5 popular myths about mental toughness that are simply wrong
Mental Toughness, Grit, and Resiliency are the deciding factors for success in almost any career and endeavor.
Perhaps more importantly, is that it will also determine our overall level of joy, satisfaction, and happiness in life.
Let’s define it first! Mental Toughness = How one deals, handles, and copes with adversity & how one performs under pressure. Lohr (1986)
- Here is our article on defining Mental Toughness.
- Here is our infographic on the hierarchy of Mental Toughness.
- Here is our podcast titled: 15 Minutes of Mental Toughness and our coaching page.
We know about the sport psychology game and the battles that we all face!
But, sadly, there still exist myths about mental toughness. These myths are perpetuated and spun and still being taught and coached. Mental Toughness makes for an awesome “catchphrase” and instagram post about pushing through and never giving up. But, that doesn’t quite do it.
Please send us an email on what contradictions or false-beliefs about grit and resiliency that you think exist.
Myth #1- It’s all about motivation.
Myth #2- You have it OR you don’t.
Myth #3- It’s about peak performance.
Myth #4- Sprints and lifting big tires.
Myth #5- Doing it alone.
1. Myth #1- It’s all about motivation-
Motivation is indeed the building block of the mental game.
The base of the hierarchy is motivation!
We start off each day deciding either to get out of bed or hit the alarm clock. Motivation…It certainly does boil down to “how bad do you want it?” However, mental toughness is NOT all about never giving up. It goes way beyond just having the will to succeed and endure!
There are other crucial skills involved such as professionalism, letting go of mistakes, being confident, performing with courage, and focusing under pressure.
2. Myth #2- You have it or you don’t-
The myth of mental toughness that still gets me is the all or nothing mentality.
Addicts think is all or nothing terms.
We are not only the best or the worst. The Ricky Bobby approach of “first or last” does not work here.
An either/or approach to grit needs to be opened up and expanded. It’s not about IF we have it, it is more a question of HOW MUCH?
- How much confidence do I have entering this situation?
- How much did I work on my mental game?
- How good am I at letting go of mistakes?
3. Myth #3- It’s a peak performance-
Flow and peak performance is the best ever! Nothing beats it.
However, we are only going to have those ultimate moments about 5-10% of the time. The rest of our performances will simply be about doing our best from one play or one moment to another.
Making an adjustment and battling through adversity. Sometimes, it’ll simply mean sucking less. More often, it’ll mean to keep griding and competing.
The mental game presents itself when we are faced with adversity and strife, not when we are warm and cozy or dominating another opponent or situation.
Adversity HAS to be present for us to be resilient!
4. Myth #4- Sprints and lifting big tires-
Physical fitness, pushing one’s self, and digging deep are indeed PART of the mental game. But, it’s still one of the biggest myths about mental toughness.
We use physical fitness as a metric for measuring grit, but it is only a slice of it. However, coaches ONLY use physical fitness challenges and tough workouts as “Mental Toughness Mondays.”
This myth has to be laid to rest.
Having the toughness to tell a coach when you’re struggling, or being able to reach out to a teammate, or simply doing the right thing are all examples of mental toughness and have zero to do with how much weight someone can lift.
5. Myth #5- Doing it alone-
When we lose confidence an interesting thing occurs, we isolate.
We pull back from others so they won’t see the struggle. We all have a little crazy in us, and when we isolate, it makes it easier to hide the crazy.
But, only mushrooms grow in the dark!
Isolating causes more strife and the negative cycle continues. The myths about mental toughness of doing it alone and toughening up, doesn’t work.
What takes courage, takes courage!
That’s what it means to PUKE & RALLY!
It takes being brave to ask for help. That’s real strength! The weird part about life is that we ALL want to help, but no one wants to ask for it.
Dr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology Coach. His company DRB & associates coach executives and professional athletes and is based in Indianapolis. Some clients have included three winners on the PGA Tour, Indy Eleven, University of Notre Dame, Marriott, and Walgreens.
Please Check out all the books and the mental toughness podcast - 15 Minutes of Mental Toughness as we interview expert athletes and coaches about Mental Strength and their Hinge Moment. New blog posts are published weekly.