In 2011, the St. Louis Cardinals should have lost Game 6 of the World Series...twice. In both the ninth and tenth innings, the Cardinals found themselves two runs behind and down to their final strike. I started working with the Cardinals in 2006, and they knew how to prioritize mental toughness. The players knew how to control emotion and focus on the fundamentals, one pitch at a time. The team went on to win the game with a walk-off home run by David Freese, and ultimately to win the World Series in Game 7.
Athletics is defined as sports or games based upon physical competition. There are very little, if any, physical components to business, leaving most of the impact to be based upon mental prowess. Why, then, are professional sports miles ahead of the professional business world in terms of mental toughness?
Mental toughness is just as essential for business leaders as it is for athletes, and, arguably much more important. Athletes play games. Business leaders deal with real people's needs and livelihoods. Don't get me wrong. I love a good game and have an immense amount of respect for professional athletes, but why should the business world not be placing at least as much importance on mental toughness as the sports world?
My experience is that it is much easier to succeed in business than in professional sports for the mere reason that one needs an incredibly high level of physical ability to even be competitive. In business, one only needs to be "smart enough" to have the ability to be highly successful if he or she knows how to channel that intelligence in the right way. While most of us will not find ourselves in the arena of a professional sport despite all our fantasies as children, elite athletes are eons ahead of business professionals in terms of mental toughness.
Put the tools of the professional sports world to work for yourself by committing to working out your own mental toughness on a daily basis through this 100-second mental workout.
The Mental Workout*
Step 1. Centering Breath: To physiologically control your heart rate and combat the physical symptoms of pressure, take a 15-second Centering Breath (breathe in for 6 seconds, hold for 2 seconds, and breathe out for 7 seconds).
Step 2. Identity Statement: Create your identity statement by putting together an "I am" statement that identifies one or two personal characteristics you need to fulfill your goals with what you hope to achieve. For example: I am full of positive energy, I make one million dollars a year, and I am an awesome mother and wife.
Step 3. 60-Second Vision and Integrity Highlight Reel: To maintain a clear vision of what your goals are, spend 30 seconds visualizing what you want your life to look like five years from now. Include as many specific details as possible. To ensure that you are maintaining the integrity to put in the work toward that future self, spend 30 seconds mentally rehearsing the important parts of your upcoming day.
Step 4. Identity Statement: Repeat your Identity Statement to yourself.
Step 5. Centering Breath: Repeat your Centering Breath.
*A detailed description of The Mental Workout may my found in Chapter 8 of the book Executive Toughness.
Elite athletes are not necessarily born with a higher level of mental toughness than the rest of us, they just understand the importance of working on it. The same mental tools that I teach to high-level athletes have incredible success with business professionals. Take the mere 100 seconds required each day to complete your mental workout to prepare for being your best self. It works for the top athletes in the world, and it will work for you if you commit to making it part of your routine.