There is no skill or ability more powerful than a mind that will not accept defeat.
My friend Jackie Joyner-Kersee is considered one of the greatest athletes of all time. Between 1985 and 1996 she won every single heptathlon in which she competed.
In case you’re not aware, a heptathlon is a grueling 2 day event consisting of 100-meter hurdles, the high jump, the javelin throw, a 200 meter sprint, the long jump, the shotput, and an 800-meter run.
She set five world records and won seven Gold Medals.
She’s an American hero.
How does this relate to mental toughness?
First, when she started competing she was in last place almost every single race. She stated that, “As long as I can see improvement I’m winning in my mind.”
I derive just as much happiness
from the process as from the result.
I don’t mind losing as long as I see improvement
or I feel I’ve done as well as I possibly could.
~ Jackie Joyner-Kersee
7 Time Olympic Gold Medalist
More importantly, her last two medals, a world-championship and an Olympic medal, were won during an asthma attack and with a severely damaged hamstring.
This was a master mindset kicking into overdrive.
Need I say more?
Jackie has mental toughness.
The forces of resistance must give way
to the undefeatable mind that just keeps coming.
What is it that keeps a Vincent Van Gogh painting for an entire lifetime even though he only sold one painting while alive?
Yet, he left over 900 masterpieces upon his physical exit.
What drives a Michael Jordan, after being cut from the varsity team in high school, to get up the next morning and practice and work even harder?
He became one of the highest paid and greatest basketball players of all time.
What drives mastery?
It’s not education.
It’s not skill.
It’s not public agreement or applause.
When all odds appear to be stacked against me
it makes the victory feel all the sweeter.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that other things like education and skill are not present.
Education is the learning you must have and implement, to practice and develop the mastery of your craft.
Skill is your unique genius and gifts which are the starting point for a life a greatness.
But without the mental toughness to takes life’s blows and just keep moving forward even that much more determined, you’ll never achieve a fraction of your potential.
Resilience is a series of qualities and skills that can be learned;
and like a muscle it must be exercised.
Research by both psychologists Benjamin Bloom and Lewis Terman, found that s majority of the most talented people ever studied accomplished little of anything with their inherent skills and abilities.
Bottom line, they just didn’t work hard enough.
Wanting to continue to appear smart and talented, they refused to take risks, or to put themselves in situations where there was potential to fail.
How many potential Joyner-Kersey’s and Jordan’s and Van Gogh’s do you think stopped pushing forward when dealt their first blow?
There is no such thing as courage without great adversity;
and certainly no great heroes.
Developing the resilience, resourcefulness, and mental toughness necessary to achieve great things means you must be willing to take life’s hits and get back up.
The magnitude of your resilience will always be determined
by the magnitude of the difficulties you’ve stepped up to and overcome.
Four tips to mental toughness:
- Adopt the Joyner-Kersey belief. “As long as I can see progress I’m winning.”
- Get grateful for your challenges and adversity. They’re making you more resilient and resourceful.
- Be willing to “fail your way to massive wins.” Your greatest teacher is your last mistake.
- Tell the world, “You may not understand me or agree with me but I choose to live my own values and pursue my own goals. Not what you or anyone else thinks is valuable.”
These strategies will at least begin to keep you focused forward when life takes its swings; and believe me it will swing.
Stay Awake, Love Life, and Be Epic!