Palms up for Mental Toughness

I’ve been to many different churches, Church of Latter Day Saints, Jewish Synagogues, A.M.E. Zion and Unitarian Universalists. I wanted to learn more about other’s beliefs, so I was fortunate to be able to explore. I was more into Whose your master rather than whose your pastor. 

I’ve been to rock-star pastor services, those are creepy.

As a kid, I grew up in a Lutheran church. Many, many rituals.

So, whenever I attended services where people held up their hands in praise, I was out of my comfort zone. I internally applauded them though, I thought it was courageous.

I’m obsessed with helping athletes, coaches, and teams with mental toughness. Every book I read can be applied to getting better. I want my clients to be THE BEST AT GETTING BETTER.

In LOVE DOES, author Bob Goff provided a huge game mental technique.

Bob used to walk around all day long with his fists clenched, defensive, and angry. When we are defensive all the time, we can’t win. He made one adjustment and everything changed. PALMS UP.

Sit right now with your hands on the back of legs and turn your hands over with your palms up! Do it for a minute. One of my tennis players told me this made a huge difference in resetting himself during change-overs. He won a big tournament, maybe it helped, I’m not sure.

It’s about controlled aggression, not aggressive aggression, that burns us up. CONTROLLED AGGRESSION… Being in control of our emotions, responses, and energy. If we are not in control of ourselves, something else is in control of us.

Whatever our office, there are times to flip the PALMS UP! In the courtroom, time outs in basketball, in the dug-out, in the car, at the poker table, wherever. Embarrassed by it, or think people will look? More mental toughness is needed then. Heck, put a towel over your lap or hold something small in your hands. PALMS UP.

It’s unbelievable how our mood, focus, and confidence change with our PALMS UP. And if you like that or it is too much, try this technique. 

dr rob bell

Dr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology Coach. His company DRB & associates is based in Indianapolis.  Some clients have included: University of Notre Dame, Marriott, and Walgreens. Check out the most recent books on Mental Toughness-


Courtesy of Valleycrest Productions

The Ed Sheeran Technique of Building Mental Toughness

No, this isn’t Ed Sheeran, More on his technique for building mental toughness in a minute. 

This is Ogi Ogas  , a genius who was on the show, Who Wants to be a Millionaire. He actually knew the answer to the Million Dollar question, but just couldn’t PULL the trigger.Watch it unfold as his focus switched from knowing the answer to the wobbly chair, the audience, and the stakes…He became too focused on walking away with $500,000 instead of the answer. 

It’s why I hate Alex Trebek, I’d look smart if I had all of the answers in front of me as well. I even forget my neighbors names sometimes.

Pressure can burst a pipe because there is no space for the water to go.

Our capacity for attention under pressure is similar. When we are in those “have-to” moments, and with time to think, the pressure can get to us, and we can only focus on one thing. 

Under pressure, since there is so much attention on the task at hand, very little mental energy can be consumed for anything else. It’s like if you are freezing, the body will conserve all warmth to the major organs first, and it means good bye fingers. In building mental toughness, communication is the first limb to go.

Whenever I’m stressed, I stop communicating. When teams get tired, all communication stops. When we lose confidence, we isolate. Fatigue makes cowards of us all.

The Ed Sheeran Technique of Building Mental Toughness

Airlines and pilots discovered a better method for pilots and co-pilots to communicate. Some pilots were so head-strong that they operated under the guise of “When I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you.”  Not the best way to operate in a team setting.

Airlines changed their way of training, they introduced the Ed Sheeran technique.

Pilots were trained to Think Out Loud! get it! The song! Clever, I know, but it’s true.

Pilots had to verbalize all of their maneuvers before take-offs and landings.

Communicating by thinking out loud accomplishes two goals.

First, it makes pilots better by including the co-pilot into the actual thinking process and it eliminates the mind-reading. Second, co-pilots were trained on how to also think out-loud and address a pilots decision.

  1. State the facts- Co-pilots were instructed to merely state the facts. “Our angle is incorrect.”
  2. Challenge- They stated the pilots name and added a qualifier. “Mike, our angle is incorrect, Check the angle. “
  3. Assume control- If unsuccessful at the 1st two, The co-pilot stated “ATC, we are coming around again.” Once the Air Traffic Control heard the message, they canceled the order and the pilot had to comply.

Rarely, did it make it to point #3.

The Ed Sheeran technique of building mental toughness forces us to be confident.  

When we verbalize our thoughts, it ignites the dominant force of commitment. Thinking out loud makes us commit to the process. Thinking out out loud also opens us up to feedback and makes us think through any ideas or strategies. Thinking out loud is why people have accountability partners and why we share our goals. It forces us to execute.


Dr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology Coach. His company DRB & associates is based in Indianapolis.  Some clients have included: University of Notre Dame, Marriott, and Walgreens. Check out the most recent books on Mental Toughness

Two Mental Toughness Skills that NO ONE Talks About

I hate it when I hear others type! It drives up the wall, because of course, I’m awful at typing. I look at them like a pauper views an aristocrat. I mean, how dare they actually NOT look at the screen when they type- the audacity!

It has become a laughing joke if others who know my work see me typing. I am a pecker! I actually only use my two index fingers to type. I’ve written 5 books, a dissertation, thesis and a weekly newsletter using this method. I’m reminded about my shortcoming when I see others doing it so effortlessly.

Here’s the rub: It is effective, it is just not efficient. 

I was stubborn, errr, iron-willed. In high-school I REFUSED to take some typing class, because why would I ever need to type that fast?


I like it when my athletes have stubborn traits because it shows that they have the capability for belief in themselves. Stubbornness can cause them to not overly-question their ability or skills. Stubborn people question the answers and other’s suggestions. That’s the strong side of stubbornness.

However, stubborn people are also the most difficult people to work with and coach. A stubborn person alone by themselves is in poor company. 

They often like to argue just for the sake or arguing. Stubborn people are rarely wrong, which means if you would just do things the way they wanted, all would be great.

The toughest part is that they just REFUSE to change.  Sure, they may dabble in the realm of improvement but they revert right back to their old ways under pressure or duress.

Stubborn is a key to mental toughness, but by itself can easily fade into insanity, doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Stubborn MUST be balanced with being coachable.


I first met coach Chuck Pagano at the NFL combine. After introducing myself, the next thing out of his mouth was a question; he asked, “what do you emphasize with your athletes?” I had my answer and we chatted about it. I think it was a good answer, I’m not sure.

But, here is an NFL coach and he asked ME a question? I doubt Bill Parcells would have done that. So, here was my conclusion: he was just trying to get 1% better.

An easy tell if someone is coachable is the number of questions they ask. A coach’s favorite words to hear are “Can you watch this and let me know what you think?”

“How’s that working for you?”  That’s the question I need to answer.

If you have a stubborn athlete or employee, but they remain coachable, you’ve got a winner. It means that they are open to change and willing to receive feedback.

Stubborn and coachable is mental toughness. 

If you have someone is stubborn but uncoachable, the solution is to emphasize the relationship and construct the trust.You have to get creative with stubborn, and ensure they are the one’s who came up with the idea. The walls of uncoachability often come slowly down the more he/she knows that you care about THEM and not just their PERFORMANCE.

dr rob bell

Dr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology Coach. His company DRB & associates is based in Indianapolis.  Some clients have included: University of Notre Dame, Marriott, and Walgreens. Check out the most recent books on Mental Toughness-

There are tons of ways to achieve your goals. I don’t think it is a lack of information, we all know what to do. In fact, I can do without hearing any more people touting off about setting S.M.A.R.T. goals. It’s like they came up with the acronym or something.

This is about how to FAIL. We as a society know more about failing anyway, so shouldn’t’ we learn to avoid the mentality that happens and why we FAIL?

I’m under the belief that more games are lost than they are won.

Here’s how to fail…

As a professor, every semester during the first few days, I was adamant in communicating that if a student  showed up to class, they would get no worse than a “B.” All bets were off however if they missed even one class. I was not giving away grades, I was just demonstrating that tenacity is more important than talent, and if someone showed the discipline to show up to every class, then they were eager enough to learn and make it happen.

When 9/11 occurred, I was a graduate student at Temple University and they did not even close the school (imagine that). The professor did not cancel the evening class either, so I showed up. I was with two others. I felt so fortunate to be in graduate school, that I made the commitment to do whatever it took to thrive.

A funny thing happened as a professor though when my students would eventually miss a class. They would miss another! I was so keen on this phenomenon of people who missed one class that I kept track of it. Only about 20% of the time did a person only miss one class. 

Here’s how to fail at your goals…

The way to fail is to say “screw it, I blew it.” However, this mentality is pervasive, check out health club attendance in January and then in March. Over 50% of people drop out within 6 weeks. Once they miss once, they miss again…

If we give in or go through the motions it actually makes it easier to do it again. Quitting has now become an option for us.  The science behind this one mistake or lapse is abstinence violation effect.  All it takes is that one mistake or slip up and the mentality becomes “screw it, I blew it.”

The shame and guilt of messing up hurts a lot. It often hurts worse than quitting because when we quit, we don’t have to keep returning to the scene of the crime. There are no more painful reminders and we can move on. Hence, the “screw it”.  The sad part is that we aren’t quitting on ourselves, we are quitting on who we want to become.

How would you explain your vacation to California if you got a flat tire on the way there, so you turned around and headed back home?

It’s not about the setback, its about the comeback.The one workout you missed or one piece of cake that you ate does not define you. If you miss, it’s how you respond to the setback. Can you learn from it and approach your goals with an even stronger resolve and enthusiasm?

Mental Toughness is NOT about messing up, it’s about not giving up. When the thought or option of giving up enters, it is an impostor trying to derail you. Move on from the mistake, change the tire, and just keep going.

But this post isn’t about mental toughness it is about how to fail.


Dr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology Coach. His company DRB & associates is based in Indianapolis.  Some clients have included: University of Notre Dame, Marriott, and Walgreens. Check out the most recent book on Mental Toughness- Don’t Should on Your Kid: Build Their Mental Toughness