Dr. Deb’s Mental Health Vitamin: Mental toughness

June 05, 2019 / by / 0 Comment

Dr. Deb Wade

By Dr. Deb Wade
GCU Vice President, Counseling and Psychological Services

I love watching athletes as they pursue peak performance. Elite athletes are not satisfied with the status quo; rather, they strive and compete and drive and grind – all in an effort to be their best.

Peak performance is not just for the athletic arena, however. One can strive for peak performance in the fine arts arena, the workplace and in relationships, to name a few. What main ingredient contributes to a peak performance? THE MENTAL GAME!

Yogi Berra, arguably and historically one of the all-time great catchers, managers, coaches in Major League Baseball, was probably known more for his quirky sayings that he was for his baseball acumen.

Yet, though many of his sayings seem nonsensical, the wisdom imparted in each is priceless. And he said a lot about the mental game of performance in this famous quote:

“Baseball (and all performance) is 90% mental. The other half is physical.”

I believe the ingredient that best separates mediocrity from excellence is attention to the mental aspect of performance. It has been proved again and again that extraneous issues can significantly impact elite performance.

When one inspects WHY performance may be waning and a quick inventory reveals no significant changes in the physical self, then most likely the barrier to greatness exists in the mental realm. For example:

The Power of Mental Toughness! When hours and hours of fine-tuning one’s craft, whatever it may be, cannot seem to result in the desired results, it is important to address the mental aspect of training. What is mental toughness?

  • Mental toughness is not letting anyone break you!
  • Mental toughness is about being able to block out what’s not important to the task at hand!
  • Mental toughness is an unshakable belief that you can obtain your goals!
  • Mental toughness is coping well under pressure!
  • Mental toughness is about never giving up – rather, fighting back after a tough loss!
  • Mental toughness is about looking fear in the face!

While all of this makes perfect sense, how does one strengthen his/her mental toughness? It is true that we will all face adversity, setbacks, unfairness and angst. But one who is mentally strong will not let any of these situations set them back physically. The main ingredient? CONFIDENCE!

In my work, I have heard many elite athletes or corporate leaders who will admit to not feeling confident. Actually, that is good news. We need to base “confidence” on a decision that is made rather than a feeling.

Each day, take an inventory of your own work ethic:

  • Have I been intentional in developing my skill set?
  • Does success matter to me?
  • Have I sacrificed my time, sweat, and energy in perfecting my craft?
  • Have I purposed to work hard, never allowing a lackadaisical approach to my work?

If you can answer “Yes” to each of these statements, then you can gladly tell yourself, “I AM CONFIDENT!”

You see, confidence is based on facts, not feelings. A mentally strong person will realize that feelings are transient in that they do not hang around for long and seem to yo-yo throughout the day depending on the stimulus. BUT confidence is a decision that one makes, based on the facts of hard work and purpose.

Yet, another one of Yogi Berra’s many unique quotes:

If you don’t know where you’re going, you might end up someplace else.” 

So true!

Let’s start each day the way an elite athlete does: Train hard, choose confidence, disallow distractions, keep one’s eyes on the prize and have unshakable belief in your abilities and acumen!

After a hard effort and the reaching for goals and accolades, keep in mind another fun gem from Yogi Berra:

I usually take a two-hour nap from one to four.”

Allow yourself that pleasure, too!


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