Growth and Mentally Tough Mindsets– 4 ways to help your kids develop their potential and overcome obstacles for growth

Daily Quote:

“If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning. That way, their children don’t have to be slaves of praise. They will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence.”
Carol S. Dweck

As a parent, you want your kids to grow up to be confident, happy, and successful adults, able to face the world head-on and make the most of every opportunity. But what can you do to help them overcome the fears that might hold them back? It’s worth remembering first that fear serves a purpose; it’s a natural human emotion to warn us of possible harm – a call to action to protect ourselves. However, in our modern world, fear often tends to be out of proportion to risk and can prevent us from achieving as much as we would like, and are capable of.

Growth and Mentally Tough Mindsets– 4 ways to help your kids develop their potential and overcome obstacles for growth and development.

  1. It is okay to fail and try again. The most important thing to teach your kids is to remind them that thry don’t have to be perfect to be loved. Provide a strong support system and deliver the message that they don’t have to face difficulties and fears by themselves. Build on their natural nature of helping and cooperation. Send the message we are a team. If they feel secure in the knowledge that you will be there for them whatever the outcome, this will grow their mental toughness mindset and help give them the confidence to keep trying and learning.
  2. Build trust by teaching the lesson of small steps for change. Show them how learning usually takes place in small-deliberative steps through challenging, effort and perseverance.

Sometimes the best way to overcome a fear is to jump right back on the bike when you fall, other times though it’s better to tackle a new challenge slowly and with persistence. Be guided by your child on this, if the fear is overwhelming for them, and then show them how it can be approached in small stages, only moving on to the next phase when a certain comfort and competency is reached. Plan the stages with them ahead of time so that they are clear on expectations and what is going to happen, and don’t spring surprises on them or they won’t trust you next time.

  1. Remind them of previous times they learned something new and overcame their fears and doubts. Reminding your child of a previous occasion where they were afraid to try something, but ended up working hard to learn and finally learned to be successful and enjoyed the challenge. This approach will boast their self-efficacy and believe in their ability to try new things and overcome discomfort and fears. This will boost their confidence in their own abilities.
  2. Avoid comparing them to others

Focus on your child, and what fears it is that they are aiming to overcome. Making continual comparisons to their brother or sister or other kids can be unhelpful and may make your child feel inadequate and lower their motivation for tackling new challenges that encourage a “growth” rather  than “fixed” mindset .

Six Proven Ways to Increase Your Mentally Toughness and Grit

Daily Quote:  “It was a high counsel that I once heard given to a young person, “Always do what you are afraid to do.”” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

1. Mentally strong people don’t make excuses for losing or failing to reach their goals. They accept responsibility and ownership for their behavior. They work hard to improve their mental habits by being positive in the “here and now” moment, instead of bringing excuses to justify their actions. Mentally strong people seek to live in the moment by understanding that the past has its place but will seldom solve your current problem. Learn the lessons of the past but do not get locked-in to the idea that there is only one perfect solution.   

2. Mentally tough people don’t expect immediate results from training or deliberative practice. They are patient and persevere no matter the results. Change and mastery of skills and clear thinking come in a step by step way and this process is honored.

3. MT people manage expectations–Whether they are working on improving their strength or physical endurance or just getting started in a new activity, mentally tough people don’t expect immediate results. Instead, they apply their skills, energy and time to the best of their ability and understand that real change takes time.

4. They Don’t Give Up After the First Failure–Mentally strong people don’t view failure as a reason to give up. Instead, they use failure as challenge to learn and improve their skills. They look for ways to see the obstacles for change as an opportunity to grow and improve. They are willing to keep trying until they get it right by always doing the the Best they can do in any activity.

5. They Don’t Waste Energy on Things They Can’t Control–You won’t hear a mentally tough person complaining over lost of a match or traffic jams. Instead, they focus on what they can control in their lives. They recognize that sometimes, the only thing they can control is their attitude.

6. They Don’t Shy Away from Challenges and Change–Mentally strong people don’t try to avoid change and challenges. Instead, they welcome positive change and are willing to be open minded and flexible. They understand that change is inevitable and believe in their abilities to renew, grow and develop their talents. 

Daily Quote and Self-Coaching Challenge: Think Straight and Develop Your Grit

Daily Quote: What you are thinking, what shapes your mind is in, is what makes the biggest difference of all.   Willie Mays

 Reflection:  

Your toughness and grit is made up of equal parts belief, persistence and deliberative practice and experience. The toughest opponent of all is the negativity and skeptic or sarcastic one inside your head.  Below see the  4 tips for overcoming negativity and build grit into your character and daily actions:

1. Believe it or not, passions grow out of your values. Make early, wise choices to value what (and who) is good, trustworthy, and praiseworthy.

2.Think straight, talk straight and do the straight or right thing to grow your character

3. Find a passion. Pick a hobby, own it: running, photography, juggling, tennis, writing, art and whatever. Get your 10,000 hours of perfect practice in early and change your life.

4.Don’t bother comparing yourself to others—this only leads to heartbreak, anger, and disappointment.

Self-Coaching Challenge: What’s the one thing you would do right now if you had more confidence? What are you going to do to gain more self-confidence?

 

Daily Quote: The Mindset and Four critical skills of Mentally Tough people

Daily Quote: ” In terms of instilling the values of mental toughness and self-confidence focus, will power, good habits and perseverance are the skills that will sustain you through tough times and temporary discouragement. Mark W. Hardwick 

1.  MT people accept the past and learn from their mistakes

Mentally strong people don’t waste time ruminating on the past and wishing things could be different. They accept their past and learned from it. However, they don’t constantly relive bad incidents or experiences. They don’t fantasize about the good old days. They focus on living in the “here and now” and making realistic and specific  plans for the future.

2. MT people are  life long learners. They accept responsibility for their choices and control what they can control. (short memories) Being MT means not dwelling on mistakes or bad decisions they just try not to repeat same mistake by moving on and doing better the next time a similar situation presents itself. They are life long learners.

3. MT people are change agents. They embrace change and uncertainty.  When doing things they remain open and flexible to changing their position or action at any moment to succeed at what they are doing. They don’t shy away from taking calculated risks.

Mentally strong people don’t try to avoid change. Instead, they welcome positive change and are willing to be flexible. They understand that change is inevitable and believe in their abilities to adapt.

4. MT people have a reality and optimistic Mind Set. They don’t waste time on energy on things they can’t control. They also have the ability to have a short memory when things go wrong. You won’t hear a mentally strong person complaining over line calls by opponents or fretting traffic jams. Instead, they focus on what they can control in their lives. They recognize that sometimes, the only thing they can control is their attitude.

Stop Being a Wimp–Develop Mental Toughness and Mindfulness Mindset

Quote: ” Positive thinking and action for mindfulness —everywhere—all the time.” Dr. Brantley, Duke Integrative Medicine,
 

To be mentally tough is the ability to maintain clear focus, patience and determination to do your best in the face of challenging situations, stress, pressure and possible failure. It requires a person to have a clear vision of their goals and a plan to accomplish them. Generally, Mental Toughness (MT) is developed from experiencing adversity, disappointment and failure. Then learning to snapped back and try something different. When bad things happen you have the opportunity to reflect about the situation and choose what is most important to do “right now”.  Self-directed learning helps the learner to see and act on lessons that will make them stronger in the future.

Psychologists report that almost everyone can benefit from strengthening these snap back or resiliency skills , even those people we might consider paragons of mental toughness: army drill sergeants. The U.S. military is now implementing a resilience-building program, designed by a team of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, intended to make soldiers as rugged in mind as they are in body. This effort—one of the largest psychological interventions ever attempted—holds lessons for anyone who wants to strengthen their mental muscles.

Drill sergeants were chosen to receive the training because they’re in a position to teach the service members under their command, promoting a trickle down of psychological resilience. The program’s key message: Mental toughness comes from thinking like an optimist. “People who don’t give up have a habit of interpreting setbacks as temporary, local and changeable,” Penn positive psychology and happiness professor Martin Seligman, describing the intervention in a recent journal article. When such individuals encounter adversity, they think to themselves: “It’s going away quickly; it’s just this one situation, and I can do something about it.” Sergeants learn to analyze their beliefs and emotions about failure, and to avoid describing failure as permanent, pervasive and out of their control — all characterizations that undermine mental toughness.  Dr. Martin Seligman, whose work on “positive psychology” influenced Comprehensive Soldier Fitness, explains his stance that soldiers can enhance their mental toughness through optimistic thinking. By seeing situations as temporary—“It will go away soon”—or specific—“It’s just this once”—or changeable—“I can do something about it”—you can make it through adversity and perform optimally. The training also emphasizes how resisting negative thoughts such as “Maybe I don’t have what it takes to be a soldier” while expressing gratitude— “I made it farther than I did last time”—are part of the puzzle to building resilience and becoming mentally tough.

George Washington Carver wrote, “Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.

Another pillar of psychological fortitude is the ability to resist “catastrophic thinking” — the tendency to assume the worst. Seligman’s program offers examples drawn from army life: a sergeant stationed abroad doesn’t hear from his wife back home and concludes that she’s left him; a sergeant receives a negative performance evaluation from his commending officer and immediately thinks, “I won’t be recommended for promotion, and I don’t have what it takes to stay in the army.” Participants learn to fight back against such negative thoughts, challenging their accuracy and searching for a more positive spin — while also making sure to reflect and act on genuine concerns and problems.

Lastly, the drill sergeants in Seligman’s program are taught two capacities that might seem at odds with mental toughness: gratitude and generosity. Participants learn how to “hunt for the good stuff” — to look for and appreciate the ways in which they are fortunate. And they learn not to judge too hastily subordinates who themselves seem to lack grit. The participants are offered this scenario: “A soldier in your unit struggles to keep up during physical training and is dragging the rest of the day. His uniform looks sloppy and he makes a couple of mistakes during artillery practice. You think to yourself, ‘He’s a soup sandwich! He doesn’t have the stuff of a soldier.’” The sergeants are warned against over-generalizing about others based on a few pieces of information, and encouraged to cultivate strength in junior soldiers instead of rejecting those who don’t make the grade right away.

While evidence of the program’s effectiveness for soldiers heading into combat is still being gathered, it is hoped that enhancing resilience will help reduce the incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide among service members and veterans, which has soared to record levels during the United States’ military engagement in and Afghanistan. The 10-day training session, which also focuses on building personal strengths and fostering positive relationships, can’t address every psychological issue that soldiers may face. But sergeants who graduate from the program return to drill practice with a new kind of mental set: a keen understanding of how to toughen the mind for the daily battle against adversity.

Read more: http://ideas.time.com/2012/04/19/can-you-instill-mental-toughness/#ixzz2QLs4R7Ze

In any job and profession you need to be motivated and prepared on many levels. People who need to be motivated typically may crumble when in training. It is the self-directed and  motivated who rise to the occasion when the days get long, and the nights get cold and wet.

The most important ability to have when serving your country or community is self motivation. To be honest with self motivation and determination, you can graduate any program and not be the fastest runner or swimmer, or the strongest and best athlete. However, if you do not have a foundation of fitness, even the most motivated can fail due to physical injury.

Implications for Daily Living

It is not any one’s job but yours to realize that your fitness level and your ability to perform under stress will one day be the difference between you or a loved one from living or dying.  If that does not motivate you to workout, then maybe you should consider a different occupation. Not being motivated to exercise happens in all of us. But turning that around and working out anyway is a daily dose of overcoming quitting and building mental toughness. Besides we all know that you will always feel better later in the day having exercised rather than skipping a workout.

Your whole life has to be built around these near daily experiences of waking up early and running or swimming before dawn in any weather or putting on a sweaty /​ nasty pair of football, hockey, or lacrosse pads for a second time during two a day practices. These experiences build mental toughness and you can tap into this NEVER QUIT attitude by remembering those days when you succeeded and performed at a high level.

Self-Coaching Challenge:

What are you committed to do become more mentally tough and hardy in your daily life. When will you start to life a more hardy life?

Daily Quote, Reflection and Self Coaching Challenge: Mental Toughness and Your Belief in Yourself

Daily Quote: “If you believe in yourself and have the courage, the determination, the dedication, the drive, and if you are willing to sacrifice the little things in life and pay the price for the things that are worthwhile, it can be done.” V. Lombardi

 Reflection: When Coach Lombardi talks about “it” in the above quote I think he is referring to your dreams and goals in life. Although his focus and success was in professional football, there is know doubt that his commitment to excellence and winning provide many lessons on leadership. The X factor for him in the success of a leader was mental toughness. For him MT was the ultimate test of both the heart and the mind of a person in the face of challenges, pressure and stress. The key to success in stressful situations means facing your fears and pressure and “leaning-in” to be energized rather than becoming overwhelmed by the situation.

Self-Coaching Challenge:   Using the Stop, Identify, Reflect, then Act technique take the risk to tackle an ongoing problem in your life. The problem to work on is your choice–it could be a career issue surrounding a miserable boss, or your sense of non-engagement at work or a relationship issue with your partner or any other issue that you have been putting off or denying is draining energy and your sense of happiness. Some of you will need a little more structure or jump-start to get going so try this technique: Say it is a miserable job problem–imagine yourself in three different spaces, in each of which you can spend next year trying a job in which your passion and talents meet the needs of the world. What three jobs would you be excited to try? After this fantasy trip capture in your reflection and leadership journal the things that were different and exciting about these jobs, things that were about the same, and things that were worst. Now identify what you want to do and what is blocking you from getting started. Good Luck and keep us informed about your progress.  

Part 1: What does Research tell us about Mental Toughness (Hardiness) and Performance?

Some people make the mistake of thinking that MT is all about extorting or putting pressure on themselves (efforting) to perform up to their potential no matter what the circumstances. So let’s start with clarifying the key concepts and definition of MT.

Definition: Mental toughness is having the natural or developed ability that enables you to:
ƒ to access your strengths and skills on demand. It is a learned ability that provides a person with coping and thinking skills to handle stressful and demanding situations. As a performer it is seen when a performer can be more consistent and better than an opponent in remaining calm, focused, determined, confident, resilient, and in control under pressure.

Key psychological characteristics associated with mentally tough elite athletes Jones et al (2002) are:
” Self-Belief and self-efficacy:  
• Having an unshakable belief in your ability to achieve competition goals
• Unique qualities that make you better than your opponents.
Motivation:
• Having an insatiable desire and internalized motivation to succeed (you really got to want it)
• Ability to bounce back from performance setbacks with increased determination to succeed.
 Focus:
• Remain fully focused on the task at hand in the face of competition-specific distractions
• Able to switch focus on and off as required
• Not being adversely affected by others performance or your own internal distractions (worry,
negative mind chatter)
• Composure/Handling Pressure:
• Able to regain psychological control following unexpected events or distractions
• Thriving on the pressure of competition (embracing pressure, stepping into the moment)
• Accept that anxiety is inevitable in competition and know you can cope with it
Key component of mental toughness is learning how to condition your mind to think confidently and be
able to overcome frustration/self-critical negativity (reframe self-talk into what it is you want to occur)”.

Lesson Learned created a new Wickism: Don’t allow frustration or being to self-critical undermine your confidence or mental toughness.”

Yet a recent study confirms that MT which is defined as being “hardy” is something different. The study results indicate that mental toughness is a key to success – and to getting through the ups and downs of  stressful events in life. The study results clearly confirm the old dictum that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Much like optimists vs. pessimists, hardy individuals, when compared to less hardy ones, perceive the world very differently. Where the less hardy see obstacles, the hardy see a challenge to be overcome. While the less hardy find themselves totally overwhelmed and unable to function when under stress, the hardy ones use stress as an adrenaline boost. Hardy people go where angels fear to tread; less hardy people are the types that play to lose by undermining their performance and wishing  they could just crawl into the nearest corner, roll up into a fetal position, and wait until it’s safe to come out again.

“Learning from experience helps build character and resilience, so it’s not surprising that mental toughness tends to increase with age,” explains Dr. Jerabek, president of Psychtests AIM, company. “It’s not only a matter of developing better coping and problem solving skills. As we get older and have been knocked around in the school of life, we develop a stronger sense of perspective and self-efficacy; a greater belief that ‘I’ll get through this’. Think of  the pain of losing someone we love, for example. Regardless of age, everyone feels hurt after it happens. But with experience, we get to a point of acceptance more quickly, and move on more readily.”

Weekly Self-Coaching Exercise: Overcome Feeling Down by Focusing on Strengths and Increasing Mental Toughness

Focus on Strengths and Achievements 

Make a list of your strengths and life accomplishments. You may not give yourself credit for all that you have achieved in your life. Making a list of your strengths and accomplishments will help you become more aware of these successes and beef up your mental toughness needed to overcome negative thinking. It will also help change the focus of your self thoughts from negative ones to positive ones and increases your ability to handle tough things life can throw at you. You can do this exercise again and again, whenever you notice your self confidence or mental toughness is slipping away. Get a big sheet of paper and a pen you feel comfortable with. Draw a T or two columns on  the blank page, set the timer for 10 minutes (or as long as you’d like). Spend the time writing your strengths in one column and  accomplishments in the second column. You could never have a paper long enough or enough time to write them all. Nothing is too big or too small to go on this list. See example below:  Continue reading “Weekly Self-Coaching Exercise: Overcome Feeling Down by Focusing on Strengths and Increasing Mental Toughness”

Update: 15 Habits of Mental Toughness

15 Habits of Mental Toughness

The only source of mental toughness is experience under pressure”  MWH

1. Mental Toughness (MT) is being clear about goal or purpose no matter the context or situation.

2. Act even when one does not feel like it or are in the mood to do it.

3. MT is choosing the most important thing to do right now.

4. Focused on doing one thing at a time

5. The Mentally tough individual possess a positive attitude–Use the Dr. Fredrickson’s 3-1 rule of thumb when trying to be optimistic in interacting with others.

6. Flexible—able to re-define  and re-set new strategy after failure

7. Fear doesn’t hold them back—They lean in and confront hurdles or barriers to success.

8. The MT don’t get distracted by little or insignificant stuff–they embrace stress .

9. They are able to make decisions without full information available and act.

10. Value their time and have a plan of how to use it; then evaluate outcomes against plan.

11. They are continually developing their communication skills.

12. Mentally tough are open minded and curious to learn.

13. They seek feedback on their actions and correct what needs improvement.

14. Learn the technique of deliberative practice –practice the right things not just practice.

15. They are non-judgmental and able to quickly change behavior under pressure.

Daily Quote and Reflection: What the Olympic Games teach us about choking and performing.

Daily Quote: As philosopher Kant said: “In great attempts, it is glorious even to fail.”

Reflection: Like many of you I have been watching the Olympic games. While watching I have being observing and listening to the athletes comments before and after performances. Most of the athlete’s before the event talk about being proud to represent their country and that they would like to win a Gold Medal” .  Of course “playing to win” a Gold Medal can be an excellent goal and  motivator for “doing your best” but it is also can be a distraction during a performance event because you start to focus on outcomes rather than just playing. Let’s take Roger Federer, of Switzerland  in his run-up to playing for the GOLD MEDAL medal against Andy Murray of GBR. Most interviewers kept asking Roger about never winning a gold in singles play or how important was it to be victorious in the games? The outcome of winning must of gotten to Roger because he lost in three sets to Andy Murray. Murray was relaxed and focused on just about every point and ended the match with three aces. On the other hand, Roger looked tight and tense throughout the match. He was asked after the match what happened? He said,  ” Andy was just the better player today and the disappointment of not winning was huge for him and his country.”   From that statement could we speculate that the pressure of winning and meeting other people’s expectations over took his mental thoughts rather than just playing and having fun.

Action Challenge: There is a cardinal rule in Mental Toughness training for performers  to NEVER focus on the outcome of your performance while you’re in the middle of it. By “outcome”, I mean whether you’re winning or losing when playing … So the next time you have to make an important presentation, a critical pitch to a client or impress someone at a job interview—just be yourself, focus on the here and now and be sure to have fun doing the activity. Because if you try to hard you will become anxious and probably will perform poorly. Remember, the bigger the event, the more you will be tempted to focus on outcome and lose your ability to perform at the Self 3 level. Luck and keep us informed how your next important event turns out.

Daily Quote and Reflection: How is your Mental Toughness and Intrinsic motivation for achievement?

Quotes: “Concentration and mental toughness are the margins of victory’. Bill Russell

Toughness is in the soul and spirit, not in muscles”. Alex Karras

Reflection: 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, difficulties or unknown consequences. Some say it is the will to never give-up or quit. My blog on MT was one of the highest viewed and most popular pieces in 2011. If you missed it take a look at thewick and find out how you can learn to be more mentally tough no matter the situation you face.

Action Challenge: Identify in what situations or with whom you need to display more  mental toughness. After you readings and more understanding of MT –What are you committed to do to become more mentally tough?  

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.

7 Principles for Applying Mental Toughness to Public Speaking and Presentations.

” Mental Toughness  is a state of mind, not a fact. No matter how much or how little stress we feel before a public speech we are about to give,  we’re always just doing what we’re doing, simply living this one moment of our lives to the best of our ability. So use that anxiety and fear to drive positive expectations and energy. ”  Dr. Mark W. Hardwick, Communication 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 is naturally talented and gifted.

In other world’s such as politics and business MT is also an important factor in being successful.

Obama seems to have it –calm and ”kool” under pressure yet lacking some toughness in regard to HCR, Oil Spill etc. Especially, if you are a progressive which we now know he is not.  This somewhat vague concept of MT could be the critical factor for identifying effective leadership in the 21st Century.

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.

 

Motivation and MT from Sports to Presentations

 

The root of mental toughness lies in motivation. Those who are deemed mentally tough typically exhibit what sports psychologists call “intrinsic achievement motivation.” A study featured in Psychology of Motor Behavior and Sport defines this as the desire to be self-determining. People who are intrinsically motivated are self- starters, willing to push themselves to the brink for the love of their sport or activity. They need little encouragement to give their best effort, and they often do well setting their own goals. For others, who are called “game players” they only begin to jell when the pressure of competition is on. They go through the motions in practice and drive coaches crazy. They only shine in the chance to compare themselves with others. These guys have what’s called “achievement motivation” and do their best only under the gun. You hear them say things like give me the ball I want to take the penalty kick or final shot when the BB game is on the line. They do not fear failure.  All things being equal between two competitors, whoever is higher in achievement motivation will be the better athlete, hands down.

Other researchers have said that motivation is important but brain chemistry can over ride desire/motivation if he player experiences anxiety. With too much anxiety detrimental changes in our brain and biochemical reactions take place. Stress research calls this the flight or fight response.  Now we have new brain research evidence reported by Dr. James Loehr, a famous performance psychologist, and Daniel Goleman, known for his work in Emotional Intelligence, that links negative thoughts and arousal with the stress hormone cortisol.  Cortisol is produced by the adrenal cortex.  Cortisol has been associated with feelings of anxiety, tension, helplessness, and loss of control.  Positive thoughts and pleasant experiences are linked to a positive trigger or rush of adrenaline, and an increase of epinephrine and norepinephrine. The positive jolts make for better performance.

Having an optimistic attitude can help increase the positive effects of epinephrine and norepinephrine.  Optimism, which produces these positive brain chemicals reduce many anxiety symptoms and can provide performers with the positive energy to focus and concentrate on the activity at hand.

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 arousal 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 Dr. Loehr, calls the challenge response, which counteracts the negative effects of stress and improves your performance and enjoyment in presenting and speaking to groups. The challenge response helps leaders and high performance jocks to be more calm, relaxed, alert, energetic, inspired, and enthused. Mental Toughness, a phrased coined by internationally renowned peak performance guru Dr. Jim Loehr, has it roots in tennis, where Loehr first came to prominence. Applied to tennis, Mental Toughness training specifically targets physical rituals before and after points to help create focus and calm during a tennis competition.

Applications for staying focused and being mentally tough in making presentations

 

Practicing Mental Toughness techniques prior to your presentation will help you handle more stress during your performance. Below I will share the mental set and  rituals of Ideal Presentation and Mental Toughness principles:

1. Be your own best supporter and critic–slow down, take a breath and begin presenting with confidence

2. Be clear, concise and committed to meeting the needs of the audience and challenging them to rethink positions and take positive action for change.

3. Believe fully in your ability and strength to communicate effectively, so you can present openly, naturally and confidently to your audience.

4. Be prepared to present greatly by demonstrating your passion for the topic and message.

5. Present with an authenticity and believability that is sincere and resonates with the audience

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

7. Love the challenge of communicating with whomever and connecting with others.

Freeing Yourself to Perform at Optimal levels of Performance : ZEN Story

“Experience is determined by yourself–not the circumstances of your life. Face your fears and think clearly are  the sources for personal growth”. MWH.

Many of us face anxious moments such as public speaking or making split second decisions with limited information. So what does it take to access our ideal performance state in such difficult situations? Reducing distractions and the inability to perform at high levels of thinking and action is as simple as STOPPING and hitting the pause button. Even though the shift is  simple as remembering that you have a choice where you place your attention. It’s always an option to take a deep breath and look at the trees instead of the worries inside your head.

So what burdens are you are carrying mentally that keep you from being present in the moment to your family, to your friends, to yourself? The shift is as simple as stopping to reflect on your choices and over coming that rush of adrenalin and impulsivity. You have a choice of how to respond to any situation.  It’s always an option to take a deep breath and think about the beautiful white beaches you love to visit. instead of the worries and fears rushing through your brain..

Zen Story and Lesson of Choice  

There’s a well-known Zen story that offers an important insight about how to free our brains and emotions,  from internal habits that drain our ability to respond in appropriate and constructive ways and regain positive energy. Two monks are on a day-long walk to a temple. This is a very strict tradition, and they are not to speak or interact with others, especially women, during this pilgrimage. In the morning, they notice a woman along the side of the road struggling to cross a river. One of the monks goes over, picks her up and carries her across, safely placing her down on the other bank before returning to continue the journey with his colleague. This action is very disturbing to the second monk, who is aware that his colleague just violated the vows of their order. After thinking about this for more than three hours, the second monk could contain himself no longer, and he blurts out, “How could you pick up that woman back there?!” The first monk calmly replies, “I held that woman for five minutes — you’ve been carrying her for three hours!”

Challenge and Action: What boggy men are you carrying around that prevent you from thinking clearly when fears or anxious situations you confront? Do you have ways to self-regulate your barbarian brain and the flight response chemicals.

Daily quote and Reflection: Ironic Experience on Mental Toughness and Discipline

Quote: “It has always been my thought that the most important single ingredient to success in athletics or life is  DISCIPLINE. I have many times felt that this word is the most ill-defined in all of our language. My definition of the word is as follows:   1. Do what has to be done; 2. When it has to be done;  3. As well as it can be done; and  4.Do it that way all the time.” Bobby Knight, Indiana University Basketball Coach

Reflection: This is one of the most ironic quotes I have seen from a coach who has time and time again shown the lack of discipline at practice and in some tense game situations. For example, throwing chairs across the BB floor in disagreement to refs call. I can remember visiting coach Knight for one of his practices at Indiana University and observing first handed his ruthless and at times harsh treatment of some his players. So it just goes to show how difficult it is to get our values and beliefs aligned with our actions. It also shows another important make-up of most people–we are not the best judges of our own weaknesses and impact of our actions on others perception of us. And to be fair to Coach Knight after practice he took our visiting Blue Ribbon Committee on athletic and recreation facilities out to dinner and couldn’t have been a more pleasant gentleman. He was engaging and interesting. A good host.   Oh, well we all have our blind spots and demons and maybe what I observed was his unorthodox way of making his players tough.

Daily Quote and Reflection: 5 minutes a Day can save your life. Learn the lessons of Mindfulness

 Daily Quote: “If you think five minutes isn’t enough time to make a difference in your life, think again”.Jeffrey Brantley, M.D.  

Reflection:  Recently, I blogged about the power of Mental toughness and Stress in regards to how to face and overcome stressful situations. A friend recently reminded me Mental Toughness, Recover and  Mindfulness all must be the same thing. I assured him there were probably some differences but I wasn’t sure what the were.  So I went in search of finding out more about Mindfulness.  And I found Dr. Jeffrey Brantley who has some wonderful insights into the field of medicine and mindfulness and how to confront anxiety in positive ways. He defines mindfulness as a technique or tool in which a person is attentive in a non-judgmental way to his or her thoughts and actions in the present moment. This approach, practiced in Buddhism and other religions, has been shown recently to be effective in treating psychological problems including anxiety, fear, and panic. In essence it is all about being more self-aware about the moment you are living in. Oh by the way don’t miss Dr.Brantley’s  series on how to start an experiment in mindfulness  by reading his five little book series published by New Harbinger publications, Inc. Remember these books and activities could change your life by getting you back on purpose and meaning. Try one of the Five Good minutes exercise I guarantee they are painless and you will feel instant relaxation.