Seven Ways to Improve Mental Toughness

So what is mental toughness? It can be defined as the ability to access and maintain focus and determination to complete a course of action despite complexity, distractions, difficulties or unknown consequences. Some say it is the will to never give-up or quit. So the question is: Can “mental toughness” (MT) be taught or is innate? Let’s look at the sports world where MT is often used to describe super stars. Many athletes and coaches think, MT is an innate quality or talent that you are born with and they believe it can’t be taught or learned because it is a part of your DNA or it isn’t. According to this school of thought mental toughness is usually something you’re born with and is reinforced early in life by your parents and environment. These authorities believe it’s hard to take a sensitive “mommies boy” and make him “tough” no matter what you do. This obviously is the nature vs. nuture argument. The nurture position states that people can be shaped and learn from different experiences, modeling and teaching. ” Mental Toughness is a state of mind, not a fact. No matter how much or how little stress we feel before any public performance from speeches to shooting to hitting the winning foul shot we are always just doing what we’re doing, simply living this one moment of our lives to the best of our ability. So MT is the ability to use anxiety and fear to drive positive expectations, energy and action. ”  Dr. Mark W. Hardwick, Communications Coach  . Winning seems so easy and natural for the Nadal’s and Feder’s of the tennis world. And in other sports too. But the real secret seems to be mental preparedness and toughness.  The perception that winning is easy we know is false but it does look like their work is play. Many of us chalk it up to the person’s is naturally talent and short change mental rehearsal and practice. Applications for staying focused and being mentally tough in difficult performance situations or under stress: Practicing Mental Toughness techniques prior to your performance will help handling more stress during the performance. Below see some tools of how to create a mental set and rituals of   Mental Toughness state:

1. Be your own best supporter and critic. Shutout distractions and negative self-talk

2. Be clear, concise and committed to meeting your goal or target for the activity.

3. Believe fully in your ability and strength to execute effectively, so you can  naturally perform the task at hand.

4. Be prepared to relax and refocus on your goal when things go wrong during an interaction or performance. Learn to center yourself through deep breathing and use of relaxation tools.

5. Don’t try to hard to be accepted or worry about the outcome of your communication.

6. Learn to control your anxiety and nervousness by using a mental re-focus tool–When your self-critic pops up just say–STOP. The inner voice helps us to re-focus and exert self-control by enhancing our ability to restrain our negative impulses.  When we are in stressful situations like giving a speech we worry about the situation and it’s consequences. These worries are usually verbal in nature and are especially problematic for tasks that rely heavily on speaking and in the moment thinking and reasoning skills. So to be quick on your feet find a way to knock the fears away so that you can be mentally tough and perform at your best.

7. Be optimistic. Love the challenge of the moment and learn to accept whatever comes by focusing on process rather than techniques or fear of making mistakes. By learning to “look on the bright side,” of challenges and seeing stressful situations as opportunities for growth, you increase the likelihood of producing a positive mental and physical state.  This positive mental state leads to a chain of biochemical events that mobilize the brain and the body to cope more effectively with the situation.  A positive reaction to stress can then lead to what some have labeled  the challenge response, which counteracts the fear of failure and need to be perfect.


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