As an athlete, you know that having a plan and sticking to it is an essential part of success. This is true whether you’re focusing on skill development or mental toughness. You need to have a plan in place to know what you’re going to do to increase your mental toughness; and odds are; it won’t just happen on its own.
Before improving your mental toughness, it’s important to understand your starting point to know how mentally tough you are right now. There are two steps you need to do, the first and the most challenging is to look inward to assess your current mental toughness. The other step is to ask to others about your mental toughness. You need to be sure that others are giving their honest opinions, which may not always be pleasant for you to hear.
You should choose five people, who can give you an honest feedback. It can be tricky because many people don’t want to say bad things to you and they don’t want to hurt your feeling. Truth is essential because it is the only thing that can help you to improve yourself.
These are people that you should ask for feedback:
• Current and former teammates.
• Current and former coaches.
• Sport psychologist.
• Family members.
• Friends who pull no punches, honest and understand about athletic abilities.
A good way to gather feedback is to ask directly, a faster way is by sending emails to many people.
These are four characteristics of mental toughness:
• Composure: An ability to handle pressure and stress.
• Focus: An ability to be fully present at the present moment and actualize everything as it occurs.
• Motivation: An urge to seek something and have the persistence to keep on trying despite challenges.
• Self-belief: Confidence in your ability to achieve goals.
You can also form questions based on these characteristics, to see your progress in these areas. But before asking others, you need to ask those questions to yourself first.
Just make sure your respondents know what mental toughness is, so you may want to explain about it beforehand. Before asking others, think about the meaning of mental toughness to you. What behaviors you want to improve or change? Identify situations or areas that are important for you. You can also ask them to not include their names and return addresses in the reply, to allow them to speak up more freely. Others can be more honest and give you more feedback if you interview them directly, but most people need to be anonymous to feel freer with their opinions.
Making the commitment
After you understand your present mental toughness, find ways to improve it. Of course, achieving excellence takes commitment and dedication. An unbreakable commitment is needed to improve your mental toughness. Think of it as long term and gradual project; with effective and proper focus on certain objectives, mental toughness can develop quickly and more efficiently. It is advisable to improve mental toughness on areas that are not related to athletics, as they can indirectly affect your sports performance. If you are mentally tough in dealing with your occupation, school and relationship, you realm of athletics will be positively affected too.
You may want to create a list on how to improve your mental toughness in every opportunity. These are some examples:
• Battling your way through an injury to get back in the lineup.
• Holding everyone in the team accountable to the highest standard of performance and excellence possible.
• Maintaining a winning mindset even when you’re not in the pole position.
• Getting better despite unsatisfactory performance on the last match.
• Aiming for the highest grades.
• Striking a perfect balance between school and sports.
• Avoiding alcohol and drugs despite peer pressure.
• Saying something that’s hard for another person to hear, but saying it with consideration and compassion.
• Talking through your anger instead of ignoring it or repressing it.
• Putting others first instead of being selfish.
• Expressing your hurt or anger assertively and respectfully to your friend about what he did or said.
Here are some ways you can improve your mental toughness:
• Being honest, but if you need to say something that’s difficult for others to accept, you’ll say it compassion, understanding and consideration.
• Confront your anger directly instead of repressing it or ignoring it.
• Instead of being selfish, you’ll try to put others first.
• If you need to express your anger or annoyance, you’ll do it respectfully and assertively, without causing pain, despite what others have done to you.
These are things you should do to improve mental toughness:
• For one month, when you start your day, make a promise that you’ll be mentally tough in everything.
• Write down MT (Mental toughness) on places you can easily see, like bathroom sink or on an athletic tape that is wrapped around your wrist.
• Rate yourself before you go to bed and keep a daily record of your performance.
• Ask a trusted individual regularly, like the coach or spouse, about things that you need to improve.
• Work continuously with a sports psychologist to work on certain areas.
• Tell teammates and/or coaches to continuously challenge you to improve mental toughness areas related to athletics. A demanding coach and team can push you to your limit.
• Look for famous people who have show excellent mental toughness. Read about their stories, what challenges they need to face and how they can survive the hardships.
• Make a daily challenge. Today’s challenge should be at least a little harder than yesterday’s achievement. In just a few years, you’ll have an excellent performance along with tough mentality. It’s simply the matter of writing down your new achievement each day and set it as a new baseline performance.