Mental Toughness Secrets
Athletes and coaches talk about the mental game being as important as the physical game. The U.S. military tries to instill mental toughness in soldiers. Mental toughness allows you to persevere through adversity to achieve your goals, whether they be athletic, military or intellectual. You can cultivate mental toughness by following the practices of others.
Dr. Curt Ickes, a clinical psychologist and author of “Mental Toughness: Getting the Edge,” says athletes need to be relaxed a times when the instinct might be to be tense, such as when the batter steps up to hit against a pitcher. He teaches athletes to empty their minds and not think about anything but what he calls “the instant of performance.”
The Marine Corps has used mindfulness training to prepare soldiers for duty in Iraq. Mindfulness training teaches soldiers to be fully aware of their surroundings without reacting to them emotionally. Reacting to stressful situations can cause cognitive impairment that can inhibit decision-making and delay reaction time.
Visualization involves picturing yourself accomplishing your goal, whether it’s hitting a home run or completing a term paper. Imagine how achieving your goal will feel and take yourself mentally through the steps needed to achieve your goal. Positive affirmations can be another part of the process.
Trusting in your own abilities–having confidence that you will meet your goal–can carry you over many obstacles and keep you mentally tough. When John Wayne Creasy of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University surveyed 10 National Collegiate Athletic Association coaches, they ranked confidence in one’s own ability as the No. 1 attribute necessary for mental toughness. Preparation builds confidence, asserts David Yukelson, coordinator of Sport Psychology Services at the Morgan Academic Support Center at Penn State University. Dwelling on past successes instead of failures can also build confidence.