Mental Toughness– something every one of us has battled with. The moment when your mind is working to pull you in a direction, hold you back from reaching, achieving, even believing you can do more, achieve more, be more. Every single one of us whether it be an athlete, executive, parent has faced this and some, succumb to the pressure of the voice in the mind.
The mind is constantly sending signals to our bodies to quit or even worse, give up way before we are ready. It can also convince us of situations or scenarios that could potentially create obstacles, difficulties or with too much analysis…paralysis.
Working with so many professional athletes, this subject comes up almost daily in conversation. Every race, performance, game, is a competition that sometimes can be most prominent and lethal between your own two ears.
Elite Para-triathlete Mary Kate Callahan knows this all too well-
“When competing at an elite level, sometimes your biggest competition is in your head. I’ve learned through training and racing that at some point we are going to have tough times but it’s our head that determines how we respond in those times. I try not to worry about the past and tell myself to learn from every mistake. I try to take at least one positive thing out of every situation. The pressure to perform at your best is expected not only of yourself but of everyone invested in you- your team, coach, owners, family.”
I recently read this quote passage that aligned with what I wanted to express regarding mindset.
I’ve written about it many times before as it touches all of us- not just the athletes who are performing day in and day out, but the executive, the working mom, the business owner, the coach and then on the personal level~ those intimate relationships, family relationships and friendships.
A “winners mindset” isn’t just a “what it takes to win” easy solution. It’s multiple layers of mindset training and just like what food you eat / what food fuels YOU optimally, this won’t necessarily work for someone else… a winners mindset is the same way and getting to this point is different for everyone.
Sure there are some basics that all of us can apply to our lives to improve our mindset; to keep it positive, present and productive. The key is to catch yourself when you’re shifting into a negative space. To bring yourself back- mentally, so you don’t deep dive into that space and blow your entire presentation, lose your race, strip your team of the W, or ruin your relationship to site a few examples.
The mind is a muscle and we need to train it just as we do the other muscles in our bodies:
- Positive self- talk
- Words of affirmation
- Distancing yourself from negative people
- Body language adjustments
All crucial and all tools to you managing and mastering your mindset.
When you see a professional athlete performing on the big stage… live, in front of thousands of spectators and fans, you can witness those who can keep their play and performance optimal even when they are losing because they are mentally strong; when (because it will happen) negative, defeated thoughts creep in, their positive self-talk/ mantras/ words of affirmation will kick in for those athletes. The ones who lack this mindset will become unraveled and sadly…we will witness their entire game being lost because of it. More times than not, it has nothing to do with their talent… it’s their mind that lost them the game and took on the defeatist attitude.
As 2x United States Olympic Medalist and 2014 United States Olympic Team Captain, Women’s Ice Hockey / 7x time World Gold Champion Meghan Duggan shares with me-
Mental toughness, to me, is what championship athletes are made of. It’s the ability to lead, perform, manage and master the task at hand, all while under pressure or in the face of adversity. Mental toughness is digging deep and figuring out how badly you want something and how you are going to get it accomplished!”
One of my favorite affirmations comes after the words I AM. Take a moment and pick what your word resonates with you. The word can change daily – but apply what works for you example- I AM Strong. I AM Courage. I AM Happy. I AM Love. I AM Fierce. I AM Grateful. I even have an athlete I work with who uses I AM flexible to remind him that he is just that, but also needs to practice it regularly to become more flexible….a manifestation in his case.
So in closing, hopefully you get some takeaways from this. I will be writing in more depth about this topic as well as hosting a few workshops. As always, contact me if you’re looking to strengthen your performance through mindset training, nutrition coaching or personal training / wellness. You will see and feel the benefits from the inside>out.
Thanks to blog contributors MaryKate Callahan and Meghan Duggan! You can follow them for more inspiration on the gram @mkcallahan13 and @mduggan10