifted an athlete is, without the necessary effort, it’s impossible for them to hone and refine their skills. As an example, when we are first starting, some youngsters are naturally more adept at making ball contact with the middle of the strings. This may be due to talent, but that doesn’t mean that without any kind of effort they’re going to be the next Serena Williams. Long-term effort is what develops and refines skill. (The Concept of Grit and Its Role in Elite Sport, November 26, 2017).

Basically, in order to achieve mental toughness, an athlete needs to put effort into developing the mind cognitively and the body physically. When the two work together, they create harmony that allows an athlete to experience their peak performance. And each one always needs to be developed, practiced, and worked out. That’s when you have more consistency in play and when you play like you practice – you compete like an elite athlete. How can mental toughness be developed?

NO GIVING UP – BE STRONG

Here’s how Annie Murphy Paul talks about mental toughness. “To be mentally tough is to resist the urge to give up in the face of failure, to maintain focus and determination in pursuit of one’s goals, and to emerge from adversity even stronger than before.” (Can You Instill Mental Toughness?, April 19, 2012).

If we use her definition (which I really like), what does it take to develop it? Physical effort and the development of optimal mental skills such as:

  • Let go of mistakes – practice getting comfortable with mistakes. It’s the only way you learn and improve. Train you brain to let go of mistakes and move in another direction. They are out of your control.
  • Maintain focus – practice being hyper-focused during your warmup. For 5 minutes focus on the ball. When you lose focus, bring it back. You will lose focus more than once and it’s OK. Keep practicing bringing it back.
  • Set realistic goals that keep you motivated – when you set short term, realistic goals for yourself, seeing yourself meet them helps keep you motivated.

LEARN FROM THE GOOD, THE BAD, & EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN

You have the ability to learn mental toughness. You have the ability to take your game to the next level.
Just say it:

“I CAN DO IT. I HAVE THE GRIT WITHIN ME.”

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