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.
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.
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.
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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