Elite-level athletes, similar to successful everyday people, often do a number of things (aside from seeing a sport psychologist) that help them improve their mental toughness, focus, confidence, and resiliency. From a cognitive psychology perspective, perhaps the most significant skill they excel in is the ability to both frame stress rationally, as well as respond to stress realistically.
Take for example a baseball player who goes 0-5 (no hits in 5 at bats) – he could easily beat himself up with negative self-talk and a defeatist attitude, but he could also choose to view the experience in more rational ways – and thereby improve his mental toughness. As you might imagine, if the player chooses to respond to his bad game in negative, irrational ways, it’s likely — even probable — that he will continue to play poorly and may even go into a long slump. On the other hand, a more successful player will do the following:
Framing the stress – Sure, an 0-5 game is no fun, but it’s also just one game and not the end of the world. In fact, most successful baseball players – even Hall of Fame players – have also had games like this, or even worse.
Responding to the stress – Rather than become upset, he could revisit the bad game in his mind and begin to analyze the ways in which he can play better in the future (in fact, he could also ask his coaches for feedback, too). Rather than seeing the bad game as a threat to his ego, he can frame the experience so that it is a challenge for future success.
Stress response is not unique to sports, nor do you need to see a sport psychologist in order to improve in this area. What you need to do, however, is allow rational logic to take the place of irrational, negatively-charged emotions. Is this easy to do? In theory, yes, but it also takes commitment and practice. The good news is that by mastering this skill (that anyone can master), it allows people to reach their full potential – in sports and life.
Interested in learning more about handling stress and reaching your full potential? Check out AHPS to learn more.