4 Steps to Becoming Mentally Tougher

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You might not need to demonstrate mental toughness on the athletic field, but you certainly do need mental strength to be a champion at whatever it is you do in life. Whether you’re an accountant gearing up for tax season, or a stay-at-home parent readying the family for back-to-school, your brain can be greatest best asset or your worst enemy.

These four brain exercises can train your brain to perform at its peak:

1. Play to win.

It’s doubtful that Brady entered the second half of the game telling himself, “I just hope we don’t embarrass ourselves.” Judging by his poise, it’s much more likely he was focused on winning. Researchers from the Institute of Sport in England discovered that a simple shift in the way you think about your performance can make a big difference in the outcome. If you walk into a situation thinking, “I hope I don’t lose,” you’ll perform worse than if you think, “I’m here to win.”

Take a deep breath and tell yourself, “I’m going to do well.” That slight change in your thought process will increase your chance of success.

2. Practice mindfulness.

Studies show that mindfulness changes that way the brain responds to stress. That’s why the military has started teaching mindfulness to soldiers prior to deployment: Gaining better control over their brains helps soldiers respond to difficult situations with less anxiety. Athletes from Kobe Bryant to Derek Jeter have also incorporated meditation into their training routines. Phil Jackson, former coach of the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers, says teaching his players mindfulness helped him claim 11 NBA titles.

Clearly, raising your awareness of the present moment gives you a major competitive advantage, especially in today’s distracted world.

3. Visualize success.

In an interview with Mindbodygreen, Olympic gold medalist Lindsey Vonn said, “By the time I get to the start gate, I’ve run that race 100 times already in my head, picturing how I’ll take the turns.” Mental imagery has a profound effect on the way your body behaves.

Studies consistently show that no matter your skill level, visualizing yourself going through the motions will help you do better. Whether you’re about to ask for a raise or give an important presentation, imagine yourself going through the motions. Thinking about each step in the process can help you perform at your peak.

4. Use positive self-talk.

When asked about his decision to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers to play for the Miami Heat, LeBron James told reporters, “I wanted to do what’s best for LeBron James and do what makes LeBron James happy.”

Initially, social media buzzed with teasing about James referring to himself in the third person. Although some suspected he was losing touch with reality, the truth is that talking to himself by name was likely part of his key to success. Studies have found that talking to yourself by name in this way reduces anxiety and helps you make better decisions. So rather than saying, “I can do this,” call yourself by name. As strange as it sounds, it may help you regulate your emotions so you can focus your energy on the task at hand.

Mental Strength Training

The first step to improving your game—whatever your game might be—is to think like a champion. Commit to mental strength training and with practice and dedication, thinking like a champion will become second nature.

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