The Olympics lend themselves to grand narratives. Who isn’t inspired by a swimmer winning gold by only 1/100 of a second or by the anaerobic feat of a time trial in bicycling? Though we rightly hold the athletes up for their physical prowess and dedication to their sport, we tend to overlook the mental fortitude it takes to be world class.
There have been athletes at these Olympic games coming in as heavy favorites to win the gold. Some, however, didn’t attain it. It is in that moment of defeat that an athlete really proves their mettle. It’s called mental fortitude and it is critical to any endeavor in sports and in life. Building mental fortitude is tough. I entails daily practice in capturing your thoughts, sifting through them, and focusing on the ones that will make you stronger.
Think of all the events in your life that don’t go your way. It could be a diagnosis, a missed field goal, a layoff, or any other number of things. Kicking in the mental fortitude that you have strengthened over time will make you a true champion indeed. Here are some suggestions for a good mental “workout”.
- Meditation: Monks who spend time in meditation controlling their thoughts actually have physical changes in their brainwaves that help them stay calm. It only takes 20 minutes a day of silence to make a difference. The tough part is breaking away from the megaphone of noise in our lives.
- Feedback: Athletes have team mates that help them keep things in perspective. They are encouraged to stay strong, reminding them that they are world class athletes and errors happen. Seek outside eyes on your life to keep a check on your perspective.
- Awareness: Some call this being fully present in the moment. Concentrating on living each moment with deliberation helps strengthen your participation in life and keeps you grounded in what is important. Take the next ten minutes and concentrate on nothing else other than what you are doing. Write down what that felt like.
Though we may not match the physical abilities of Olympic athletes, we can, without a doubt, be as strong them in the mental game.
How ’bout you? What are some things you do to build up world class mental fortitude?