When it comes to improving our mental toughness, the value of practice cannot be emphasised enough. Without practice, we will be like a deer in headlights when we’re faced with a real test.
Professional athletes such as golfers, tennis players, and formula one drivers spend significantly more time practicing than they do competing. They practice their swings, they simulate high-pressure situations, they visualise themselves playing in major tournaments or driving around each corner of the track. They spend a tremendous amount of time preparing, all so that when they face their respective test, they can remain in the parasympathetic physiological state where we are calm, rational, in control of our thoughts and actions, and respond appropriately.
“What you are practicing and doing over, and over, and over again is going to manifest itself when you are in the crisis moment. We have to look for all these little moments in-between for opportunities to practice this. When you get cut off in traffic, when you are doing a hard workout, when your kid spills juice on you at the breakfast table – those are all opportunities to [say to ourselves], “there’s the hormonal response,” “I expected this, let [me] control what I can control,” “let’s kill the critic,” “I’m going to respond to this, I’m not going to react.” All of a sudden, these things become who you are. (Bergeron, 2020, 00:50:02)
Importantly, before we seek out practice, we must address the prior points mentioned in parts 1 through 5 of this series, namely, become a learner, expect adversity, set your sights, learn your triggers, and kill the critic. If we don’t address these points first, improving our mental toughness will be a much longer and harder road. It’s not a linear process, there will be overlap, but we need to be aware of all the points in order to truly move the needle.
We all have three zones – a survival, learning and comfort zone. For example, if we order sweet potato chips at a restaurant and they bring chips instead, it would be annoying, but it’s not a big deal, we can easily remain in our comfort zone. We’d likely find ourselves in the survival zone if we were diagnosed with cancer or got a call in the middle of the night because a loved one has been in a serious accident – in those moments it would be extremely difficult to think rationally and remain in control of our emotions. Examples of the learning zone would be the examples mentioned earlier such as being cut off in traffic, when we’re in the middle of a really tough workout, or when our child spills a drink on us – those are great moments to practice; those are moments we should seek out and look forward to because that’s where we have the opportunity to really improve our mental toughness.
Compared to 100 years ago, the number of potential distractions has exponentially increased, which makes developing mental toughness that much more difficult, but also that much more important.
The opportunities to practice are all around us – we simply need to become aware of them. “Never whine, never complain, never make excuses. Your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions dictate your destiny.” (Bergeron, 2020, 00:56:08)
Thank you for reading this post
We hope that you found this post valuable and we hope that you’ve enjoyed our series on mental toughness over the past 6 weeks!
The 6 Steps to Improving Your Mental Toughness (2020) YouTube Video, added by Ben Bergeron [Online]. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fbmr7xiIWyE [Accessed: 9 June 2020]