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How to Develop Mental Toughness

How to Develop Mental Toughness

Time after time you see a promising athlete come out of college and go into the pros only to bomb out. He or she had the best athletic ability, yet could not cut it at the professional level. Others might not have great athletic ability, get picked late in the draft and go onto become super stars. Tom Brady comes to mind as someone who wasn’t particularly outstanding in college who has gone on to be a probable first time inductee into the NFL Hall of Fame.

Personally I have seen the same. I spent many years in the US Army Special Forces. We would have tryouts who while in the best physical shape just could not make the grade to be a Green Beret. Others, who would seem to be nondescript, would pass the Special Forces Qualification course with flying colors and go onto to be an outstanding soldier.

You are probably asking yourself by now what is the difference? What do you need to perform at the highest levels, which is even more important than physical ability?

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Mental Toughness

Mental toughness is what separates the superstar from the merely good. It separates the musicians that play small party gigs from the rock stars. Someone without mental toughness can have all the natural talents or ability and not make it as far as someone with mental toughness with average ability.

The key to mental toughness is applying consistently the traits of self motivation, positive attitude, emotional self control, calmness under fire, and being energetic and ready for action. Consistency is important. Through applying these traits day in and day out, you will be able to reach new heights in whatever endeavors you seek whether it be a sport, playing a musical instrument, coding a computer application or writing a novel.

Let’s look at each of the traits of mental toughness:

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Self Motivation

While some sports are team sports and other pursuits are done in conjunction with others life is pretty much played alone. Your motivation must come from within. The intensity of your motivation is determined by how badly you want to perform well.

Motivation can be strengthened many ways. Think back to a failure. That feeling can provide the motivation to keep going, keep practicing. A time of victory can also provide the motivation to reclaim that winning feeling. Use time as a motivator. While others relax you can be gaining on them increasing your skills.

Positive, Realistic Attitude

You are not going to be able to do everything. In Special Forces we always looked for what someone was good at and focused on that. By focusing on strengths, you gain confidence and inspiration from them. You can create your own positive attitude. For example, smaller pro basketball players do not try to go head to head with others over seven feet tall, they focus on their speed and ball handling skills. Focus on what your natural strengths are.

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Emotional Self Control

People who are not in control of their emotions get upset when the something doesn’t go as expected. They alienate spouses, co-workers, teammates by petty, childish behavior. Mentally tough people have tough skins and don’t let outside circumstances affect them. There will be many times whether in a game or in life that things happen outside your control. A mentally tough person keeps their emotions in check and keeps on with the game plan they had in mind from the beginning.

Calm Under Fire

Anything worth going for is going to be high pressure one time or another. Mentally tough people are at their best under pressure. Calmness under fire isn’t something you just switch on. The key here is to seek out pressure situations working up from low pressure to medium pressure to high pressure situations. Perform in front of larger and larger groups. Seek out better and better opponents, games top participate in. What seemed like high pressure before will become the new normal for you.

Energetic and Ready For Action

Mentally tough people get themselves fire up and ready to go for the battle, performance, game or whatever it may be. It might be the middle of the night, you might have played two other performances the same day or you might be under the weather. The pride you get from doing your best in less than optimal circumstances makes it that much easier to succeed in all circumstances. The third performance of the day might not be your best ever, but it should be the best you can possibly give. The next time when conditions are better you will play better for times you pushed yourself to give it all.

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Conclusion

The great thing about mental toughness is that you are not born with it. You don’t have to learn it at a young age. Mental toughness comes simply from the decision to consistently apply the traits I have talked about. You can start today and reach levels of your game, relationships, and success that you never thought possible. Outstanding athletic prowess, superior intellect, musical talent will take someone so far. Without mental toughness they will not reach their full potential.

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The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

What is the productivity paradox?

There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

He wrote in his conclusion:

“Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

How do we measure productivity anyway?

And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

Possible causes of the productivity paradox

Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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  • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
  • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
  • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
  • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

The paradox and the recession

The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

“Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

Looking forward

A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

“Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

“Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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