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Mental Strength


Good Energy–Good Feet

When watching a skilled athlete surf, play tennis, volleyball or attempt to make a tackle in football, you can see when their movement becomes tight and lacking in intensity and the right energy.

The cause is often the lack of performance breathing, present moment awareness and focus on the physical sensations and tempo. In short, the player in question appears nervous, hesitant, and playing without purpose.

The answer for athletes that suffer from this serious condition is to breathe, go deep, and settle down. Feel your feet, breathe through your core, and restore the confidence and mental strength. Visualize yourself feeling prepared and ready to execute the expectations. Get the job done with fire and passion.

Mental Strength

In the late eighties and early nineties, I was working with tennis teams and individual boys and girls at Punahou School. During this time, a tennis professional named James Loehr coined the term “Toughness Training.” In his way of thinking, mental toughness was the key to learning to play under pressure.

I used and wrote about the term “mental toughness” until it became synonymous with athletes and the Navy Seals testing the limits of their bodies to endure pain. STOP. The term mental toughness was beginning to feel stiff and tight. In my work as a coach, I want to help people express feelings freely, and want to be present. I now use the term “mental strength” to describe the process of learning to breathe, go deep, settle down and feel the sensations of what you want to happen in the moment.

In the GED program, “mental strength” is defined in terms of a process that is equal parts gratitude, excitement, and devotion. There is joy and fun in the process of finding the flow. Those are the moments when the energy you expend comes back to you as the energy to continue seemingly without limits.

Gratitude and Mental Strength

The mindset that becomes a habit: evaluate the challenge, consider the options and when appropriate, “go all in,” breathe and express your gratitude. The resulting awareness will lead you to why this action is so important to you. With increased clarity comes confidence to deal effectively with what is expected of you and what you expect of yourself.

At the next level, the preparation will teach you to trust the process and have patience and compassion for yourself and others.

I’m thinking of Novak Djokovic’s ability to settle down and not panic even when he is down by one or more sets. A good, recent example is this year’s French Open when he was down two sets to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final, but didn’t panic, coming back to win the next three sets. Looking at his face on the sidelines between games, he was the embodiment of focus and confidence, in a meditative state. It’s also notable for him because he has a terrible temper, and he must hold it back to succeed.

On the other hand, his performance in the finals of the recent US Open, was subpar. Novak lost his focus and the confidence that usually goes with it. The good energy was missing, and his movements were tight. Quite simply he was not the same player. Only time will tell if he “wants it” enough to get his confidence and mental strength back and return to his winning ways.

Excitement and Mental Strength

Acceptance of the work to get the job done becomes a habit: Breathe, employ the work ethic, and express the fire and passion. In time you will learn to practice and compete with complete focus on the sensations associated with proper form, tempo, and execution.

Reflection: At the next level, the process will teach you to trust yourself to show up and give your best effort.

I once worked briefly with a young female musician. We met as part of a group experience with some very talented members of a school orchestra. Her issue was with practice, more specifically with her mother who insisted she practice for a certain amount of time every night. In our discussions she decided to use her breathing to overcome the feeling of resistance for practice. At the end of one week, they had a performance where she played a very difficult solo. The feedback from her teachers for this young player was overwhelmingly positive. In short, she learned to breathe, go deep, settle down and focus completely on the sensations related to her fingertips, hands, arms, core, legs, and feet that all contribute to her best effort.

Devotion and Mental Strength

Completion of the process that becomes a habit: Breathe, then balance the expectations with the results of your efforts. In time, you will develop the capacity to establish a lens for debriefing the lessons and recording the growth.

Reflection: At the next level, the process will teach you the truth about your fire and passion that is reflected in the performance.

I remember several volleyball players, boys and girls at every level that have learned how to breathe, go deep, be present, and feel the sensations associated with using the breath to generate the feel and power needed to move, pass, hit and block with accuracy. In each case it was the breathing and the focus that allowed these players to work hard and express all the fire and passion they have for becoming the best version of themselves,

Next Level

The GED Process combined with mental strength can produce some extreme results in confidence, performance, and growth. The confidence can make individuals and teams seem unbeatable. The performance can be “flow-like”, perhaps even effortless. The growth can be unprecedented. The secret in performing at this level is always in the quality of the work. Work that is pure in that it is both enjoyed and produces the intended results

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