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How to Gain an Edge Over Your Competition

Every athlete knows, without a shadow of a doubt, that daily practice of his/her craft is essential to gain a winning edge over the competition. Just as important though, is mental toughness; the ability to overcome challenges and setbacks. Having a psychological edge that enables you to cope with higher-than-average demands from team owners, coaches, and teammates. And of course, while this article is geared for athletes, anybody, whether they’re an athlete, businessperson, entrepreneur, or employee, can benefit from mental strength and stamina.

Mental toughness allows you to perform consistently better than your opponents because you are more focused, more determined, more confident, more resilient, and more in control under pressurized circumstances.

As Jimi Mitchell once said, “Mental toughness is not letting anyone break you.

The following traits need to be implemented and practiced on a daily basis until they’re part of your personal make-up:

1. Teachable spirit

This is mental toughness at its best. A simple acknowledgement that you might, in fact, not know everything.

2. Focus

This applies to both on and off the field – focusing on your performance and your lifestyle. It’s the ability to know what distractions really are, which ones trip you up the fastest, and how to deal with them effectively.

3. Ability to Cope with Adversity

How much pressure can you handle before you break? You have to keep going beyond your comfort zone if you want to excel. The ability to deal with pressure and anxiety will need to be an integral part of you if you want to rise to the top.

4. High level of Self-Confidence

Not to be confused with cockiness, self-confidence gives you the unshakable belief in your own abilities in order to achieve your goals as an athlete. You have to believe in yourself, in your talent, abilities, and internal strength to be the best.

5. Passion

Without this, you’ll just be another nameless player. Passion for your sport, passion for winning, and passion for integrity and character needs to top your list. Passion will propel you beyond the average and into the elite. Of course, a competitive nature doesn’t hurt either.

6. Intense Motivation and Commitment

You probably already have a good measure of these two attributes or you wouldn’t aspire to be a pro athlete. How does your motivation and commitment measure compared to your teammates? Are you working smarter and harder than everyone else? Your commitment to excel needs to be insatiable and it needs to come from deep within your core.

7. Optimistic/Positive Attitude

If you really want to excel, you’re going to have to have a “the glass is half full” mentality. When you’re losing, or have lost, you’re going to need to bounce back quickly, re-group, and push forward with resilience and fortitude.

8. Desire for Positive Perfectionism

Did you get to where you are by being complacent and doing things in a half-baked way? Probably not. As a successful athlete, perfecting your moves, your style, and your methods with continual practice is par for the course. Striving for perfection in play should be your primary goal. Program your mind to expect positive perfectionism.

9. Pain and Hardship Factor

The fact is: You will lose games. You can be injured. You may be cut from the roster. You may make really bad personal decisions. Internal, negative self-talk can cause havoc on your psyche. Overcoming pain and hardship factors requires mental discipline and mental conditioning. Train hard in this area – you’ll need it.

10. Persistence

Michael Jordan, NBA 6-time World Champion, missed 9000 shots, missed 26 game winning shots, and lost 300 games. Michael says, “I failed over and over, that is why I succeed.” Persistence pays off. Keep trying. Keep practicing mentally and physically. Just keep on!

Uploading these 10 factors into your brain through daily practice will give you the heart of a champion. As you instill these attributes into your heart and life, your sense of identity as a person will grow and become separate from your identity as an athlete. My good friend Fred Vinson, former Cornerback for the Green Bay Packers, said it best, “If you know who you are before your pro career, you’ll have an easier time regaining your personal identity after your career is over.”

Who is the toughest athlete you know? How has mental toughness (or lack of it) affected your own personal success?

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6 Responses to How to Gain an Edge Over Your Competition

  1. KristiHines December 15, 2010 at 1:52 pm #

    I play tennis, and more than your opponent, your biggest threat on the court can easily be yourself. It’s pretty easy to allow yourself to get so mentally frustrated by your performance, by your opponent’s personality quirks or playing style, or even the environment surrounding your game (weather, court) to the point you’ll cause yourself to lose the match. Having mental toughness is essential, especially in sports where you only have yourself to contend with – no coaches or teammates for support, just you and your own mind.

  2. StephenBessette January 5, 2011 at 2:46 pm #

    This focus of “Mental Toughness” is the driving force of our brand of sports wear. We believe that “Mental Toughness has…No Expiration” The drive, the burning strength that gets you up in the middle of the night to meet those goals, lives in all of us.
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  3. Denaj January 18, 2013 at 5:27 am #

    Mental toughness cannot be compartmentalized. It can’t be sought only in athletics although athletics itself is a means. The discipline, concentration and determination found in the mentally tough is a lifestyle.

  4. Kiki Cunningham January 31, 2013 at 6:34 am #

    This article is a great resource not only for athletes, coaches, and sports agents but anyone looking to get into a career in the sport industry. As an undergraduate student, these 10 factors are going to help immensely when graduate school interviews, job interviews, and just to have in your personal and professional profile.

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