When you take 20 athletes of equal ability and give ten of them mental training, the ten with mental training will outperform the others every time. Whether you’re an athlete in competition, a health enthusiast, or new to sport and fitness, Sport Psychologist Dr. Haley Perlus shares how professional athletes mentally train to maximize results—and how you can apply these insights to your life. Read on to empower yourself to take control of your mind, overcome fear and doubt, and realize your true potential.
Nike inspires us each and every day to “Just Do It!” If only it were that simple. To get results you need to have the mental toughness of a professional athlete. Top athletes develop high levels of motivation, confidence, and concentration in order to compete at their best.
You too are in competition. You are in competition with the part of yourself that gives in to temptation and instant gratification instead of holding out for long-term fulfillment. Even if you don’t consider yourself “hardcore” or even an athlete, similarly to any professional athlete, you too need a mindset that will help you break down all the barriers that continue to stand in your way. A mindset that will say “no” to late night snacking. A mindset that will convince you to train when you’d prefer to stay on the couch. A mindset that will cope with the discomfort that goes along with improvement. You need a mindset that kicks some major butt!
Sport psychologists use numerous tools to help athletes of all types develop mental toughness for peak performance. Goal setting, in particular, continues to be popular among top performers. However, the goals you set are only as good as the action steps you take to achieve them. Below are seven goal-achieving tips to help you get all the results you want.
1. Be sure you’re absolutely ready to achieve your goal.
If you’re choosing to set a goal, you must have a strong reason for wanting to do so and a clear understanding of what your goal entails. Answer the following four questions truthfully and honestly. Once you can answer each question, you’re ready to take action and get results.
- Does your goal have a real sense of purpose? What is it?
- Do you know where you’re going and how you’re going to get there? As long as you have chosen your first course of action, you have a shot at success.
- Do you truly want this goal? Make sure the goal you’ve set is something you want and not just something others want for you.
- Are you prepared to make the necessary sacrifices in order to succeed?
2. Focus on clear process goals.
Although setting outcome goals can be motivating, if not properly balanced with process goals, outcome goals can also be distracting, ultimately preventing you from achieving results. For every outcome goal you set, be sure to have clear process goals you can achieve each day. Be sure your clear process goals are just above your current level of ability so that they push you to excel and provide the opportunity to gain confidence as you pursue your outcome goal.
3. Share your goals with the correct person(s).
Making your goals public is only helpful when you tell people who can support you. When choosing your support group, select the individuals who won’t let you off the hook, no matter what, but rather hold you 100 percent accountable for following through with the clear process goals you’ve set. Take a moment and be sure you’re choosing the person(s) who genuinely cares, wants you to succeed, and has the courage and strength to hold the mirror up when you stray from your nutrition and fitness program.
4. Post your goal in the right place.
When you write down your goals, strategically post them in places of temptation. For example, if you struggle with eating unhealthy food, post your goals on the pantry door so that you see it before you make poor decision to eat a handful (or bag) of potato chips. If you have fallen into the habit of sitting on the couch after work, making it difficult to get back up and train, post your goals on the coffee table, giving yourself a final shot at changing your mind and exercising before lounging.
5. Choose and use effective rewards.
Is it necessary to reward yourself for your accomplishments? Absolutely! Rewards symbolize a “pat on the back” for a job well done. However, to experience a boost in confidence that will last, choose a reward that supports your goals. This doesn’t mean you can’t ever eat a tasty treat. The secret is the motivation behind the treat and the effects it will have on your confidence. You may feel great about yourself after completing a yoga class, but chances are those great feelings will diminish after you reward yourself with your favorite sweet treat. Instead of using food as a reward, have the food every once in a while simply because you want it and not because you’ve earned it. A reward should be something that makes you feel good about yourself, not only in the moment, but also when you look in the mirror later in the day, or the next day. Head for a facial, a massage or to your favorite athletic apparel store instead.
6. Decide if implementing consequences will help.
If you find effective rewards help you to stay on track of your fitness and nutrition program, perhaps having consequence in place will too. Just as you reward yourself for achieving your clear process goals, think of a consequence for when you don’t. In professional sports, athletes get fined for showing up to practice late or behaving inappropriately. This does not mean your consequences have to be about money, but choose something that is meaningful to you.
7. Use your past to create your best future.
When people journal correctly, the results are remarkable. Each week (or at least twice a month), review your last journal entries and highlight any patterns you find that help you achieve your clear process goals. It could be the time of day you have your best training sessions, a specific food you find energizing, a playlist you believe is motivating, etc. These insights can then be included in your daily routines to give you the best shot at ultimate success.
All seven goal-achieving tips will give you the power to achieve your goals! You can experiment with a couple tips, or include all seven in your plan this week. Just like professional athletes, using these goal-achieving will work to enhance your motivation, confidence, concentration, and overall mental toughness for realizing all the goals you’ve set.