October 2017 Magazines 89052 - Page 71

• Practice positive self-talk. Let’s face it– most elite athletes have world-class coaches fol- lowing them around and dispensing sage advice. Unless you’re willing to lay out the big bucks to recreate this expe- rience in your own life, you’re going to have to go it alone. But that’s OK. In fact, many elite athletes who have been interviewed by mental toughness researchers swear by the practice of positive self-talk as a training tool. Specifically, they tend to use it to think their way out of tricky situations that arise during a game or competition. When the going gets tough, repeat a few optimistic catchphrases to yourself, such as, “I can always figure out a solution,” or “Every prob- lem is solvable.” Try a few on for size and stick with a hand- ful that really resonate. • Focus on what you can control, and let everything else go. A theme that comes up again and again in the literature on mental toughness research is the concept of control. In an athletic competition, there are many variables that are out- side of the control of an individual player– the weather, the opposing team’s performance, injuries, to name just a few– and wasting mental energy on those things does no good. Instead, all it does is siphon away some intensity of focus that should be on the only thing you really can control: your own actions and performance. As the late novelist David Foster Wallace put it, “You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn't.” It’s a powerful ability that many of us too often relinquish. • Re-examine your deeply ingrained beliefs and perceptions. Many things are different about the world of elite athletes. For them, experiences that most of us Average Janes and Joes go out of our way to avoid– pain, very high levels of stress and pressure, and extremely intense competition– are everyday occurrences. In interviews, many top performers emphasize the importance of rooting out and deliberately attempting to change the mental