Becoming Better is a series that focuses on improving upon habits that are an essential part of who you are.
Have you ever wondered how Sarah Thomas, an American ultramarathon swimmer, finished swimming the English Channel not once or twice but four times nonstop for around 54 hours just a year after her breast cancer treatment?
Astonished to hear about the story of Jyotika Kumari, a 15 year old from Bihar who cycled 1200km with her father during the Coronavirus pandemic to reach her hometown.
Do you feel proud and flabbergasted when para-athletes outperform and shine?
Is physical training, skill acquisition and tactical knowledge the only ingredient of their success in the above instances? What is common in all these situations is the Mental toughness that braced them to stay strong at all times.
Mental toughness is a mindset that influences an individual’s reaction to stressful, pressurising, and challenging situations. Mental toughness characterises the ability to push oneself to go beyond their comfort zone both physically and mentally. It is the ability to replicate performance even in the face of adversity. Mental toughness is a skill that enhances both performance and mental-well being.
Understanding the 4C’s
The 4C’s are the component of mental toughness that guides your behaviour and feelings in difficult situations. They are the building blocks of mental toughness.
Control refers to the ability to control your emotions, thoughts and the situation you are in. At multiple occasions players have lashed out at referees in anger or under-performed in anxiety and stress. Mentally tough athletes stay calm in every situation and perform independent of their emotions and thoughts.
Commitment refers to the quantity and quality of motivation. It refers to the extent to which an athlete sets personal goals and consistently works hard towards achieving them.
Challenge refers to the ability to go beyond your comfort zone and accept challenges and risk. A mentally tough player embraces change & innovation, views challenges as opportunity to growth and enjoys learning and growth.
Confidence refers to the firm belief in one’s athletic abilities. High confidence means high self-belief to cope with challenging situations and stand firm in the face of adversity.
The good part is that mental toughness can be trained and developed.
To develop mental toughness continuous & consistent efforts should be exercised. Mental toughness can be built every day. Here are some simple exercises to build your mental toughness.
Deep Breathing: Whether you are anxious, happy, or angry, paying attention to breath is always a good idea to control your emotions. Deep breathing won’t magically make your emotions disappear but it delays your reactions in any situation. It helps in keeping calm and taking a step back in the moment of intense emotions delaying your immediate reaction.
Set process goals: To maintain your commitment level for a longer period, set process goals (e.g. skill improvement) so that you can track your progress easily. These small achievements boost your sense of accomplishments encouraging you to work even harder to improve further.
Learn new skills: Mastering new skills and techniques stimulates growth and challenge. It also helps you in improving your athletic performance.
Use verbal affirmation: You can control what you say to yourself while you are practicing or competing, while you are winning or losing, while you are playing or resting. Your self-talk shapes your thoughts and emotions and that affects your confidence and performance. Use positive affirmation to maintain and reinforce your confidence:
Mental toughness is equally important to physical skills and techniques. It distinguishes the best from the rest. Practicing these mental hacks everyday can help you in building and strengthening your mental toughness.