It’s the 2011 NBA Finals. The Dallas Mavericks, led by Dirk Nowitzki, are down 2-1 in their best-of-seven series against the Miami Heat. Midway through the fourth quarter, things look even worse for the Mavericks: they’re down 9 points, and it appears likely that they will soon be in a 3-1 hole.
The team rallies, though, and they win game 4 – tying the series at 2-2. Again in the 5th game, Dallas is behind at the end of the 4th quarter. Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, and the rest of the team again find the mental strength to stay focused and overcome the Heat, giving them a 3-2 lead and setting themselves up to win the title.
There are plenty examples of success like that in sports, of an athlete or team coming back from what seemed to be an impossible position to finally achieve victory. How can we infuse our own lives with the same degree of perseverance? How can we train ourselves to become mentally tougher? Here are four ways:
#1. Set your sights on process goals.
When we are physically conditioning or exercising, it can aid motivation to set a clear goal for ourselves – which might be times, distances, weights, or repetitions. However, it also helps to have daily and ongoing process goals that are actually written down.
Example process goals recommended by Active are:
- 8 glasses of water per day
- 1 massage every 10 days
- 2 runs per week on low-impact, unpaved surfaces.
#2. Put the spotlight on others.
It’s easy to excessively look inward and become doubtful of oneself. A simple way to get outside our own heads is to celebrate the success of your training partners or teammates. This tactic doesn’t just apply to physical conditioning but extends to other areas of life; in fact, it’s recommended in an Inc. list of toughness tips for business.
#3. Visualize perfection.
Olympic gold medalist Lindsey Vonn told a reporter that at the start of any race, she had thoroughly prepared herself through mental imagery. "I've run that race 100 times already in my head," she said. Research backs up the idea that preliminary visualization leads to more reliable physical output.
#4. Reimagine success.
“A for effort” may be a sarcastic, backhanded compliment. Nonetheless, rather than thinking of your success in terms of external results, try reformulating it in terms of effort. Again, strong advice for this method comes from the business world. N2 Publishing COO Marty Fukuda recommends the trick – specifically suggesting that you start to hold yourself accountable for 100% effort on all truly important tasks. Fukuda believes this strategy creates higher standards for yourself and more consistent self-monitoring, in turn leading to higher mental toughness.
Do you want to develop better mental toughness?
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