One of the greatest skills an athlete can possess is the ability to be mentally tough. The great thing about this trait is that is 100% transferable to business and real life situations. If you can become mentally tough on the field or court, you’ll no doubt be successful in the most important game, life.

Here are nine ways to develop mental toughness that translate into real world success.

  • Be Present. This is often referred to moving on to the next play. In the basketball coaching community it is commonly referred to as, “Playing Present.” Coach Mike Krzyzewski says the most important play is the next play. In order to be mentally tough, you must treat each play as if it’s the most important one. Don’t say, “My Bad” and dwell on the last play; focus and step up to make the next play.
  • Ignore the officials. How many times have you ever seen an official stop the game and reverse the call after a player or coach has argued against it? Can’t think of an example can you? It is a waste of time and energy to argue with officials. If you’re a coach and you constantly argue with officials your players will begin to copy your habit. If you’re not coaching present, they’re not playing present. Playing through the officiating is a true sign of mental toughness.
  • Be uncomfortable. If you want to be the best, you must get used to being uncomfortable. In fact, the best prefer to be uncomfortable because they know this is the only way to get better. This is how true mental toughness is developed. Push yourself past the initial hurt. Go further than you ever thought you could. Go past the aching in your lungs. Get past the burning in your legs. Wake up earlier than you ever have and put in work. This is where greatness starts, before the sun comes up. Those who are mentally tough work way past where comfort lies. Be tough, be uncomfortable.
  • Eliminate excuses. Don’t point a finger when things go wrong. Be the person who accepts responsibility even if it wasn’t your fault. That is what true leadership looks like. You should plan and prepare for the worst, but expect the best. It’s all about the ability to get the job done no matter what the circumstances are. Coach Tony Dungy had a locker room sign that read, “No Excuses, No Explanations.” If you embrace this philosophy you’re on your way to becoming mentally tough.
  • Focus on what you can control. As an athlete or a coach there are only two things you have absolute control over; your attitude and effort. Every day you can come determined to give your best effort and have the most positive attitude possible. You control this. Not your coach, boss, officials, or opponent. Developing the ability to give your best every day no matter what will bring great success. It’s also a sign of true mental toughness.
  • Be in top shape. Tired gets you beat. The best teams and the best players are in the best shape. Period. More games are lost than won in the final minutes because of mental errors due to fatigue. Being in superior physical shape will allow you to focus and execute late in the game. As Coach K says, “Don’t let tired beat you.”
  • Have Energy. What’s the best way to have it? Give it! Be a beacon of positive energy. How do you do this? Lift teammates and co-workers up with words of praise and encouragement. Become self-motivated to play your best and give your all each and every single day. Don’t be someone who only has energy on game-day. Have energy in practice, in off-season conditioning, and in open gyms.
  • Play Hurt. There’s a difference between playing hurt and playing injured. Being hurt means you have discomfort, which will not lead to injury. Being injured means you cannot physically go. If we only played and worked on the days where we felt great we wouldn’t get much accomplished. Mentally tough people push past the pain to reach new heights.
  • Re-focus. It’s easy to start out focused, and most do. But what happens when you lose that focus? Is the game over? Do you quit performing? Of course not. Mentally tough people have the ability to re-focus their thoughts and energy. The greats are able to refocus with razor-sharp precision and execute down the stretch.

If your able to master these nine traits, you’re well on your way to becoming mentally tough.

As always, thanks for reading, have a great week, and be an RGP today!

Coach Elmendorf is available to speak to your team, group, and organization. Message him for details.