The Resilient Athlete: How to Build World Class Mental Toughness

Mental toughness is a hot topic in the sporting world. Great victories and individual achievements are often attributed to mental toughness and many successful athletes (Tom Brady, Serena Williams, Michael Phelps, Lydia Ko…) are held in high regard due to their mental toughness.

What exactly is mental toughness? There are so many definitions of mental toughness that the term can become quite murky. Confident, optimistic, poised, persistent, fortitudinous, determined are some of the terms used to describe mentally tough athletes. While all these descriptors are true of mental toughness, there is one characteristic that is the hallmark of mental toughness and that is… RESILIENCE!

Resilience is the ability to adapt, recover, adjust or change in order to achieve some end. The resilient athlete can, not only handle injury, misfortune, mistakes and losses more effectively, but can also use these instances as learning lessons and fuel to fan their desire to succeed.

Former NFL coach Dan Reeves best highlighted the mentality of resilient people, “Difficulties in life are intended to make us better, not bitter.”

For example, the resilient athlete looks at an injury as opportunity to strengthen a body part or another aspect of their game during their competition layoff…

The resilient athlete looks for a way to maintain composure after succumbing to pressure in a critical part of a game…

The resilient athlete looks for a way to pull out a victory when they do not have their “A” game.

Let’s be clear, the resilient athlete still gets upset after an injury or a loss but their focus quickly turns to how they can bounce back. Resilient athletes look for solutions rather than dwelling on problems.

You may be wondering, “Where does resiliency come from?” Resilience is not a genetic trait. Resilience is an attitude that requires your attention and effort to develop and grow. How you look at adversity and your ability to bounce back from tough circumstances are 100% within your control. Everyonehas equal opportunity to grow their resiliency. With training, you can grow your resiliency and accomplish more within your sport.

BUT WAIT… THERE’S MORE… Growing your resiliency is like a two-for-one infomercial deal. Not only will resiliency benefit your athletic career, resiliency will have an even more profound impact on your life outside of sport. Let’s face it, life is challenging and when you arm yourself with resiliency, you are better prepared to handle life’s unexpected twists and turns.

Maintain a sense of perspective – Instead of catastrophizing your situation, take an objective look at your circumstances. Ask yourself, “Is this really a dire issue?” “Can I do something to make my situation better?”

Recognize that your attitude is your choice – You may have no control over what happens to you but you have a choice in how view those challenges and how you respond to adversity.

Look for solutions – Don’t dwell on the problem. Become adept at finding solutions. The more you get into the habit of being a solution-seeker, the better prepared you will be to handle the unexpected.

Take action – The way to better your situation is by taking action. Positive forward momentum starts with a step.

If you want to achieve brilliance, you must first develop resilience!