Tag Archive for 'Mental Toughness'

Two secret words to win the British Open Golf Championship

Rory McIlroy looked out at a room packed with reporters and knew he was going to disappoint them.

All week, he had talked about two secret words he used as his trigger for the shots he played. Even as he stretched his lead to six shots going into Sunday, he said he would only reveal them if he were to win the British Open.
Rory McIlroy

In the hours before he teed off, the media put one pound ($1.70) in a pot and tried to guess the two words. “Very simple,” McIlroy said, the claret jug at his side. “It’s going to be a big letdown for everyone. It was ‘process’ and ‘spot.’ That was it.”

And the meaning? “With my long shots, I just wanted to stick to my process and stick to making good decisions, making good swings,” he said. “The process of making a good swing, if I had any sort of little swing thoughts, just keeping that so I wasn’t thinking about the end result, basically.”

The “spot” was about his putting. “I was just picking a spot on the green and trying to roll it over my spot,” he said. “I wasn’t thinking about holing it. I wasn’t thinking about what it would mean or how many further clear it would get me. I just wanted to roll that ball over that spot. If that went in, then great. If it didn’t, then I’d try it the next hole.”

I highlight this because non-champions (1) don’t do this, (2) try to make it more complicated than it is, (3) are not quite sure how ‘this’ works, and (4) don’t educate or inform themselves on how to develop their mental game.

That’s why they aren’t the ones holding the trophies, standing on the podium, accepting the awards, winning the championships.


Success is a lousy teacher…

…It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose. This is true in sport as it is in business and life in general.


Games are won or lost mentally or technically

I recently presented mental toughness strategies at the East Coast Squash Academy‘s Adult Squash camp organised by squash professional Aaron Frankcomb at Willoughby Squash Club in Sydney. Attended by a wide range of squash players, it became quite obvious that squash is a very demanding sport physically and technically where attention to stroke execution, shot selection and court movement can provide beneficial results.

Many players readily admit the mental side of the game is something they struggle with, in large part because they don’t know much about it and also because once they do learn about it, implementation is a very personal thing.

The first step in adopting what I call the Mindset Of A Champion is the admission that games are won or lost either technically or mentally.

Once that has been realised, then a player can start to self-assess him/herself on both dimensions.

Determining which one will yield the quickest result is simple.

Think back to your most recent match. How many points did you lose because of mental lapses (choking, nervousness, poor shot selection, going for a winner when under pressure, missing a shot you can easily make, tinning ‘easy’ shots, etc.) versus technical errors (poor racket preparation, no follow through, incorrect contact point, improper racket head speed, hitting the ball off-centre ball on the strings, etc.)

Chances are, quantum leaps are available to you with mental toughness training.

The benefit of mental toughness training is that it is often EASIER and QUICKER to improve mentally than it is physically. Technical improvements can take weeks and months to become natural within your “muscle memory” whereas mental strategies can have an IMMEDIATE impact as of your next game, match or tournament.

The first step is for you to determine how many mental mistakes you are making, as a percentage of the points you are losing…

Do that and stay tuned for future blog posts that will start to lay the groundwork for mental toughness within the context of the Mindset Of A Champion.

Not sure how to determine if a point was lost mentally or technically? Here is an example from this year’s 2014 Australian Open Tennis Championship. The last 2 points played by Novak Djokovic… that cost him the match in the fifth set.

Mental Toughness

I recently read an article in the Virgin Australia Inflight Magazine that quoted Brisbane-based performance psychologist Dr Phil Jauncey as saying that

“Mental toughness isn’t the ability
to get your mind right before an event,
it’s being able to execute when your mind is saying you can’t.”

Mental Toughness, No Pain No Gain, Threshold Pressure, ChokingThis is of primary importance to anyone who is competitive in sports and/or in a performance environment (musician, public speaker, etc.)

If you want to learn more about mental toughness, click the hyperlink or the image above to access a list of books I’ve read and reviewed on the subject.

Mental Toughness

Just in case you missed it, there is a new page on this blog with a list of mental toughness books that I recommend. They are primarily focused on racket sports, but I add to the list on an on-going basis.

I will also be creating a new list of sports psychology books that go more into the general aspects of elite peak performance in sport.

Mental toughness is not just for sports athletes – it translates to all aspects of life.

A few pointers before you embark on mental toughness training…

  1. You need to know the context you’re dealing with (the more specific, the better)
  2. You need self-awareness (or a coach to know you)
  3. You need to be willing to change and test if progress is being made
  4. You need to be honest with yourself because all the dialogue is internal (or have a coach who won’t let you off the hook)
  5. You need to have a plan (1 Percent Improvements)
  6. You need to be strong because it won’t happen immediately, but once it does – WATCH OUT!

Take 1 step back to take 2 steps forward

Goal Setting, Achieving Goals, Set Goals

Take 1 Step Back To Take 2 Steps Forward

I often tell people it’s wise to “take 1 step back to take 2 steps forward”, but it’s rare those who actually follow through. The reason is that the brain operates with what academics call “positive intent“. The brain’s desire to please itself here and now rather than later on. It’s a complex psychological force that is much more powerful and persuasive than you might think.

In squash (or tennis) for example, during a long rally, the brain will feel the fatigue and will attempt to end the point prematurely to get some rest (instant gratification) rather than play out the rally and win the point (delayed reward). It is such a powerful force that it prevents otherwise skillful players from reaching the top of the rankings.

Overcoming this force is much easier said than done.

In business it’s not all that different. Going for the quick sale rather than the long-term market share building initiatives plagues most small businesses.

So what can you do about it?

First, recognise that a change or improvement is necessary.

Second, identify what needs to change and then commit to changing it when it’s most convenient (after a tournament is preferable to doing it just before…)

Third, accept that at first, the 1 step back means you’ll lose more points before you start to win. If you’re not willing to go through that, don’t bother.

“Lose now to win later.”

Again, easier said than done, but well worth the investment and eventual rewards.

BUT and there usually is a but…

But, when you do take the 1 step back, you have to follow through to take the 2 steps forward otherwise you only end up where you were (1 back, 1 forward = zero improvement) with a lot of wasted time and effort.

Therein lies the rub. You either commit or don’t even start.

My recommendation is  you make the investment during your “off season”, in-between tournaments. Give yourself as much time as possible because often, the change will take longer than anticipated.

Just remember that most athletes are not willing to do this, so when you do commit, the rewards will be there for you. Once you’ve had this much needed breakthrough, you’ll be at a whole new level, beyond your current peers.

That’s why you want to do this – to excel and become the best you can become.

Mindset Of A Champion Lessons

I recently competed at the 2010 Pan Pacific Masters Games, in the men’s squash tournament, in the 45-49 age category, I played well with significant challenges and obstacles as I noted in a previous blog post.

While I was in beautiful Queensland, I took the day before and after the competition to relax and enjoy what the Gold Coast has to offer. One of my favorite pastimes is reading. Over the weekend, I read 3 books (I am after all a speed reader!). Two of them were on sport psychology and the third on business and strategy.

One of the strategies I use to get access to hard-to-get information, tips and strategies is to go into second hand bookstores and look for non-bestseller titles that could be a priceless source of inspiration, motivation or information.

While browsing through a second-hand bookstore in Broadbeach, I stumbled across “Venus and Serena: My seven years as the Williams sisters hitting coach” by David Rineberg.

Written in a very personal style synonymous with non-professional writers, his detailed account of their training regimen was both illuminating and revealing.

The amount of preparation that went into their ‘formation’ as future professional tennis players was as unique as it was strategic. I highly recommend it if you are an elite or otherwise competitive racket sport athlete.

There are countless lessons, tips and techniques to glean from it.

The top 3 that come to mind include:

  1. Train so you develop the skills and abilities of the athlete you want to become, within the time frame you’ve set for yourself. In my syntax, determine your decision-making horizon and retrospectively chunk back to where you are today.
  2. Be patient with you progress without becoming complacent. Everything takes time and as long a progress is being made, be content with it in so long as it is within your designated time frame.
  3. To out-perform your peers and rise in the rankings, you have to do something different. If you train and do what everyone else does, you’ll only track along with THEIR progress. Training MORE won’t do it. Only DIFFERENT will.

Self-analysis, diagnosis and prognosis are a must – unless you know what you’re doing, you can’t identify what to change, fix or improve let alone how to go about that improvement. In my business coaching and mentoring that I do with my entrepreneurial clients, I serve that role.

In sport, you need to have a coach or at the very least a feedback mechanism such as video footage to dissect what you’re doing, or not doing. Objectivity of course is key!

A second book, this one a bestseller is John McEnroe’s autobiography “Serious”. Growing up with McEnroe, Connors, Lendl and Borg as the tennis elite, it was enlightening to hear his view on his ‘tantrums’ and outbursts… It’s a very valuable perspective on a lonely journey to the top and back down. Every racket sport athlete should read it, along with Pete Sampras’ “Mind Of A Champion”.

The reason I blog about these books is because as an elite athlete, your progress is not solely dependent on your physical ability, skills and aptitudes. It’s also heavily dependent on your psychological and emotional maturity and development in lockstep with your physical accomplishments. The better you get, the tougher you need to become.

Easier said than done.

One of the ways to get tougher is to understand what others have been through and how they overcame their insecurities, vulnerabilities and weaknesses. It’s a personal journey that transcends sport. The games, seasons, championships and rankings are just a score-keeping mechanism to let you know how you’re going!

There are not enough really good books out there to help you become the best athlete you can be – but I can tell you one thing, I came across a really, really good one at the Pan Pacific Games that I will introduce you to in my next blog post – you’ll have to wait for my “official review” and analysis!

Psst! I met with the author personally and guess what? He’s a multiple champion athlete and based in Rocky (That means he’s an Aussie).

For more great mental toughness books I recommend, click the hyperlink.