“The best performers don’t get down from their difficult situations; they learn from them and take action.”
It seems we could all use a boost of mental toughness after the year we’ve just been through.
As a kid, I played tennis, and recall being up five games to one (you need to win six games to win the set), only to lose the set seven games to five. When I thought about what happened, I realized I created more mental errors than physical errors in my game. The mechanics of hitting a ball were easy. The mechanics of staying positive mentally were, at that time, much more difficult.
Many years after my tennis fiasco, when I was a casual triathlete, I read a book called Mental Toughness Training for Sports by Jim Loehr. Sports, after all, are often more mental than physical, just like 2020 was for many of us.
When I researched Dr. Loehr, I came across his “16 second cure” to help tennis players overcome a mistake or bad shot. He advised his athletes to perform four actions that took about 16 seconds to help them recover–mentally and physically–after an error. This seemed like an interesting proposition to apply to what was more than just a bad shot in tennis, it was a bad year for many.
With an open mind and curiosity, I present the four steps to a 16 second cure for 2020, modified from tennis to actions for our daily lives.
Step 1: Positive Physical Response
This step is about your brain telling your body that despite what just happened, you will be okay. Then, the body projects a positive image by standing tall and confidently. It’s difficult for the brain to feel weak when the body is in a strong position.
Step 2: Relaxation Response
Next, we do basic physical movements such as walking and breathing deeply to relax the body and the brain. Deep breaths counteract stress. You don’t rush into the next action. You hit the reset button.
Step 3: Preparation Response
For whatever activity you’re going to do, whether it’s planning your day or running a meeting, go forward with intention. Unlike tennis, where many points are won when the opponent makes an error, we can expect success in our activities. Intention helps us to prepare and focus.
Step 4: Ritual Response
This step is designed to become automatic, so you always start certain tasks the same way to set yourself up for success. We do this by slowing down and going through some type of basic physical movement. In tennis, you bounce the ball and pause before you serve. In a meeting, you breathe and smile and say, “Let’s begin.”
To set yourself up for a great 2021, get some exercise (gardening counts for those in warmer climates), relax with family and friends, prepare your goals and priorities for the year, and make it a ritual to schedule weekly time to take action on your goals.
“Taking action and making progress towards your goals is highly motivating.”
I wish you the very best in 2021!
Full speed ahead!
Thanks for reading.