Mental toughness is just as important to an athlete as physical ability. You can have all of the talents in the world, but if you can’t keep it together mentally while training or competing, you will never reach your full athletic potential. Mental toughness involves having an impenetrable defense against distractions, recovering from mistakes quickly, and most of all, being confident.
As a sports psychologist, I aim to provide athletes with mental skills that help remove insecurities or lack of focus that disrupt their ability to perform. Equipped with these tools, athletes can put forth their best effort and let their natural talent shine.
This four-step system will help bulletproof your mental makeup and strengthen your mindset both in sports and life.
1. Identify Your Path
What is your dream achievement? Goals can often be too broad and watered down for an athlete to understand what they need to do to achieve it. Those who know where they are going or what they are fighting for are much more successful than those who do not. So decide on a path and figure out how to get there.
A. On a sheet of paper write your dream achievement in sports—the thing you want more than anything else.
B. Identify at least three objective and tangible "stepping stone" achievements that directly lead to the achievement of your dream.
C. Now you need to break down what is necessary to achieve each stepping stone along your path. You must ask yourself, "what skills and attributes do I need to acquire to reach each stepping stone?"
This process may be extensive, yet it is imperative to complete it fully. It makes your dream more tangible, something worth fighting for
2. Focus on the PROCESS
Now that you have identified your path to greatness, it's time to develop the psychological skills that will enable you to achieve your goals.
Instead of focusing on outcomes, numbers, and stats, focus on your effort and attitude—the only two things you can fully control.
Work on setting and achieving three process goals each day. Writing them down and placing them in a place where you can see them daily reminds you to stay on course.
These goals can be repetitive as long as you maintain the initial effort and attitude toward achieving them. If these conditions begin to decline, find other process goals that reignite your focus and intensity.
An example of process goals:
- Maintain intensity during my Lifting session today
- Adhere to the nutrition plan.
3. Use Self-Talk Effectively
Self-talk is any internal use of dialogue. Remember this, if nothing else: Your words dictate your thoughts; your thoughts control your actions; and your actions determine your success.
It's hard to maintain a positive dialogue all day long, but using a cue word can help you if you find yourself drifting into a negative spiral.
If a cue word, such as “FOCUS” does not work for you, you can also use an external stimulus like a rubber band on your wrist to snap and get your mind back on track. Talk to yourself and give yourself encouragement, you will listen.
If you steadily speak kindly to yourself, expect great things and avoid negative comments, I assure you that you will think positively of yourself and benefit from improved confidence.
4. Be Resilient
Unfortunately, having a bulletproof mindset does not ensure 100 percent success. Poor outcomes happen even to the most prepared and talented athletes. With this in mind, it is important to be resilient and have the ability to reset your efforts and move forward.
Reset plans should be quick and simple, capable of being completed during breaks in performance.
The reset plan allows you to focus on the present moment and relevant tasks, instead of dwelling on the past. The first step is to recognize the past failure that is impacting present play. The next step is to move forward, and turn the page. Again, you can use a cue word or have a bracelet on your arm that you can move from wrist to wrist as a reminder to stay present.
A bulletproof mentality will not ensure victory, but you will be invincible to trash talk, impervious to repeated errors, and have a plan and a method to achieve what you want so badly.
Writen by: Sarah Scholl