All posts by Andy Walker

Science and technology author and writer. Personal Development Coach. Author of the new transhumanism book Super You

Athletes with ADHD

Olympic champ Carl Lewis has ADHD

A surprising number of professional athletes have attention deficit disorder (ADHD). Data shows eight to 10 percent of all pro athletes have ADHD. This compares to four to five percent of the general population of adults.

To learn more about the condition or to take an ADHD test, click here.

Here are some of the world class athletes that have been diagnosed with ADHD.

Justin Gatlin: Co-holder of the world’s record in the 100-meter sprint. 5 time Olympic medallist. Info

Cammi Granato: Olympic gold and silver medalist, women’s hockey. Info

Chris Kaman: Retired. Formerly with Portland TrailBlazers. Info

Michael Phelps, Olympic Swimmer. Most successful and most decorated Olympian of all time, with a total of 28 medals. Info

Simone Biles, Gymnast and gold-medallist Olympian, 30 championship and Olympic medals. Info

Pete Rose – Retired baseball great

Jason Kidd – NBA basketball star Info

Carl Lewis – Olympic sprinter. Hold 9 Olympic medals. Info

See this additional list of athletes with ADHD: Click here.

Also see this list of famous people with ADHD

How old do you have to be to compete as a gymnast in the Olympics?

If you have ever wondered what the minimum age to compete in the Olympics as a gymnast is, because you have a dream of winning a medal one day, then here’s the bottom line.

According to the web site How Old Do I Need to Be, you need to be 16 years old to compete as an Olympic gymnast. However, the site says you can actually be younger – age 15 – if you turn 16 the year the Olympics is held.

It also says if you want to compete in a different sport, then the minimum age may be different. For example, divers must be 14.

The age rules are set out by each sport federation for the applicable sport. In the case of Gymnastics they are set by the International Federation of Gymnastics.

And, if you are wondering how Nadia Comaneci won her medals in 1976 at the Montreal Olympics at age 14, then that’s because the minimum age rules were changed in 1987.






How to Help Your Young Gymnast Overcome Fear and Anxiety

How to help a young gymnast overcome fear and anxiety
The words “I can’t” are often heard in the gym. 
But the gymnast who says they can’t doesn’t say it because they physically can’t try a new move. The words “I can’t” don’t represent a lack of ability or physical strength at all. 

“I can’t” represents fear and anxiety. They’re totally natural responses to trying something new, especially in gymnastics.

Remember, gymnastics isn’t like tennis or volleyball. Gymnastics holds significantly more risk than virtually any other sport.

Gymnasts at any level can hurt themselves in any number of ways every time they show up for practice.

The likelihood that a young gymnast will fall on their head, face, back, knees, or anywhere else from a serious height is far more significant than any sport.

So learning to positively deal with negative feelings like fear? You signed up for that when you dropped your child off at their very first lesson.

Fear and Anxiety: It Happens to Everyone

Your young gymnast is not alone in their fears and anxieties.

In fact, it would be hard to find a gymnast who was never afraid performing of a particular skill.

It’s worth reiterating that gymnastics requires gymnasts to use every muscle in their body to throw their bodies upside down and twist them around while attempting to land on a piece of wood 3 inches thick.

Did we mention they do all this backwards, too?

Oh, and they need to smile when they do it.

Even elite gymnasts, like seven-time Olympic gold medalist and gymnastics icon Shannon Miller or tumbling phenom Simone Biles experience fear and anxiety in the gym.

The first thing to understand about fear and encouraging your young gymnast is recognizing that everyone is afraid sometimes.

Being afraid doesn’t mean they’re weaker than other gymnasts. It certainly doesn’t mean they don’t have what it takes to succeed.

It’s natural. In fact, fear is useful.

Fear Is A Gymnast’s Best Friend (After Chalk)

Fear keeps gymnasts from flinging themselves off the bars attempting a skill they’re nowhere near ready for. It prevents injuries. Being scared sometimes keeps you safe.

Relating the message that fear is natural is important not because gymnasts should be allowed to be perpetually afraid.

Giving them the confidence to let you know their scared is important so you can help them fix the problem.

Lashing out or shaming them doesn’t help. It only makes them afraid to tell you they’re anxious or nervous, which adds to the negative feelings.

Compounding negativity takes the fun out of sport – and that’s where they’re there.

Instead, help them get over their fears by allowing you to help them work through it using various strategies for overcoming fear.

Why You Shouldn’t Force Them Through Fear

The worst thing you can do as a coach or parent of a young gymnast is to force the child to perform the skill there and then when they’re afraid.

It often seems like the right thing to do.

How often do parents throw their children into the pool to teach them to swim?

Well, that doesn’t work in gymnastics.

Here’s why:

According to research published in the Journal of Clinical Sport Psychology, fear and anxiety in gymnastics often result in a skill block during movement or execution.

That manifestation of worry is important. Gymnasts have two options when they go for a skill.

  • The first option is to commit to it 100%.
  • The second option is to bail and practice a modified version of the skill in a safer space.

But what about the 99% in between?

There is no halfway in gymnastics. Committing halfway to a skill, regardless of the difficulty or where it’s performed, never goes well. In some cases, it leads to a half-hearted attempt with bad form. Too often, it results in injuries whether temporary or otherwise.

Either way, going 50% of the way never looks pretty.

Here’s another reason force doesn’t work in gymnastics like it does at the pool. If your child flails around in the water before starting to drown, you go in after them. They get a little water up their nose or in their ears. Your child is probably scared and angry at you for throwing them in. But generally, they’re fine.

If a gymnast bails mid-move, they’ll land on their head and likely get hurt (usually temporarily). There’s nothing you can do about that. You can’t dive in after them without either making the damage worse or getting hurt yourself. Instead, you’ve just proven their fears correct: they did what they were so afraid of and they got hurt.

Instead, you’ve just proven their fears correct: they did what they were so afraid of and they got hurt. See? They had every reason to be afraid and there will be no more back handsprings on the beam.

Again, there are only ever two choices if you want to keep your young gymnast safe.

Don’t force them into performing tasks they’re not ready for.

Do better. Give them the skills they need to get around their mental blocks and overcome their fears.

Identifying Fear in Young Gymnasts

When working with a young gymnast, it’s important to remember you’re working with a child.

fear buster course

Kids aren’t as skilled at identifying and overcoming emotions are adults are.

They don’t always have the experience to identify their fear and begin to work to overcome it.

Here are three steps to begin to work through fear:

1. Work Together to Identify the Source of the Fear

First, you need to work together to figure out where the fear comes from. Is the fear because of a previous fall? Is a lack of self-confidence? Or is the athlete really too weak to successfully perform the skill? Are they unable to make the shapes required to perform safely?

Help the child identify what they’re afraid of. Is it falling? Is it getting hurt?

2. Work to Correct the Identified Fear

Is the child afraid of falling off the high beam? Are they afraid of running into the vaulting table? Are they afraid of being unable to perform a skill their peers have mastered?

Use their fear and match it. Provide a solution.

Move them off the high beam or add mats to prevent major falls.

Add vaulting drills or practice with the springboard on the floor.

Work on the skill in private away from prying eyes. Remind the gymnast that they are capable and that every gymnast has a weak spot. There’s no shame in not being able to master every single skill.

We’ll talk more about strategies for correcting and alleviating fears in the next section.

3. Create Disciplined Thinking

Fear on its own is a positive thing. It goes wrong when it leads to thoughts that run wild and lead to negative possibilities. Some of those possibilities are out of the realm of possibility. Others are somewhat possible.

It goes wrong when it leads to thoughts that run wild and lead to negative possibilities. Some of those possibilities are out of the realm of possibility. Others are somewhat possible.

Either way, when you lose control of your thoughts, you also often lose control of your performance.

This is the biggest stumbling block for gymnasts. Losing the necessary focus required to nail a skill or a series – no matter how elementary – is what ultimately leads to the accidents a young gymnast is afraid of.

Free failure prevention tool for gymnasts
Free failure prevention tool for gymnasts

Disciplined thinking is the ultimate strategy no only in overcoming fear but in becoming a better athlete.

Technical strategies are a great way to create disciplined thinking.

Create a chain of commands that the gymnast needs to follow to successfully the skill.

Break down the move or series into individual pieces. Body parts or muscle groups often work best. Then, teach it to the gymnast. 

It’s a device that works two ways.

First, it improves performance by reminding them of the technical details of the move using an auditory method.

For example, if they’re performing a layout with a full twist and they struggle with the timing of their arms, create programming for that.

Arms up. Pull in. Squeeze. Twist.

Second, it provides ordered thinking for the gymnast to focus on before performing the skill. It preoccupies their mind so they don’t focus on the noise telling them they might fail.

Moving On and Moving Up: Strategies for Mental Toughness

Mental toughness is as important for gymnastics as flexibility and strength. It gives young gymnasts what they need to get over their fears and reach the next skill level. But more importantly, mental toughness helps every gymnast drive further in their sport. It provides the confidence needed to avoid being psyched out by your competition.

Mental toughness helps you correct yourself even when you feel out of balance. Risks become less scary because you can visualize payoffs. Setbacks are no longer career ending. 

But once again, mental toughness is the goal. But driving out fear is the issue at hand – though, strategies for dealing with fear are intimately tied up with mental toughness.

Different strategies will be more appropriate for some gymnasts and certain situations. So, it’s worthwhile to be aware of as many as possible to adopt them.

Check the Lead Ups and Progressions

In some cases, the gymnast either hasn’t developed the skills required or doesn’t realize they’ve developed the skills required to complete the full move.

Look to see whether they can breakdown the skill into smaller pieces. Drill those parts of the skill until they realize they’re capable and confident. Then, put them back up.

Get Down and Practice More

In a video for her website, Shannon Miller talks about dealing with her own fear on the balance beam. She says she coped with her own fear using several strategies.

Gymnasts who find themselves frozen on the beam shouldn’t stand there. Instead of psyching themselves out, Miller recommends hopping off the beam right away.

If after a count of three, she can’t do the skill. The young gymnast needs to get off the beam.

Get down. Practice the skill on the floor. Get back up on the beam. Try again.

If it’s still too scary, jump right back down and repeat. Start on the floor. Move to a low beam. Head to a middle beam. Get back up on the high beam.

Miller says there are two major benefits to this.

First, it stops the mental block from becoming worse. It keeps you moving. It doesn’t allow the block to become a big traumatic experience that ends in tears and puts the young gymnast off the skill for a longer period.

Second, it allows the gymnast to drill the skill, which ultimately makes them better in the long run.

Don’t Make Mental Blocks an Issue at Home

Athletes who are struggling in the gym are already feeling pressure.

While much of getting children over the hump is the coach’s responsibility through training and on-the-spot analysis, parents also play a major role

Gymnasts aren’t simply worried about disappointing themselves or feeling embarrassed in front of their peers. They don’t want to disappoint their parents either.

They know their parents spend time and money on their sport. When they can’t perform, many young gymnasts feel guilt.

Don’t let the mental block in the gym affect your relationship at home.

Even if you aren’t concerned with their progress, asking them about whether they’ve overcome their mental block can stress them out further.

Instead, don’t ask them if they’ve finally nailed their skill. Ask them if they had fun or what their favorite part of practice was.

Mental Toughness is an Essential Skill in Gymnastics

It’s a sport where you’ll fall down more often than not, and it requires serious bravery just to attempt some of the basic skills.

But don’t forget that fear is a natural part of the sport, too. It keeps your child safe while also serving as a motivating factor. Fear makes sure your young gymnast is ready to commit 100% to every move or series.

Sometimes, we need extra help with being tough. After all, gymnastics is hard and the competition is fierce. 

Help Your Gymnast Overcome Fear and Anxiety with Mental Toughness Training

Mental Toughness training is there for you and your young gymnast.  It will help your gymnast overcome fear and anxiety, and then perform at their potential.

Test your gymnast’s toughness today and  then work with your child to take their skills to the next level with our Mental Toughness Training Program.


History of Mental Toughness

sports research 1970s
Melvin R. Ramey, of the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering at UC Davis, conducting research  circa 1970. A UC Davis athlete, Keith Williams, takes off from the biomechanics force platform constructed by Ramey, in the Structures Laboratory in Bainer Hall at UC Davis. While research on physical performance has long been studied, mental toughness research is a much younger discipline.

For more than a century, scientists have studied the psychology behind sports and performance. The study of mental toughness, as an offshoot of that discipline, is a relative newcomer. Here’s how it was developed and who are the luminaries in this short history of mental toughness.

Mental toughness provides a way to measure resilience and confidence as well as coaching methods for improvement. From its roots in the 1900s to today’s easy to access performance tools, the concept of mental toughness has evolved. It is now a useful tool for any performance minded person (athlete, entertainer, business person, soldier, and beyond) that wants to manage stress, anxiety, doubt, self-consciousness, and fear – and create breakthrough results.

Early Years of Mental Toughness

In 1898,  psychologist Norman Triplett conducted the first recognized sport psychology experiment. His study showed that cyclists in a race were faster in competition with other racers than in individual time-trials, identifying social influence as a motivator.

But it wasn’t until 1925 that Coleman Griffith studied the effect of mental characteristics on sports performance. He worked with the Chicago Cubs until 1940, and is considered the founder of sport psychology.

Little was done in the field for nearly two decades until sport psychologists started unifying in the late 1960s. It didn’t take long for players and coaches in professional sports to take notice. Much of NFL Coach Vince Lombardi’s success is attributed to working with players to remove doubt and to convince them that winning was the only acceptable outcome.

He is famously quoted as saying: “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.”

Coach Vince Lombardi and Green Bay Packers player Bart Starr (credit: public domain)

Lombardi too is  sometimes referred to as the father of mental toughness.

Olympic interest in mental toughness

In the 1980s the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) became interested in the potential of sport psychology. In 1983 they created a registry of sport psychologists with advanced degrees to provide referrals to athletes who wanted to improve the mental aspect of their game.

 Important Advances in Mental Toughness

If mental toughness only had implications for athletes, it might never have evolved to the extent that is has. However, Dr. Jim Loehr recognized the same principles could be applied to business.

His book, “Mentally Tough: The Principles of Winning at Sports Applied to Winning in Business” was published in 1986. He wrote 15 more books, focusing on the importance of applying energy and focus to be fully engaged in the project at hand.

In recent years the goal has been to establish quantifiable measurements of mental toughness to make it possible to reliably assess resiliency and hardiness. Mental toughness evaluations can also be used to select who can be place in high stress positions and still success.

How Mental Toughness in Sports Psychology Relates to Business

Business leaders need to have their head in the game every bit as much as an athlete. The six main features of mental toughness that easily translate into the challenges that leaders face include:


Adversity happens in boardrooms too. Personal attacks must be handled with the same composure as athletes are expected to exhibit on the field.


Knowing how to remain optimistic and rebound quickly in the face of adversity is important in any situation.

Courage and ethics

There will always be the temptation to cut corners or make short-sighted decisions, but acting with with confidence and courage makes it easier to make difficult decisions that are right and that are inside the rules set out by the competitive environment.


Leaders can face seemingly insurmountable odds just like a team on the field. Having the confidence and strength to persevere is what results in success.


Curve balls happen in more than baseball. Having the ability to remain flexible and find another way to move forward is important. Leaders need to constantly adapt to changes rather than being defensive about an old method that isn’t working.


This is similar to flexibility, except it addresses how quickly the performer can adapt, and how successfully decisions are made under pressure.

Future of Mental Toughness Coaching

Highly successful companies recognize that providing employees the tools for success profits the business. Mental toughness coaching is especially useful in industries where competition is heavy and escalating complexity puts executives under extreme pressure.

Many occupations are inherently high stress – medical workers, emergency responders, and military personnel, to name a few. But any occupation can be stressful for someone with inadequate mental toughness. Mental toughness coaching as a stress management tool is proving to be effective in many industries and professions.

Parents should consider mental toughness coaching for their children – whether athletic or now. Building resiliency makes it easier to meet life’s challenges and handle the pressures they will inevitably face.

Mental toughness as a discipline has proven it has a place in the coaches’ training arsenal from youth athletics to professional teams. It is increasingly recognized that mental toughness training can be successfully adapted to many other demanding pursuits. This has exciting implications for all professionals who have to compete in ever more competitive environments.

Have you taken our mental toughness test? It takes 2 minutes. Click here

Personal Bests and a Gold Medal are Rewards for Training Her Mental Toughness

I’m so excited to tell you about Erika. She is a young gymnast who has been working with Mental Toughness Inc. for eight months now. We have focused on coping with the stresses of high performance (lots of elements of risk) routines, and maintaining confidence as the competition-stakes get higher.

Last week at Provincials (the equivalent of a state championship, for those in the U.S.), Erika’s first of two days of competition had not gone as she had hoped. She completed solid, but not flawless executions of two of her four events. In the two events she did nail, floor and vault, Erika had to cope with feelings of disappointment, and still face the next day of competition. She knew she had to call on her mental toughness, and she and I spoke at length that night.

Mental Toughness Inc client Erika wins goldAfter putting the highs and lows into perspective I asked Erika about her disappointment. She embodied (remembered with all of her senses) the feelings and physical sensations of knowing her performance was good, but not her best. She accepted, rather than resisted, her reasonable feelings of frustration and sadness. She acknowledged her emotions and let go of what she ‘should’ feel, or what she needed to ‘make herself’ feel for the next day.

From that self-compassionate place of acceptance, and by being with her emotions rather than trying to control them, Erika could see that what happens tomorrow is not predicated on today. In other words, after really being with her disappointment she was able to clear the emotional deck, and create Day 2 from scratch.

Erika then embodied the exhilaration she feels when she knows she’s nailed a routine. Before she turned in for the night she committed to visualizing her best events performed flawlessly, followed by reliving the feelings of elation when she sticks her landings.

Erika says she awoke on Day 2 “impatient” to start the day, and she reports feeling “excited and jittery, in a good way”. Those new feelings set the stage for a great day of competition. Erika scored two personal bests in floor and vault, and came away with the gold medal for her floor routine.

Erika showed remarkable maturity as an athlete. She had the kind of day any athlete knows, the “less than she’d hoped for kinda day”. She had self-awareness that she was emotionally burdened by that. By reaching out to her Mental Toughness coach, she demonstrated resilience and determination to face the next day with psychological strength. Erika was courageous, and felt into her difficult emotions of stress and disappointment, without shying away from them, allowing them eventually to pass, or have less hold over her. And she used the power of embodiment and visualization to imagine, and then execute, a stellar performance.

Congratulations Erika!

How to beat fear and anxiety

If you are looking for a way to overcome fear that is holding you back from a maxed outperformance, then there are a lot of resources out there that can help. Here are a few good articles. You will see some commonalties between them.

Sure-fire Ways to Overcome Fear and Anxiety Today:

If you find yourself becoming overly anxious, use the following steps to help you calm down and start to regain control.

3 Ways to Overcome Fear Immediately

If there is one thing that holds millions of people back each day from growing as an individual, achieving high levels of success and becoming the best version of themselves, fear is definitely at the top of the list.

Ten ways to fight your fears

Whatever it is that scares you, here are 10 ways to help you cope with your day-to-day fears and anxieties.

Getting through fear is a skill that anyone can learn. The problem is that most people cling to their fears, because it’s part of who they are. If you aren’t ready to face your fears, you probably won’t. And there’s nothing wrong in that. Everything happens in its own time.

Dominate your fear






Tips for Intentionally Getting More From Your Day

You are an athlete, a high performer, and you don’t have time to waste, right?  And, I’ll bet that’s not all you do.  You likely balance family, education, work, daily chores, making meals (you’ve got to eat don’t you?), and recovery tasks like massage, physiotherapy, and more eating!  So, how can you make more time to focus on your passions?  The following 8 ideas will make you more productive so that you have more time for your other passions:

Start your day out right!
Self-control has been shown to be highest in the morning.  By making good choices early, you can take your morning energy well into your day.

  • Begin by drinking lemon water.  It improves nutrient absorption over time, which can result in a steadier level of energy over the course of your day.
  • Exercise to get yourself going.  This may not be your primary work out, but even one short vigorous activity will set your body up for a productive day.
  • Stay away from screen-time.  Practice self-awareness at the beginning of your day (some people choose to meditate).  This kind of awareness is critical to high performers, so spend some time with yourself, and let the others wait.

Set goals for your day!
As in sports, so in life.  Daily goals help you focus your energy.  The completion of these specific goals/tasks over the course of the day helps you have a sense of accomplishment.  Setting training goals for each training session gives meaning to each workout.  The sense of achievement refuels your energy tank.

To-Do Lists CAN work!
What are the tasks that need to be tackled in order to meet your goals for the day? Go ahead, make a list, but do this one critical thing:  ASSIGN DATES and TIMES to each item on the list.  Scheduling the tasks holds you accountable to yourself, has you avoid distractions, and ensures that you create quality time (both physical and mental) for your training.  You can use the same technique as a structure for your training time.  For example, before your workout decide what, and for how long, and then give it all you’ve got!

De-clutter your critical spaces!
By this I mean not just your room or your office, but your workout spaces.  In what state of order is your gear?  Can you grab it and go?  Is it washed and ready, just waiting to be put to good use?  If it’s not, then get on top of it.  You lose time looking for things, so make sure your gear is ready for the day, if not the night before, then as a part of your morning routine.  Declutter your training space too: No cell phones, make it ready for the work you must do, and then you can stay focused on the task.  Remove the obstacles in your way.  Clear your space, clear your mind, and keep your goals and objectives in sight.

90 minutes is the magic number!
Whether it’s for chores, schoolwork or training, 90 minutes has been shown to be the maximum time you can work hard at one task.  What is even more efficient is to break the 90 minutes into 20-30 minute chunks.  Take intentional short breaks, change your visual focus, alter your posture, and then get back at it with gusto!  Envisioning your workouts in parcels like this will also have you more focused and working with more intensity.

Do the hard things first!
Tackling the toughest tasks at the beginning of your day, when your energy is highest, will pay off with a sense of achievement that will refill your precious well of energy.  And, getting started on the hard things first trains you out of the trap of procrastination.  This freedom from procrastination fires you up and frees you to do the things you really want to do.

Say NO, and say no to multi-tasking!
Multitasking doesn’t work.  Your brain can only focus on one thing at a time, and that’s a skill you want to perfect for training and competition.  We coach our athletes to know that “performance only happens in the present”.  So, why not practice focus all day long.  Saying NO to distractions honors your commitment to your goals and to yourself.  It’s time to channel your inner toddler and say ‘No!’ to the things that you from what you really want to achieve today.  Keep an inventory of what distracts you (put away your phone!) and avoid it.

Sleep more and sleep better!
It goes without saying that if you are well rested, you’ll have better energy during the day.  Better energy leads to more impactful actions, and ultimately to higher performance.  n evening routine provides the foundation for the kind of sleep a high performer really needs.  Bedtime is another place to practice discipline: Keep regular hours, avoid food just before you hit the sack, and no screen time for at least 30min before its lights out.  (More on the importance of sleep another time!)  Go to bed with discipline, wake up with discipline, and start all over again to maximize productivity all day long!

Have a great day!!


Why is “PRODUCTIVE” a Magic Word for High Performers

1. Have a clear vision

2.  Get your priorities in focus, and 

3.  Be punctual

                  …Sounds like a pitch for being productive on the job, doesn’t it?

As an athlete or high performer you know all about being “busy”.  However, it’s not just important to be productive in school or at work so that you can squeeze in your invaluable training time.  You must also train with the principle of “PRODUCTIVE” at the core of each workout, so that you can get the most out of every training session.

How do you do that?  Here’s what the experts have to say about becoming more productive…

Peter Gruber says that you must have a VISION.  You need to get crystal clear about the specifics of that vision for yourself, to really imagine it in detail.  When creating your vision, check in on how do you feel.  Do you feel kinda strange or ‘off’ – then what part of your vision needs a re-work?  Or better yet, what are your self-limiting voices trying to talk you out of?

Mental Toughness coaches and other experts can help you define vision for yourself.  Let this vision be the ‘Why’ behind what you are working towards.

Tony Robbins says GET FOCUSED.  Over and over in a game or at a crunch moment you need to shut out the distractions and the mental noise to regain your focus.  Based on a UCLA study, your brain has about 48 thoughts per minute, and in the heat of competition you need to be able to ignore your self-talk in order be fully present.  This takes practice, daily practice.

So, it’s important to practice focus throughout your whole day, not just in training time.  Determine what your priorities are – in school or in work, or in life – and take specifically targeted actions.  By doing so, you’ll be more emotionally invested in what you are doing, which will fuel motivation and have a critical impact on your training and competition results.

Richard Branson says BE PUNCTUAL.  Being on time shows your respect for others – your coaches and teammates will definitely appreciate it.  Punctuality allows for efficient use of the time allotted, for work, school, or for training.  But the biggest impact is that being on punctual has you know yourself to be dependable:  When you know that about yourself, without a doubt you can rely on yourself in stressful, risky, and clutch situations.

So practice VFP: VISION, FOCUS, and PUNCTUALITY.  Grounding yourself in these three concepts will soon have you mentally tough enough for those killers days, tight games, and big dreams.

Watch this blog for future tips on staying and becoming more productive.

The Power of Reflection

In sport, heck, in any kind of high performance pursuit, we talk a lot about goal setting and the mental toughness required to really put yourself out there and to maybe even fail (check out my blog on “Why Failure is Necessary” if you missed it). The path to our goals, especially our boldest and loftiest goals, is seldom a straight line: Picture a slinky, stretched wayyyyyy out – a spiral of sorts. Performance goes like that stretched, spiraled slinky – with moments of greatness, periods of stalling, and even some setbacks – up and down and around and around to your goal.

Enter in ‘Self-Reflection’ as a barometer of sorts. Self-reflection allows you to learn and find the good moments no matter where you happen to be on your spiral of progress.  Whether you’ve experienced your ideal result or had a setback, self-reflection gives you the tools to continue growing towards your goal.  That’s why I always advise athletes to engage in self-reflection after every performance, regardless of outcome (good or bad).  Self-reflection is different than debriefing your game, race, or performance; it’s more subtle than that, more like a private and compassionate conversation with yourself.

The trick to using self-reflection to grow towards even your loftiest goals is to regularly ask yourself the following 10 questions:

  1. What kind of person am I to set such lofty goals?
  2. What did it take to put myself to the test?
  3. What did I risk to compete this time?
  4. Did I execute my performance plan?
  5. Did I put it all on the line, or did I have something left to give?
  6. Was I coachable under pressure, did I self-correct?
  7. Did I support or role model for others during the event (as in leaders leading or team mates working together)?
  8. Did I improve on something since my last competition/event?
  9. What did I do well?
  10. What would I choose to improve on the next time?

In the answer to these 10 questions, you’ll discover many reasons to celebrate. If nothing else, you can celebrate that you took courageous actions and caused results that will now offer you feedback to improve and excel the next time! You can then choose what you want to do with that feedback (for instance, you don’t even have to use it all!!).

Now here’s the true magic of reflection: None of the celebration has anything to do with the score or the outcome, but rather on the process that led you to where you are! By focusing on the process vs. the results, you can then build success into EVERY performance, no matter the outcome!!

Matter Over Mind

Matter over Mind – Huh?

The common pairing of these two words is Mind over Matter. But, I’d like to argue that all too often our mind sets limits to which we unconsciously comply. The mind is the boss of everything we choose to do, and everything we ask of our bodies. So this blog is going to be about choosing ‘Matter over Mind’.

As an athlete and/or a high performer in life there are two main ways in which our mind inhibits us. But first, let’s ask ‘why?’

  • Why wouldn’t our mind naturally choose to engage in behaviours that would have us be our best?
  • Why is it more natural for our inner voices to convince us to stick with what we know, do what feels comfortable?

The theories suggest that it goes back to our prehistoric roots. When we took risks or pushed ourselves to the point of being physically uncomfortable, the results were often life threatening. Fire, natural disasters, extreme weather and giant predators took no prisoners. It was play it safe or die.

So, how does our mind hold us back?

One way our mind holds us hostage is by creating an inner voice that convinces us to avoid risk, avoid fear, and avoid discomfort, both physical and emotional. This voice goes by many names in the lexicon of coaching, such as “the Saboteur”, “the Gremlin”, “the self-limiting voice”, and “negative self-talk”. This voice has one main goal: Keeping the status quo!!! It’s working, right? You’re safe, why rock the boat. So, through words, rationalization and unconscious emotional responses, we play a smaller game than we need to.

The other method our mind holds us back is by convincing us we are more tired than we are. There’s a study of runners who ran 20km. The first half of the group ran on their own and the other half was connected to a machine that stimulated their muscles. At 15km the first group fatigued; however, the group whose muscles were being extrinsically stimulated showed no signs of tiring. In other words, the muscles were not actually as tired as the other group perceived them to be.

It goes back to that prehistoric legacy, that we need energy for any potential ‘fight or flight’ responses. “We are wired to leave something in the tank,” says sports psychologist Jim Taylor, Ph.D. “Years ago, when we hunted for meals, we needed to conserve energy to get back home. Our minds want to make sure we don’t fatigue completely.”

So the next time you think you can’t do something, ask yourself: Is this my mind inhibiting my body? Is this an opportunity to practice Matter over Mind? Getting Mentally Tough is training the mind to move beyond the comfort zone, and let yourself, and your powerful body find new and exciting limits. Then bust through them again!