Building mental toughness

Several weeks ago your questions regarding mental toughness arrived in my inbox. The questions have poured in. Well, it’s time for Q&A.

Before we dive in, let’s get on the same page with a definition. Mental toughness is the ability to stick with something, even when it’s difficult.

Mental Toughness Q&A

Now let’s get to your Q. You asked, “What is the most important skill in building mental toughness?”

Here’s my A:

We can talk about the skills necessary to build mental toughness all day long. The tactical steps are the easy part. Knowing the steps, however, is not enough.

Athletes with a long term plan first need to complete some highly important pre-work.

That’s because the sizzle from starting something new begins to wear off. Interest starts to falter once that happens. Without the pre-work you will fail to finish what you started.

Don’t quit too soon

The ONLY thing separating high performance athletes from the athletes who quit too soon is a clearly defined purpose. Champion athletes are seeking something beyond winning or losing. These athletes are on a mission.

The discipline to stick with the routines, day in and day out, is fueled by a desire to achieve something that’s highly personal. The more personal, the better.

Follow these four C’s to develop your mental toughness.

  • Connection is your starting place.

Your pre-work is to answer these four insight questions:

  1. What do you want to achieve?
  2. Why do you want to go for it?
  3. Why does this matter to you?
  4. Are you prepared to do whatever’s necessary to succeed? (Take a moment to be brutally honest with yourself before answering this question.)

The ideal responses skip over fame, glory and wealth. Since they’re beyond your control, this means they are considered secondary gains. Of course you can desire those things, but they’re not the best motivators for high achieving athletes.

Dreams turn into reality

What you want to do instead is to tap into your dream. A clear, vivid dream will inspire you to overcome obstacles. Athletes who are deeply committed to their dream tip the odds for success in their favor when compared to more talented athletes who lack purpose and passion.

Okay, you’re now crystal clear. Let’s shift focus to the skill set. This is where you apply the necessary effort to succeed.

Mental toughness is your competitive advantage

Mental toughness is your competitive advantage. Photo credit: Indoor Track and Field – Bishop Loughlin Games via photopin (license)

Mentally tough athletes develop three specific skills.

  • Clarity. Keep your eye on your dream. It’s where you’re aiming to go.
  • Consistency. You’re highly determined to achieve your dream … no matter what. You continuously work the plan instead of giving into obstacles, distractions or excuses.
  • Course Correct. Champion athletes recognize their path to success involves ups and downs. Things don’t always go as planned. Continue to make adjustments which will keep you progressing toward your dream.

Are those the only four needed to excel? No, but they are the primary ones which will help you achieve the best results.

Mental toughness obstacles

I realize sometimes life gets in the way. Since I want you to win, let’s quickly cover the top five mental toughness obstacles that athletes face.

  1. Drained. You have too much on your plate because you’re overcommitted or not managing your time well.
  2. Deviation. Instead of steadily working your plan, you go hot and cold.
  3. Delay. Working toward a dream is not always fun. Procrastination and laziness can quickly throw you off course.
  4. Doubt. Negativity is a cancer. Self doubt and lack of confidence are poisonous.
  5. Direction-less. No clear end game. You aren’t really sure what you want to achieve.

Research claims that mental toughness rules. Perseverance, purpose and passion are your winning combination. As you work toward turning your dream into a reality, view the process as a marathon instead of a sprint. Similar to a marathon you’ll reach milestones, these are like you’re water stations along the route.

Work your plan

Athletes who consistently work their game plan put the odds for success in their favor compared to athletes who solely rely on their natural talents. Stamina to stay the course, instead of getting sidetracked by distractions or disappointment, is your competitive advantage.

To wrap it up, this is my A to your Q on building mental toughness skills. What are your thoughts about mental toughness skill building?

Challenge: Start out by reflecting on the four questions. Ask yourself why your dream is important.  Then follow the three specific mental toughness skills. Identify which obstacles you’ll face over time. Remember to develop your game plan to course correct when you realize you strayed off course.

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