Without the mental strength and endurance that comes from mental training, the mind will be a weakness in sports.
When free diver Tanya Streeter held her breath while descending to 160 meters (525 feet) in 2002 she set a world record at the time for any diver, man or woman.
In an interview after her record-setting dive, Tanya recalled thinking about quitting at one point in her dive. In that moment, she said she knew she had a choice — make her mind her weapon or her weakness.
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Turning Your Thoughts to Mental Toughness
Mental training is all about controlling your thoughts, emotions and behaviors. Everyone has limits, but they are never where you think they are. Remember the first time you thought you weren’t going to make it through a difficult practice or a grueling workout? Now, remember the moment when you pushed past the voice in your head and succeeded? That was you challenging your limits. By controlling the voice in your head, you will be better able to accomplish the things that your body is capable of.
Tips for Mental Toughness Success
- Keep your thoughts “growth-focused.” A person with a growth mindset believes that he or she controls performance through effort and hard work; a person with a fixed mindset believes that performance is entirely based on talent. To keep a growth mindset, keep your thoughts during practice and competition focused on the three things that you can control: attitude, effort and focus.
- Be a bamboo farmer. Bamboo farmers plant seeds for giant timber bamboo and water them for a year. After one year, no sign of progress. So the bamboo farmers water the planted seeds for another year and another year … and still, nothing happens. But in the fourth year of watering, giant timber bamboo grows 90 feet in 60 days.
The best athletes in the world are bamboo farmers: They are positive, patient, persistent and process-focused. Training yourself to live by these four P’s during practice and competition will take time. It’s not mental magic, it’s mental training. But when you learn to control what you think and say to yourself, then you control your performance.