I have worked for many years with athletes of all standards and it is clear to me that they are a group of highly focused and determined individuals. These individuals set and achieve goals on a daily basis, steering them towards victory and success. In fact these guys are just the same as all of us except they utilise the power and knowledge of training and developing their mind. These mental skills in sport are easily transferable into the business, professional and personal worlds of each and every one of us.
This practice of mental skills training will develop mental toughness in all us. But what is mental toughness? Many researchers believe that we are born with it and this produces success in any performance for them. Others however, believe that practicing the mental skills and capabilities will lead to improving our mental toughness to desired levels.
There are 12 mental skills core areas including mental toughness that we can practice and improve ranging from self confidence to motivation that will be covered in later issues.
Mental toughness is comprised of four constructs:
1. Reverse Toughness
This is the ability to turn around a situation that is rapidly going wrong and meltdown is approaching fast. This type of mental strength can save the day against all the odds.
2. Pressure Point Toughness
This is all about the critical moment and taking the right decision at the right time. In any scenario, there is that one moment that could define the whole outcome. Mentally tough individuals are able to identify that moment and to take action as and when it arrives.
3. Staying power toughness
Mental toughness in many individuals shows itself when the pressure is on and things are not going as predicted. The stress and pressure is on the individual constantly and they must be able to endure that stress without crumbling.
4. Risk Toughness
In any victory versus failure scenario, there will come a time when a risk needs to be taken. It could be on match point or in the boardroom. The mentally tough individual will weigh up all the costs and benefits of taking each decision and decide when the time is right to take a calculated risk for victory, instead of avoiding defeat.
If we look more closely at these 4 constructs we will identify situations in our past when we have been in these positions and how the outcome could have been so much better if we engaged the correct mental state to deal effectively.
Consider reverse toughness where we have walked away as the chain of events are starting to go wrong and seemingly irreversible. We perhaps never considered that we can use this to our advantage if we had the mental strength to strike back. I am thinking of the New York taxi driver who purchases Manhattan real estate whilst in recession and falling property prices and goes on to become a multi millionaire when property prices return. He turned around the situation.
Moving on to pressure point toughness; think about some of the major decisions that you have made in your life with no time to think. Were you successful and really ready for them? I know of a story relating to David Cameron the new British Prime Minister who whilst trying to become Conservative leader had to make a speech at the annual conference. He delivered it professionally without notes as if speaking from the heart. David Davis his opponent, however, delivered poorly and seemed totally unprepared. Cameron stole the show and yet it later transpired that Cameron had practiced and practiced on camera because he had identified that it was a key moment for his goal and that he needed to be prepared for that moment.
Staying power toughness is about managing your energy and your outlook. It is considered that managing your energy is now more important than managing your time. Energy in this context covers stress, physical activity, nutrition and relaxation. Outlook is about optimism and perspective and how you can adjust these to suit your new approach. The Financial Times back in 2006 reported that many fitness experts agree that making time for daily exercise for instance is just as important as scheduling meetings, arranging transport and other business activities and will assist performance in business meetings.
Risk toughness is how elite performance is achieved by pushing boundaries and finding small margins of improvement that others overlook. This requires a calculated element of risk taking. The elite performers do not achieve victory by playing it safe. Professor John Kotter from Harvard states that lifelong learners take risks much more than others by stepping out of their comfort zone and experimenting.
Activity For You
Although this is a very large area of development your journey can start today. Within the construct of pressure point toughness, spend some time reflecting on how good you are at thinking about controlling the controllables. These are issues within your control. Top performers only expend energy on what is within their control and ignore what isn’t. I would like you to identify a couple of occasions arising in the next month or so where you will need to focus on this control and perform well. Think about the situation and what is in your control and what isn’t. For instance if you have a presentation to give, you can control your powerpoint slides, your speech and the content but you cannot control your audience, equipment or the weather on the day, so why waste energy worrying? This small strategy will get you thinking towards your David Cameron moment when it arrives and will leave you totally in control and displaying mental toughness.
Until next time
Geoff Greenwood FCCA MBA MSc
Geoff is a sport and business performance psychology consultant who has developed a video based course that can be accessed 24/7 from any computer that you can view at your own pace that teaches the 12 core mental skills areas for optimal performance that anyone can implement and improve upon from today.
As a very special bonus for our readers he is including a personal one to one email coaching answer to your performance questions that you may have whilst on your success journey.
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