Building a Tougher Mind: Part One
Hello everyone! I’m Coach Briley with Complete Performance Coaching. Today, I want to talk to you about the first three steps to building a stronger, more resilient mind. If you watched my IGtv talk about my top 6 tips to build mental toughness, this post will look very familiar to you. I was inspired to dive deeper, beyond the surface level, when it comes to discussing mental toughness and resilience. I know mental toughness and resilience are broad concepts, so I want to plant a seed for initiating the first few steps to starting that process. That way, when the next bout of adversity strikes, you are more mentally prepared to embrace resilience.
Before I dive in deeper, here is my outline of the steps I believe that lead us to build a more resilient mind:
- Choose positivity
- Intentionally seek opportunities for challenge and growth
- Get comfortable with being uncomfortable (accept present discomfort)
1. Choose Positivity
Starting with number one. You can see I bolded choose in front of positivity. Let me elaborate – while I do know that some of the negative things that happen to us are out of our control, I also believe that at the end of the day, positivity is usually a choice. Of course, I recognize that we all go through extremely difficult things in life that warrant sadness, anxiety, doubt, etc. However, at the end of the day, we do have to make a choice to either remain in those emotions or work our way through them.
I find that the champions in our world such as the high-level athletes, CEOs, and other successful individuals tend to choose the silver lining over remaining caught up in seeing the glass as half empty. At the end of the day, continuing in emotions regulated by external circumstances is not worth it to those who want to work towards their version of success.
Again, this is sometimes easier said than done, but I encourage you to at the very least plant the seed of choosing to see whatever negative situation you encounter as something positive to gain or learn from. An example of doing this is practicing gratitude.
Practice gratitude before you go to bed every night (or first thing in the morning, if you’re a morning person). Take out a journal, notebook or even type it in your phone. I encourage you to write down at least three things that you are grateful for that day, or three things that you learned from the day.
For example, to the athletes reading this, let’s say a coach angrily punished you for making several technical mistakes in practice by making you do extra conditioning before you could leave. When you go to bed that night, you could write down, “1.) I’m grateful that my coach cares about me enough to communicate with me instead of ignoring me when they were angry. 2) I’m grateful that my coach wants me to succeed, and 3) I’m grateful that I have the opportunity to get stronger despite making mistakes in practice.”
Make it a Habit
I challenge you to make choosing positivity a habit this week by physically writing down what you’re grateful for. Try this once a day for seven days and see what happens. I bet you’ll find that your thought process with negativity, moving forward, will shift towards positivity, or at least a neutral gratitude. We can always come up with at least three things we are grateful for every day, even if they are not sport-related.
It’s amazing what we can accomplish by turning our thoughts into something real, and this applies to both negative and positive thinking! The act of physically writing down our thoughts and reasoning through them is an incredibly powerful tool to rewire our brain’s tendencies.
2. Intentionally Seeking Opportunities for Challenge
This action of going beyond your routine and comfort zone can be life-changing. For the athletes out there, I know this may seem uncomfortable to you at first, but hear me out.
One way of seeking opportunities for growth and challenge can be going the extra mile in practice. The simple things that mentally tough people do are as small as doing an extra rep in conditioning, learning a new skill, or working to shave off time from their race.
Let’s say you’re a level 8 gymnast who is eager to go level 9, but your coach hasn’t taught you a release on bars yet. If you want to take yourself to the next level mentally and physically, what you could do is take the initiative and tell your coach what release move you want to learn and take the steps to get there yourself. Imagine your coach hearing you wanting to learn more and get better than you already are! This is every coach’s dream to hear from their athlete.
Obviously, I’m not suggesting that you chuck a new skill on the competition bar without taking the proper progressions to get there first. My point is that athletes who want to get ahead of their mental and physical game go out of their way to decide what skills they want to learn and communicate with their coaches about how to shape their routines. Not only will this increase your resilience to roadblocks, but it demonstrates one’s intrinsic motivation to learn and develop.
If you have intrinsic motivation to learn new skills in your sport, chances are there is less room for fear, anxiety, and doubt to creep in along the way since the idea came from YOU. Plus, your coach will likely be super impressed with you when you bring things up first, instead of them having to initiate things with you.
With this, the point is to seek out opportunities that you would not otherwise look for in order to take charge of your resilience before letting your environment take control of you.
The more you seek out ways to improve, the more room there is for you to exercise creativity and problem solving ahead of time- like resilient humans do!
3. Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable
This third step wraps up the first two points nicely. By accepting your present discomfort, whether that’s by attempting to execute the first two ideas I brought up or in any other situation you encounter, the act of remaining calm despite your pain, fear, or uncomfortable emotions, will lead you to a place of inner neutrality within outward chaos. If you can accept the present moment and continue to move forward each day despite your state of discomfort, you have the world at your feet.
For example, there’s a reason why your coaches prepare you for your sport season so far ahead of time by having “mock” competitions months beforehand. The goal is to practice having that same feeling of going to a competition in order for you to get used to the “butterflies,” competing with your peers, having judges come in or timing you as you would be timed in a competition. No matter what sport or activity you do, I am sure you can fill in the blank with an example of training through discomfort.
Good Days & Bad Days
This is also where you have to sometimes learn about what it’s like to compete and train through certain injuries or illnesses. Sometimes, you don’t get the day off when you aren’t feeling your best. There are going to be days when you need to suit up and show up despite your mental or physical discomfort.
With this being said, exercise this part of your mind and get comfortable with being uncomfortable. That way, the next time you are sick or not feeling your best before an important competition, you will have practiced that mindset so much that it will not be foreign to you – you’ll recognize that you have already competed and practiced on the uncomfortable days already, so you’re prepared no matter what happens to you!
To close this discussion, here are some final thoughts I want to highlight:
-Resilience is a mindset shift that requires practice. Embrace making choices that direct you towards positivity, challenge and even discomfort.
-The action steps I mentioned above are meant for you to decide what choices are healthy for you. You know yourself and your situation better than anyone, so make these action steps relevant for you. There is a time and a place for working through illness and injury, but it is up to you to decide when that needs to happen.
-Little changes over time will lead to big change. While resilience does not mean risking your overall health and well-being, resilience does mean actively practicing who you want to be every day and celebrating the good you have already done.
In the end, both struggle and success are temporary. With this blog post, I hope you learn to strive for resilience and building a tougher mind as a way to work through both the great days and the not so great days since both are inevitable.
Feel free to reach out to me directly if you have any feedback or questions about this post. I’d love to talk to you and hear your thoughts. Look out for part two to this topic coming soon. I have a lot more to share.