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The seven pillars of mental toughness

Introduction

All athletes that are able to rise to the top of their sport need to have a certain level of mental toughness. In the world of sport there are always outside influences that test your character and your confidence.

The advice contained within this article will help to cement the importance of having a high level of mental toughness in sport. The article also suggests ways to help enhance your inner strength and fortitude.

Taking criticism

Being able to answer your critics is a fundamental component of being mentally tough. In professional sport there is nowhere to hide after a poor performance. You have to answer to coaches, fans, the press, and often even your own team-mates after performing badly.

The barrage of negative comments after a poor performance can be so overwhelming at times, that levels of confidence and motivation often suffer.

The two pieces of advice below may help you to use criticisms constructively.

Whenever someone says that you ‘don’t have enough ability’, or they point out that you are performing badly, try using their comments to fuel your desire and motivation to prove these critics wrong.

By redirecting their negative comments towards a feeling that spurs you on, lost levels of confidence and motivation are likely to return.

All the emotional responses that you generate can be directed towards a constructive end, and by learning to harness and control these emotional responses they will end up working for you and not against you.

You should also learn to look at criticism objectively. Try to put your mind in the position of the critic and understand why they are saying what they are.

Perhaps an angry fan has confronted you about your poor performance. Instead of becoming angry at their comments try to empathise and recognise that such comments and criticisms are common to most passionate fans when their sports icons are not playing at their best.

When coaches criticise you, try to understand the intention behind their actions. Usually it is because they know you are capable of much more. If you were a coach and one of your athletes was not performing well, the chances are you too would be guilty of dishing out criticisms and negative comments towards the athlete.

For more ways to use every experience to your advantage, follow this link.

Always aim to get better

In order to become mentally tough, you always need to look for ways to improve. Always try new things, and explore innovative ways to boost your performance.

One way to better yourself is through the acquisition and application of mental skills techniques. Some of the most mentally tough athletes I have worked are always the ones that are prepared to embrace everything that sport psychology has to offer. Individuals like these leave no stone unturned in their pursuit of excellence.

Unfortunately applying and embracing areas such as sport psychology, sports nutrition and other applied areas of sport science, is often seen to be too much of an effort for the small difference to performance they are perceived to make.

Attention to detail is everything, and collectively exploiting all of these avenues in sport science will make a huge difference to your performance.

It takes dedication and a high level of mental toughness to make sure that you continue to explore ways to get better. It is so easy to take the easy route and just rely on ability alone.

‘An athlete who stops getting better stops getting good’ Anonymous

Dealing with set-backs

I think being able to deal with set-backs constructively is the hallmark of a mentally tough athlete.

Most athletes that become world famous, will at some point have to experience set-backs that have the potential to make or break you as an athlete. Whether these set-backs come in the form of an injury, a string of bad results, or a loss in motivation, it is your reaction to such events that will inevitably determine your overall success as an athlete.

In order to react well to set backs and failures, learn from them. In every experience there is a useful lesson. After a set-back take some time writing down anything that you may have learned from this experience. By reviewing and evaluating all of your sporting experiences, you maintain a critical eye that will help you to hone and refine your skills.

Onto Part Two

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Click here to read part two of this article.

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