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Are You Prepared to be Mentally Tough?

Sports

Why do some athletes succeed where other’s fail? Although it sounds like an easy question the answer is not always obvious. Athletes prone to failure are likely to get caught up in a trap where they cycle through periods in their career where progress grinds to a screeching halt.  When you are caught up in that cycle it can be a very, very frustrating place to be. Many athletes end up digging themselves into this cycle even further without realizing what they are doing.

On the surface things might be occurring which look like you are doing everything you can. Under the surface lies a different set of circumstances causing things to spin out of control. Basically, what you see on the surface is a very different picture than what is causing the struggle.

What would this look like? We have all seen athletes who end up finally getting the chance to go pro’ it’s a dream come true.

Consider a highly talented golfer with a bright future waiting for her. She is finally getting the chance to go to Q-school and turn pro, playing with the LPGA. It’s a dream come true.

She possesses the technique, but not the mindset. When she started playing in tournaments against other strong players, the pressure to perform was causing anxiety. With time her performance continued to sink. She wasn’t able to stay focused during the qualifying tournaments. She never advanced beyond the first pre-qualifying stage.

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Now the interesting question is why some athletes psych themselves out instead of psyching themselves up. Being in this struggle is not a lot of fun. Many promising athletes have quit their sport because they just didn’t know how to stop their head from spinning. Those critical thoughts were steadily chipping away at their confidence.

Answer the 3 questions below to pull back the curtain to understand your struggle with your inner critic:

  • Why would it be easier to stay where you are?
  • What is the DOWNSIDE of being at the top of your game?
  • What happened the last time you reached a milestone?

Yes, these are some tough questions. To get past the problem it is necessary to get beyond the obvious. The only way to uncover the truth is to be brutally honest with yourself about your answers.

Now there are some athletes who will be able to turn things around once they figure out the answers to these questions. Most elite athletes now have professionals to help them sift through the mindset issues. Time is valuable. Elite athletes must turn things around quickly to maintain momentum.

Although it appears counterintuitive, fear of success is a reason you might end up sabotaging important opportunities. Consider if there is something you are not willing to let go of yet in order to move up in rankings. Not all athletes are willing to pay the hefty price for success.

Committed athletes are willing to do what is necessary to move past their challenges. The solution involves understanding what drives you to excellence, uncovering the cause for your struggle and then willingness to take the steps necessary to move forward.

Mental toughness lies at the core of the solution. It is not what you think it is. No one needs to get in your face like a drill sergeant trying to break you down in order to build you up. Punishment, threats and being told to “just get over it” is not an effective approach.  You already know what is on the line, what you’re not doing well and feel badly enough about it. Negativity is part of the problem so it can’t also be part of the solution.

Mentally tough athletes possess these 3 qualities:

  • Acting in spite of fear. Yes, they have fear also. They just don’t let it get in their way or slow them down.
  • Developing the skill to maintain focus under pressure. It is during those high pressure moments when your mind wants to step in and take control.
  • Playing full out until the very end. The mentally tough remain competitive throughout the entire competition.

Acknowledge your fear then move on. Making believe you don’t have fear keeps you in the struggle. By recognizing fear, admitting it is there, removes some of its power over you. It just won’t feel as intense.

Attempting to be in control during high pressure situations only adds tension. High performance requires relaxed aggression. You want to play hard while remaining present. Trust your body to know the right next steps to take without over thinking it.

You never know when your next opportunity will arise. The more you compete the more you will experience the unexpected. Remaining competitive until the very end sets you up to act quickly on those opportunities when they do come your way.  There is good luck and bad luck. The mentally tough are ready to respond immediately to all forms of luck.

Elite athletes know what it is like to be uncomfortable. Challenges occur in many forms. Some physical, some mental. The solution does not always lie in a physical response. Mindset issues arise as pressure builds. Elite athletes, driven to win, know mental toughness is part of a well rounded training program.

Activity: Less effort is needed for prevention instead of intervention. Do you know where you stop yourself? Decide which part of your mental game requires more effort. Not sure? Then return to the 3 questions to drill down a little deeper. Don’t think too long on your answers. The first thought which pops into your head is usually the right one to get you started.  Once you know the answer then decide on your best approach to resolve it. Do you have a trusted resource to help you figure things out?

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