Mental toughness, though a term with its origin in sports has become a remarkable trait that everyone can relate to; be it within or outside sporting activities.
Some call it GRIT, others call it HARDINESS; mental toughness as defined by psychologists Gucciardi, Gordon & Dimmock in their 2008 research into Australian Football is a collection of values, attitudes, behaviors, and emotions that enable you to persevere and overcome any obstacle, adversity, or pressure experienced, but also to maintain concentration and motivation when things are going well to consistently achieve your goals.
In a research by Angela Ducksworth in the United States Military Academy, Westpoint; Grit demonstrated the incremental predictive validity of success measures over and beyond IQ and conscientiousness. Her findings suggest that the achievement of difficult goals goes beyond talent but includes the SUSTAINED and FOCUSED application of talent over time. Little wonder why some players are dejected when they are a goal down and others take up the challenge for a comeback; why the career of some sportsmen crumble after an elongated injury while some bounce back; why some fail to recover after a scandal and some look ahead forgetting the past.
Research tells us that competitive sportsmen succeed because of their physical talents and their dedication to training. However, they also succeed because of their ability to withstand the psychological pressures of a sport. In short, mental toughness and resilience are tremendously important for any athlete aiming to be the best in a sport.
Not surprisingly, many athletes engage in training their psychological readiness. At the root of mental training in sports is this question: Are you mentally tough enough to compete?
Experts, as well as common sense, tells us that Mental Toughness must not be limited to sports alone. Its definition as applied to sports can apply to the business, career sphere and life in general. Mental Toughness in the workplace is the correct recipe for high performance and goal attainment irrespective of how big and scary it is. As James Loehr puts it, “While this is tough, I am a whole lot tougher.”
So how do you build your Mental Toughness?
1. Master your self-talk: Positive Performance trainers describe self-talk as a simple but powerful tool that is often underutilized. When athletes haven’t learned to harness their self-talk, they often consistently send themselves subconscious messages that fuel feelings of helplessness, lack of control, inconsistent focus, and self-sabotage in competition and beyond. The same goes for every other sphere of life. Our minds, almost by default wants to see how impossible a task is, hence we need to consciously send back messages to our subconscious.
2. Don’t Dwell on past failures: Mental toughness, just like the muscles has its limits and shouldn’t be wasted on unnecessary baggage like past failures. No one has an unlimited supply. Instead, it should be spent on being thankful for times that you made it, with a fierce anticipation to face the next challenge and topple it like you’ve done others. Athletes with incredible mental toughness psyche themselves to bounce back after setbacks, little wonder coaches look for such characteristics when choosing captains in their teams.
3. Visualize: “Before you even step under the bar for a squat or pick up a dumbbell, your set should be mentally done,” says Joe Stankowski, a former powerlifting and strongman competitor. The Power of a mental picture cannot be over flogged here. Imagine the steps you’ll take as you are going to make that presentation to the C-Level executives of that multi-national. Imagine the handshakes and smiles and how you closed that multi-million naira deal with grace. Rehearse each repetition in your mind. That Bid Hairy Audacious goal you have is surmountable because you’ve already done it in your mind. All you have to do is repeat it with your body.