Golf Mental Toughness Skills
Mental toughness skills enable us to cope with the stressful things that happen to us. Mentally tough, resilient people face potentially disruptive events and circumstances nearly every day, and they make it a habit to turn adversity into opportunities to develop their mental and physical skills.
The worst thing we can do in tough circumstances is to withdraw and use what we call “regressive coping” strategies. Regressive coping usually involves some sort of withdrawal, and the application of the same strategies that we have always used that have not been adaptive in the past. In fact, they may be the same strategies that put us in the jam we are in and are trying to find our way out of.
When we face adversity, we need to stay engaged “in the fight” and to learn how to think productively in the situations that are causing us stress. We need to look for new ways of coping, as well as finding new solutions to old problems. Albert Einstein famously said that, “the significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them!”
Transformational coping strategies are those that emphasize the importance of staying engaged, learning from people who have proven themselves to be successful, strong and resilient, and learning to apply new steps and insights towards the solution of the problems that we face.
A specific mistake that many people who are not mentally tough make is that they externalize the blame for whatever is going on. They fail to see the contributions that they are making to the situations that are causing them stress. Mentally tough people surround themselves with other mentally tough people, and they seek both guidance and encouragement from each other. Very soon they learn that mental toughness is a two way support system, and that they can count on other resilient people on their team to help when times are stressful.
People who lack mental toughness do not have deep and meaningful relationships with resilient people with whom they can learn to count on when times are difficult. The absence of resilience in these people is the cause of additional conflicts, and the confusion caused by blaming others, complaining, and under-performing your share of the task at hand.
Mentally tough people are able to see the success of others as a good thing, something that they can learn from and be inspired by. Weak players are threatened by other people’s achievements, and think of competition as a zero-sum game. If they win, I lose, which is not necessarily the case. Mentally tough people have a sense of great possibilities, and they maintain a focus on the training that it will take to help them improve their performance.
Our studies, as well as a review of the scientific literature on success, shows that mental toughness is probably the best predictor of achievement, and certainly a better predictor than any of the physical factors that we usually associate with successful outcomes. Military studies have conclusively shown that the quality most responsible for great leadership is mental toughness. Mental toughness also has a protective effect against stress negatively affecting performance under pressure. The more mentally tough you are, the less reactive your brain and body are to stress. Numerous stress markers, such as chronically raised blood pressure, and the release of hormones, such as cortisol, are found to be less reactive in people who are resilient.
Once again, mentally tough players recognize that most of the time it is the player who is upsetting himself, as opposed to the specific features of the situation. Players lose control over their thoughts and emotions and trigger very disruptive neuroendocrine responses, which results in a series of physiological changes in the athlete’s body that make it impossible to perform up to expectations. This “stress response” not only affects the player’s clarity of thinking, but results in numerous physiological changes, such as irregular breathing, heart rate acceleration, and several sympathetic nervous system changes that interfere with an athlete’s ability to perform. Even worse, the habits that players who lack mental toughness develop are self destructive, and lead to chronic under-performance.
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