Are you mentally strong?

“Mental strength is essential for success.”

-Vince Lombardi

Last spring, San Francisco 49ers head coach Mike Singletary brought a new kind (and a new level) of pain to his team’s training camp. Known simply as “the hill,” it’s a 45-degree incline that he built for running. Singletary first witnessed the use of hill runs during his time as a Hall of Fame middle linebacker with the Chicago Bears of the 1980s. While it obviously increased player stamina, its primary benefit was increased significant in the persistence and perseverance of the players. Walter Payton, Singletary’s teammate in the 1980s and the Bears’ record-breaking runner, believed that running hills helped players overcome mental obstacles that stand in the way of success. Many people still believe that the 1985 Bears were the greatest team in NFL history. Almost all the so-called “experts” still believe that they were the toughest.

Dave Goggins is a Navy SEAL living in Chula Vista, California. He joined the Navy as a 240 lbs. power lifter SEAL training began his journey to complete fitness. Subsequently, he began running marathons, ultramarathons, and (later) competing in triathlons. He also completed the Ultraman, a megatriathlon that features a grueling combination of a 6.2-mile ocean swim, a 261-mile bike ride, and a 52.4-mile run. Dave does it ostensibly to raise money for the Special Ops Warrior Foundation. People who know him insist that if SOWF didn’t exist, he would find another reason to compete. Dave believes that with focus and discipline, anyone can do almost anything. “I want to see if there is a limit to the human soul,” says Goggins. His motto is “show no weakness.” Visualize success before taking on any major challenge and add the following: “I remember when I was younger, when things were really hard or difficult, they could be so hard that it made you want to quit. That’s a feeling I’ll never have again. ” Dave is one of the toughest guys to walk the face of the earth.

Lance Armstrong competes in a sport whose “main event” (the Tour de France) is the bicycle equivalent of running a marathon up steep hills every day for three weeks. His workout routine is RIDICULOUS! After taking a couple of years “off” (and I use that term VERY loosely) to focus on his charity work, he returned to the Tour in 2009. When he races, Lance is a silent killer. This comment from someone who knows him very well sums up his competitive approach: “The way to plant a seed of doubt in another’s mind is to keep your mouth shut. Lance is nice, so he punches you!”

Lance thinks he’s showing mental toughness by going through the drop points. When others are ready to give up, he goes into overdrive.

Tim Tebow won a Heisman Trophy and two NCAA football championships as a quarterback for the University of Florida Gators. He is widely considered the greatest leader in intercollegiate football history. Ah yes, Tim is much more than football. During the first semester of his senior year, he has a 3.6 GPA. He does missionary work during his “off” summers. In 2009, he did 700 hours of community service. He is also a model of humility. Some resentful college football fans don’t like him… referring to him (condescendingly) as “Mr. Perfect.” Many of them are people who look up to gun-toting NBA stars. Go figure!

These guys come from very diverse backgrounds and all own their own lives. Each of them believes that he is responsible for his actions and their results. Everyone accepts that practice does not, in fact, make perfect: PERFECT practice makes perfect! That extends beyond physical preparation to mental preparation and developing mental toughness. His zeal preparing to win, however, doesn’t tell the whole story. The fact is, a lot of mental toughness isn’t about preparing to win; it’s about learning to lose and learning NOT to lose. This is:

Tom Veneziano wrote the book, The Truth About Winning. Tom is a professional tennis player in Texas. He wrote his book to help tennis players win. Tom talks about cultivating the right attitude towards defeat. According to him, until a person develops the correct perspective on losing and making mistakes, he will not be able to sustain success. That perspective includes accepting losses (NOT resigning yourself to losing, more on the difference later), staying “in the moment,” letting go of defeat while learning from it, cultivating wisdom, and moving on to fight again.

To maintain success in life, regardless of your own personal definition of it, you must also develop mental toughness. Some recommendations follow:

o You must learn to distinguish between your beliefs, your thoughts, your feelings and the facts in any situation. We all carry baggage from our past, especially from our respective childhoods. The lessons passed down to us by our first caregivers are frozen at a very young age to create each of our unique views of the world. Some pieces of it serve us well; some don’t. Most people either accept this notion in the abstract or easily see its consequences on other people, but never examine the precise impact on them.

o Accept 100% responsibility for everything in your life. This does not imply stubborn independence or not asking for help. It DOES imply that victimhood and blame produce bad results. At one time or another, each of us has been a victim of forces beyond our control. There is a big difference, however, between having been victimized and considering yourself a victim. Try looking in the mirror every morning and saying the following: “I own my life. I am the problem and I am the solution!”

o Control your internal dialogue, especially after defeat. We all carry out an incessant internal dialogue. What do you say about how you value yourself? How does your self-talk position you for future success?

o Learn to accept your flaws without resigning yourself to them (this is VERY difficult for me). Acceptance means “surrender to reality.” Resignation means “giving up the possibility.” There is a big difference; not picky.

o Ask yourself (and cite examples) how adept and consistent you are at demonstrating the following character attributes:

o Openness and frankness, both with oneself and with others.

o Dedication to “the truth”


or Resilience

or Resistance

or persistence



or Responsibility

or Loyalty

Get a coach or mentor to help you cultivate mental toughness in 2010 and make this your BEST YEAR EVER!

Copyright 2010 Rand Golletz. All rights reserved.

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