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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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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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