All posts by Kara Zakrzewski

Coach Kara, Kinesiologist, M.A. Sport and Performance Psychology, and Olympic-class athlete, is the Founder, CEO, and Chief Mental Toughness Coach at Mental Toughness Inc. With over 17 years of experience in the sport and performance industry, 7 of which was spent competing as a professional athlete, and after working with 1000s of athletes to develop their mental toughness, Kara is recognized as a leader in the field of sport and performance psychology. Together with her Mental Toughness Team, Kara is committed to sharpening your mental edge so you too can MAX OUT YOUR PERFORMANCE.

Teamwork by Hedgehogs – what?

Here’s an awesome story that I found when searching teamwork this evening.  It’s a great lesson:

“It was the coldest winter ever. Many animals died because of the cold.

The hedgehogs, realizing the situation, decided to group together to keep warm. This way they covered and protected themselves; but the quills of each one wounded their closest companions.

After awhile, they decided to distance themselves one from the other and they began to die, alone and frozen. So they had to make a choice: either accept the quills of their companions or disappear from the Earth.

Wisely, they decided to go back to being together. They learned to live with the little wounds caused by the close relationship with their companions in order to receive the heat that came from the others. This way they were able to survive.”

– Author Unknown

What’s your killer instinct?

What a sporting weekend!  First, we went to see one of my athletes play at Michigan State. She battled hard (I was so proud of her), however her team eventually fell to a more confident Nebraska team.  Michigan State is a young and extremely talented team this year, which bodes well for their future.  The one thing I saw they were missing is that they could have that future now, if they chose.  What I saw was missing was their killer instinct – they were ok with being almost good enough right now!  

How often do we as athletes look forward to the future, when we’ll be good enough, have that added experience, will have developed our skills to the level we think is necessary?  What most of us forget most of the time is the opportunity for a Cinderella story – for our attitude and grit to cause us to out perform a much more experienced and skilled opponent!  We’re often so busy waiting for things to be perfect and wishing that the future was now, that we miss our opportunity in the present moment.  In the words of Master Oogway of Kung Fu Panda:

Yesterday is history, tomorrow’s a mystery, but today is a gift.  That’s why we call it the present!

All you have is what you have right now.  You cannot change what you have right now.  Yes, you can continue to grow and develop to be stronger, faster, better in the future, however that will not help how you play right now.  So, what there is to do is embrace what you have right now and give all of it, every last inch.  And to bring a Champion Mindset to the table, the attitude of the winner, a killer instinct.


Rafael Nadal’s Coach shares the key to being a champion . . .

In a rare interview, Rafael Nadal’s Coach and uncle, Tony Nadal was asked the following question:

“Recently, we read that you were saying [a quote from Pablo Picasso]: ‘When inspiration comes, let it find me working’…”
To which he answered: “This is an essential fact of life. I do not think people who succeed or stand out are only the fruit of labor. I do not think Roger Federer, Michael Jordan are just the result of work… The question is that if you do not work, you would not be one of them. And, as far as most people are concerned, I am indeed convinced that the work helps us totally. I am a defender of work, especially the mental effort.” [Source]



Don’t look back

As we always say at Mental Toughness Inc, “Performance Only Happens in the Present”. When you look back, you’re not present, so there’s no possibility for performance.  The trick is to keep bringing yourself back to what you need to do right now, then right now, then right now, second by second, moment by moment.  Only then is performance on purpose possible.

Keep Calm and Perform On

It’s for you to play around with what exactly has you be calm in performance.  Maybe it’s taking a couple of deep breaths, maybe it’s reframing to an empowering MindFrame, maybe it’s visualizing the outcome you want.  Either way, it’s for you to explore what works best for you in each scenario. And, the more mental toughness tools you train, the better prepared you’ll be for any circumstance that comes your way.

So you could say that the key to Performance on Purpose™ is to continue to try out different Mental Toughness Tools and Strategies, and, in so doing, expand your Mental Toughness Toolbox.  Just like a carpenter that doesn’t have a hammer, and instead is using a screwdriver to bang in the nail, so too does having the right tool make a difference in your performance.

So start experimenting, try out different tools, and make sure to use them not only in your sport or performance, but in every area of you life.

An inspiring video . . a must watch

Sometimes all you need is a little inspiration . . . especially after a poor performance, a disappointing loss, or on those days when things just don’t seem to be coming together.

If you need a little inspiration, and maybe a dose of perspective, then check out this video.

In it an inspiring man takes on whatever life has thrown at him with such courage and wisdom – this is mental toughness at it’s finest.

It really is worth it to stop what you’re doing and check out this video…..