Editor’s Note: Wanha from Reddit, shares his advice on what it takes to increase mental toughness.
I’ve always been fascinated with mental toughness and athletes who possess it, and I’ve spent many years trying to understand this topic.
Much of our physical ability is determined by our body structure. I can train as much as I want, but I’ll never beat Usain Bolt in a footrace. Mental toughness, on the other hand, is something that can be learned and cultivated, it can be forged through practice and struggle. Naturally some people are born with a higher level of mental toughness than others, but on the whole it’s a skill that anyone can cultivate to a relatively high level.
Mental toughness is the ability to perform at an optimal level when the stakes are at their highest. Whether that means closing a huge sale or fighting back from the brink of defeat, mental toughness means we don’t allow the situation to overwhelm us emotionally.
One of the most respected NFL coaches, Bill Belichick, defines mental toughness as
“doing what’s right for the team regardless of how you might be feeling at the time.”
In other words, mental toughness is about sacrifice, doing something that’s difficult, pushing past your threshold, playing injured or playing a role you might not be comfortable playing. It’s about putting the team first.
But talking about mental toughness is easy. For every athlete that is mentally tough, there are probably ten athletes that aren’t.
So how do we improve our mental toughness?
Boiled down to its most basic elements, mental toughness comes down to two choices: to control your mind, or to let your mind control you.
When we don’t control our minds, we accept whatever programming that has been inputted earlier. You see, most of us never chose our current mental programming, we simply stumbled onto it, and now it’s the way we deal with life’s various challenges and situations.
For example, if your default reaction to high-stake moments is fear, anxiety or over-excitment, it’s because somewhere down the line you learned that that strategy works for you. That’s obviously not a particularly smart strategy, but at the time when you accepted it as part of your programming it was clearly good enough. And once we accept a programming, we usually stop thinking about it and it becomes our default reaction for similar situations.
So if we want to increase our mental toughness, we are going to have to do a little reprogramming of our minds first. From my experience, the key to being mentally tougher is to control your focus and eliminate the little voice of doubt and critique.
It’s All in Your Mind
Most articles you will find on this topic break mental toughness down into various subcategories, such as focus, poise, confidence, courage, and so forth. Although that may make sense from a scientific perspective, I’ve found that such an approach makes it difficult for the average person to put any of the advice to use.
So what follows is my attempt to provide an easier and more natural process to help you perform better when it really counts. I’ve successfully used these techniques myself over the past few years and I believe they can do the same for you.
Let’s get to them.
I. Be Positive. I Mean REALLY, REALLY POSITIVE
It’s easy to get down on yourself and let the inner critic run free when things aren’t going well, but that isn’t going to help you.
Instead, fight the urge to criticize and ask yourself if you can make a commitment that you will only bring forth positive energy for the remainder of the match. I’ve found that when you prioritize eliminating all negative thoughts, your focus automatically shifts to the positive ones, and that in turn makes you more likely to enjoy and excel in the big moment.
II. Focus Only On What You Control
Yes, we play to win, that’s why we keep score. But spending time thinking about the potential outcome just diverts your focus and fills your head with unimportant, distracting thoughts.
The remedy is to be present in the moment and let nature take its course. Focus only on the things you actually control: your approach and your attitude. What happens after the next point or after the match doesn’t matter. I’ve found this approach helps me relax, focus and play my best at the key moments.
III. Keep Your Emotional Level Steady
Some of us get more easily up and down that others. The more up and down you get, the more likely you are going to get over-excited or overwhelmed by the situation, and that puts you in a bad spot to win the big points consistently.
The key is to distance yourself from the game just enough so that you’re not swept away with the emotional tides. Don’t only focus on not getting down – also make sure you don’t get too high either, because that disrupts your focus also. Visualize remaining calm and composed in even the biggest situations. Act like you’ve been in those situations a hundred times, and eventually you’ll feel like it too.
IV. Enjoy The Big Moments
This is probably my favorite technique because it takes a moment that is stressful and intimidating and turns it into a moment that’s fun and exciting – something you actually look forward to.
The next time you find yourself in a big moment in a game (e.g. a tiebreak in tennis), remind yourself how exciting and fun these big moments are compared to a casual game with nothing at stake. These are the moments you’ll remember and what you’ll all discuss after the games – enjoy them, embrace them, and feel them with every cell in your body.
V. A Prepared Mind is a More Confident Mind
It’s been said that self confidence is ‘your ability to influence the world around you’. What better way to do that than through practice?
When you know you’ve practiced a single shot a thousands of times, you have a lot more faith in being able to rely on your training in a big moment. You don’t need to ‘will’ yourself to do something that has very little chance of succeeding. Remind yourself that all that sweat and sacrifice was a price you paid so you could be victorious today.
VI. Forget About How You Might Look
Sometimes we start thinking how bad we might appear to others if we lose this point – or how embarrassing it would be to blow a big lead. But the moment you start thinking from the outside in, you lose your focus and your ability to stay calm and composed.
Thinking from the outside in is toxic. You are not doing this to “look good” or win the admiration of onlookers, so put all thoughts about looking bad out of your mind and just focus on playing the game one point at a time. Win or loss – do it your way.
VII. Have a Short Memory
This is also one of my favorites. It’s so easy to get angry and criticize ourselves when we make a mistake, but all that usually does is turn one bad play into another.
If the previous point or play didn’t go your way, you need to forget it immediately and concentrate on the next one. Don’t let one bad play ruin the next one.
Just make a note and move on.
VIII. Don’t Expect Perfect Circumstances
It’s easy to say the conditions were poor, you had a little ailment or that nothing is going your way today. But these are all just excuses that tempt you down the road of surrender.
You only get the perfect circumstances so many times in life. Don’t dwell on what has gone against you. Don’t worry that the conditions favor your opponent. Ignore the pain you feel in your knee.
What you have is what you have. There will never be another chance to win this game.
Be like MacGyver and use everything that you have at your disposal to succeed right now.
Mental toughness is really just about approaching the game from the right perspective. The next time you step out onto the field, ignore the score, focus being in the moment and tell that little, criticizing and excuse-seeking voice in your head to shut the hell up. You’ll be glad you did.
A Step by Step Process That Will Help You Make the Impossible, Possible
We have all been there, looking at something and wishing we had it. The girl, the car, the money, the family, the lifestyle…but then we tell ourselves “Yeah, but that’s not me”. The people who get that are cut from a different cloth and we keep telling ourselves that until it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We waste the wings we got believing the entire time that we can’t fly and that it’s impossible for us. We don’t even see our wings most of the time. (more…)
(Part 2) Conquering the Impossible Space Between Where You Are Now and Where You Want to Be
I wrote a blog post based on a mini-series I did for my Subscribers on the Achieve the Impossible App and have packaged it up in two parts to share here. If you missed Part One, quick click here and have a read over that first before reading any further!
One of the first obstacles we’re going to face on this journey towards risk is one that often strikes a damaging blow to our pride and can sometimes take us to our knees. As you embark on this journey, I can almost guarantee that we will take a wrong turn from time to time, we will read the map wrong (I’ll take the hit, I’m the navigator – sorry!) which will send us off course.
When you’ve taken a wrong turn driving, what is your first thought? DAMN IT. (Yep, me too!) What’s your second thought? Is it ‘ahh, I’ve stuffed up. I’m gonna just pull over and sit here until either the roads and maps magically change in my favor or someone comes to rescue me?’ Or do we think ‘Ok, what’s the quickest way to get back on my path?’
When we stuff up, make a mistake, choose the wrong software, tell the wrong people or say the wrong thing, we don’t just pack up our dreams and hide. NO. We pick ourselves back up. We face the right direction (or what we believe is the right direction) and we MOVE FORWARD.
I don’t care if you start by walking one ginger step at a time, just start! Those small steps gain momentum and eventually lead to a jog, then before you know it, you’re back running!
Mistakes aren’t meant to end us, they are there to redirect us. Anytime you embark on an unknown journey you’re going to make mistakes.How you respond is the only thing I want you to focus on. Respond with reflection, movement and momentum in the direction of your dreams.
On our journey, we’re going to make mistakes and take wrong turns from time to time, but we choose to pick ourselves back up, and get back on that journey! We’re not staying stuck, we’re ‘running to risk’! As we get back on this journey, we’re going to need to make a decision to take action and invest in risk.
Sounds like I’m about to write a message on Warren Buffett’s worst nightmare. But that’s not the risk I’m talking about and it’s not the investing I’m talking about. Sleep tight, Warren. This risk I’m talking about is the thing that stands between you and your dream. The thing that you’ve told yourself is too strong, too powerful and too insurmountable to climb.
It’s often the case that the risk we perceive in our own minds is actually far greater than it truly is in reality. I remember as a child, visiting a museum and being fascinated by a scary looking dinosaur down the other side of the room. It looked ferocious and intimidating from across the room, and as I walked closer and closer, the dinosaur, through the magic of perspective, got bigger and bigger.
That’s where I feel we are at right now on our journey towards risk. We’ve identified the risk standing between us and our dreams, and we’re taking the tentative first steps towards it. As we step closer and closer to risk, it will look bigger. You’ll start to compare the size of it to you, and don’t be surprised if it grows each step you take. But, have faith.
The closer I got to the dinosaur, the bigger it became. I had a choice to let fear or faith determine my next steps. I continued walking step by step towards the prehistoric creature. Then something strange happened.
Yes, the closer I got to the creature, the bigger it became. But then something else came into the picture. The closer I got, the more detail I was noticing. What I thought were bone-crunching teeth were actually a matte white plastic, what I thought was impenetrable skin was old flaking greeny-brown paint. Those eyes that glared at you from across the room, were now nothing but big marble sized spheres of glass.
When we step towards fear, yes it gets bigger – but as we invest in faith and continue to live our lives in the direction of our dreams, we expose the master of risk…FEAR.
Invest in those extra steps this week as you get closer to risk to point out the finer details, you’re going to realise it’s not as scary as it once seemed. Those steps aren’t always going to come easy though, because the journey towards risk is an interesting one.
There’ll be times when you’re pumped full of Adrenalin, bashing down every obstacle that comes your way. There will be times where you’re cruising on a nice downhill slope, enjoying the scenery and wondering why it took you this long to convince yourself to get here!
Then there’ll be times when things aren’t easy. Just like my climb this evening up a little mountain by my home on the Sunshine Coast of Australia. I started out full of energy, pumped for the adventure ahead, then five minutes into the usually very achievable rocky steps, my legs started really feeling it.
“You’ll never know your strength until you’ve faced your struggles.”
The Adrenalin gave way to frustration, to fear and to my quickly draining self-belief in my fitness. I continued one painful step at a time. I wasn’t going the pace I normally would, but knew this mountain could be conquered one slow step at a time.
As I slowly neared the end of the steps, my legs were burning, my heart pounding and my mindset weakening. Two quiet words burst through my pain…
I’m pretty sure I’ve never said this going up the mountain before, but it seemed fitting. As I climbed one step at a time, ‘stay strong’ became my repeated mantra. After the season of pain and intentional mindset building, I reached the summit of the mountain and cruised my way back down.
There is such an incredibly untapped power within our self-belief and mindset, which shapes our self-talk. On your journey towards your risk, I can almost guarantee you’ll be faced with steps that seem too difficult, too challenging, too much to conquer.
Remember…’stay strong’. You’re on this path for a reason – you’re capable of completing it. You’ve come this far, see it through. Your ‘impossible’ dream is counting on you to conquer fear and run to risk!
This blog is based off the mini-series ‘Run to Risk’ first featured on the Achieve the Impossible App, accompanied by downloadable wallpapers and daily inspiring messages to inspire, challenge and equip you to achieve your impossible dream. Download the Achieve the Impossible App and start your free trial today!
(Part 1) Conquering the Impossible Space Between Where You Are Now and Where You Want to Be
Deep down, you know exactly what you are capable of. There’s even moments where you get a glimpse of all the potential you have. You can get there. You just have to be willing to sacrifice the habits, things and situations that are standing in the way of your success. I honestly believe “Running to Risk” has the power to unlock mindsets and belief systems that have been holding you back from your true potential (I’m naturally conservative so it’s big coming from me!)
Before we do something crazy and ‘run to risk’, let’s take stock of where we are today and our foundational beliefs in our potential and true capacity. In the day-to-day act of living, waking up, coffee, breakfast, school drop-offs, work, more coffee, home, homework, dinner, finish off emails, glass or two of (insert drink here), collapse on couch, Netflix etc. We can become disconnected with our true potential and capacity.
You are being pulled from all sides – your family, your boss, your colleagues, your partner, your friends, even your dog. You can be forgiven for prioritising the present over the future.
To set up this series on healthy and personal-capacity fuelled risk, I want you to invest a moment or two searching deep within yourself.
- What’s in your heart for 2019?
- What is one thing you would look back on come 31st Dec 2019 and be proud of your personal accomplishment?
- What’s something that scares you?
- What’s that one thing that has been on the back of your mind that you’d love to put your name to in your lifetime?
The answer to the above is the thing we’re going to focus on in part one of this post. We’re focusing on it because with every achievement that challenges our personal capacity and unlocks our potential, there will be an element of risk.
Risk Is Scary!
Risk stares you in the face from afar and says ‘don’t you dare approach. Don’t even try’. This is when you’re faced with a decision to make, and the best (and also worst!) thing about it is you’re the only one who can make it!
As you make this decision to ‘run to risk’, the regret of not running has to be stronger than your personal comfort. Your comfort must give way to your calling. Your present must give way to your potential.
Think about the one thing on your heart – the thing that helps you step into your calling and potential. The thing with risk looming all over it. Let’s build the strength, self-belief, courage, boldness and tenacity to ‘Run to Risk.’ But what about timing? I’m not sure if I should be pursuing my dream now.
“You can’t always wait for the perfect time. Sometimes, you have to dare to do it because life is too short to wonder what might have been.”
We’re not running to risk for a laugh and a good time, we’re running to risk because that dream in our hearts for 2019 is worth pursuing. When faced with the potential of risk, we often come up with thoughts and reasons to justify our lack of momentum or progress.
I don’t know how!
I don’t have the money!
I don’t have the connections!
But one of the most common excuses I hear (I know, because I hear it from myself) is a little sentence that has killed more dreams and crushed more souls than most. ’It’s not the right time’.
It’s one of the most powerful excuses because it bulldozes every other excuse by default. You’ll always meet more people, money comes and goes, but once time is gone, it’s gone forever. This excuse becomes our default without us even realising it.
I remember when I was wanting to launch a few online courses, a podcast and a book. (These are all my risks for 2019). But they were also my goals for 2017 and 2018. Sadly, I put my insecurities ahead of my identity and my convenience over my calling. Looking back now, each excuse I held to for not launching these projects was based on timing.
First, the IG algorithms were affecting posts, then someone else launched a podcast in my niche and gosh, I couldn’t do that! Next, as I was writing my IG Online Course, another one came on the market. Nope, can’t do that now. I’ll wait until the marketing heat dies down on that one. The exact same situation with my book launch…it just wasn’t quite the right time.
Here’s what I learnt and something I want to share with you, there’s never a right time to do the thing that’s on your heart. The right time will never simply show up, you’ve got the time, now it’s up to you to make it right!
Looking back, I’ve felt the pain of regret and don’t want to let the fear of risk lead to regret again. Now is the time to look risk dead square in the eyes and say ‘ready or not, here I come’. Yeah, the I could start now I guess…I know what I want to do and I kinda believe now is as good of time as any…I’m honestly not sure where to start.
“Never be afraid to try something new, because life gets boring when you stay within the limits of what you already know.”
Now It’s Time!
We’ve just told risk we’re coming for it. We’ve made the decision to put our calling over our comfort and choose to be lead by faith not fear. Now it’s the time to start. We’re starting right now because we have been given the time, and we’ve got complete power and control to make it the ‘right time’. We’ve made the decision to go after that thing that’s on our heart, the thing we’ve always wanted to do, the thing that has been too risky.
Not anymore. Today, we start.
There is huge power in the start. When we start, we have the luxury of being on home ground. We are making more decisions for ourselves, rather than having to make decisions based on responses which we will have to inevitably do down the road.
Today, we start.
We’re filled fresh with enthusiasm, passion and driven by our desire to accomplish something meaningful this year. Yesterday, we may have had a loss to our name, we may have stumbled and fallen…but you’ve picked yourself up.
Today, we start.
We look to the future with our heads held high, the hopes of a brighter future with that dream in our heart knowing that we are valiantly pursuing it despite the risk. We know our dream, we know we are capable of achieving it, we know we’ve got the time and today, we start.
We start the journey as we ‘Run to Risk’.This blog is based off the mini-series ‘Run to Risk’ first featured on the Achieve the Impossible App, accompanied by downloadable wallpapers and daily inspiring messages to inspire, challenge and equip you to achieve your impossible dream. Download the Achieve the Impossible App and start your free trial today!
It’s What You Do On A ‘Bad Day’ That Matters.
Last Friday was a bad day for me. I woke up late, missed the gym and didn’t meditate.
None of this was intentional.
I then turned my computer on to do what I do every day: blog. I was not prepared for the whirlwind that followed.
As I opened up my social media channels, there were a lot more than usual, direct messages. I started reading each one and they were from colleagues and friends who wanted to warn me that I had a large amount of hate-fuelled comments on social media. I’m usually pretty good at dealing with hate comments. Not on that day, though — I was having a ‘bad day.’
I turned off the computer and didn’t respond to anybody. In the same week, I’d been told I was now a LinkedIn Top Voice for 2018.
I should have been celebrating and I didn’t because I didn’t feel worthy. If anything, I wanted to give up there and then. Luckily I didn’t follow through with any of these ideas. I knew it was just noise in my awful day.
I went away to sit on the couch and think about what I’d just read. Without really thinking about what I was going to do for the rest of the day, I began thinking about my team at work. There were several leadership challenges that I had to solve.
One was from a customer that was being abusive to female staff. Another was a rejection I had to deliver to someone that wanted to work with us. The hardest part about delivering the rejection was that I’d already said yes.
Despite the day being bad, I made a fundamental decision — to keep doing what I do and not stop. I said to myself “How can I inspire people while simultaneously solving both these challenges?”
I’m a big believer that it’s not what you say that matters; it’s what you do. Talk is cheap. I came up with a bold plan to address both challenges.
I was going to do something that made me see the good in the people involved.
Even if the people in both situations had let me down, I was going to assume they were still good.
I concocted a plan to help both people and try and show them a more positive way to move forward. If I break down the plan, it was about being an inspiration in both situations.
I didn’t feel like being inspiring.
It was not the day to be inspiring.
But it was the only way I could motivate myself to finish off this bad day and wake up the next morning fresh. It’s funny how a good nights sleep takes away all the pain and negativity from the day before.
So, by the end of the day, I enabled both plans. I set out to release inspiration in both scenarios and that was my only focus. I didn’t look at anymore hate fuelled comments or go near social media.
On that bad day last Friday, my actions helped me keep moving forward and not give up.
It’s not about necessarily seeing the good in your bad day.
I’ve read this sort of advice heaps, but it requires a lot of willpower.
“Using your actions to make the day better rather than trying to think your way out of your bad day seems to be a lot easier to implement”
It’s not about the bad day.
Bad days will happen.
It’s what you do on a bad day that determines if you’ll feel the full effect of all the negativity that can potentially knock you out like a Tsunami that comes your way when all you wanted to do was lay on the beach and soak up some sun.
I’ve learned to find situations during a day that’s not working out well for me, to do something good, and often that’s not something that benefits me. If I was to look at it another way it would be “How do I not focus on my own bad day?”
Trying to make someone else’s day good distracts you from your own bad day.
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