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Mental Toughness is a Voicemail Away

One speaking event at my alma mater, Shepherd University, I made sure to invite my professor, Dr. Joe Merz. He made such an impact in my life. If not for him, then Sport Psychology and the passion I live out everyday would not have happened.

I received a voicemail from him after the event.

The voicemail was about a minute long and went in-depth about and what an amazing job I did and how proud and impressed he was. 

It felt good. I saved it. It built up my Mental Toughness. It’s still on my phone today.

That same week though, I probably left a dozen voicemail and text messages to various people. But, I could not begin to tell you what I said or wrote.

We can listen to all of our voicemail messages right now on our phone. But, we have no idea that messages we left during that same time.

Life is the same way.

We remember the most impactful people in our lives. But, we often have no idea the impact we made on someone else. We can’t know.

On a much simpler level, perhaps we remember the person who waved to us today or held the door. But, we don’t know the effect of our own kind gesture today.

We are literally and figuratively leaving voicemails all the time for people and it makes a difference, good or bad.

If we want to KEEP our mental toughness, we HAVE to give it away.

Every transaction we have with someone has the potential to be transformative. We can’t know who or what will be the hinge. People will remember how we made them feel even for an instant and it has the potential to connect them to someone else.

So are we intentional about our messages?

We give away what we possess ourselves. All of us has fired off an angry email or perhaps left a not-so-friendly voicemail. If we are filled with resentment, contempt, hatred, or lack of confidence, then that is the message of our transactions. It usually effects those closest to us as well. 

However, if we can be deliberate about leaving messages that are encouraging, positive, filled with confidence and hope, then a miracle occurs. We actually start to leave ourselves a message. If we act and behave in ways that are focused on others and building their own mental game, then we act our way into right thinking and our own mood and outlook changes.

That’s how Mental Toughness works. We have to give it away to keep it. 


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


Your Three Selves of Mental Toughness

People have talked about near death experiences and how their life flashed before them, and I’ve had two near death experiences, which were falling off of a cliff and a car accident, but my life never flashed before me.

Before I signed up to compete in a ½ ironman in less than 2 weeks, my life was shown before me.

We all have our own experiences, setbacks, shortcomings, hang-ups, and doubts.  But, we also all have our own mental toughness, successes, motivation, level of fitness, and accomplishments.

Too often, we only focus on the excuses and limitations why we can’t do something. These limitations are usually focused on our deficiencies and proof of how we aren’t good enough. They are always rooted in the past as well.

Before embarking to crush any goal or big decisions, you’ll look at your past, your present, and your future. Where have you been? Where are you now? And where are you going?

Our Past Self

A funny thing about confidence it that there is a nosy neighbor with confidence named doubt. Wherever doubt lives, it does so, rent-free. Doubt is a squatter!  

 

Doubt always wants to hang out with confidence, but they simply don’t get along well. However, that doesn’t keep doubt from following confidence around wherever confidence goes.

It’s best to keep doubt as a neighbor rather than a roommate.

Everyone has doubts, even the best. This is normal, so just know that it is okay. What’s more important than the doubt entering your mind is that you determine how long you want to hang around with doubt. Do not allow the negative thoughts to stay around long right beside your confidence— rent-free.

The number one source of confidence is past performance. If we have done something before, then we can do it again. However, again, next to confidence is that awful roommate, past performance can also cause doubt.

Chances are that we have failed before. The failure provided feedback and an emotional connection to the pain. Perhaps that one failure or setback was so painful that it kept us from trying other challenges?

Or when we look back at our past self, maybe we see someone who has started things and journeys, but never really followed through or completed them.

Yes, you’ve had setbacks in your past, so what? Do you still let that event define you, or refine you? Does our past define who we are currently?

The answer is: only if we let it.

There’s one major question that we need to look at that will help determine our chances for success.

The question for your mental toughness is: Did you push yourself?

I believe that if you actually enjoyed working hard and pushing yourself (even if only a little bit) then you have what it takes to crush your goal.

I believe that everyone has the will to succeed; they just sometimes need the way.

If the past doesn’t provide the confidence and proof that you can crush your goal in two weeks, then merely don’t let it try and convince you that you can’t do something.


I’ve never competed in a ½ Ironman, so did my past provide the confidence I needed to finish the ½ Ironman with no training?

One of my strengths in my past has been the ability and drive to set a goal and reach it. I’ve run in a number of races before and have trained extensively for these. Some of my meager, yet personal accomplishments included a sub 20 minute 5k, a 3:23 marathon, a tough mudder, and a handful of ½ marathons and 10k’s. For a few years I also trained in the pool and managed to break 1:00 barrier in the 100 Freestyle. Since having kids, running my own business, and working with athletes, my priorities changed.  Oddly, these races often felt like another lifetime ago.

Again, our past may not always provide the confidence we like. However, one major setback and lack of confidence for me that I could not let define me was the bike. The reason I hadn’t signed up for these types of races previously is because of the bike. I biked as a kid all the time, but not as an adult. Heck, I didn’t even own a bike and haven’t ridden one in ten years. My past contained also a level of doubt.


Our Present Day Self

Next, we will have to check-in with and assess our present day self.

 Motivation lives here. The grind lives here- in the present. 

Your present day self is fraught with obstacles and distractions. Most of these keep us comfortable. The difficulty will be to answer and take action on the following questions:

Do we possess the will to go for it? Are we willing to put forth the effort and sacrifice to get it?

These are the questions that only you can answer.


Could I finish the ½ Ironman? Would I injure myself? And more importantly, did I want to do it?

Assessing my present day self raised more questions than answers about the race.

More current self revealed I was not in any type of racing shape. My runs were maybe three times a week averaging 3/4 miles a run, and my swimming has been limited to maybe 1x a week. I still worked out five days a week and either ran, swam, or strength trained, but with no immediate goals. Working out was for fitness, sanity, and fun.


Our Future Self

  We become whatever we are becoming!

Our goals are to improve 1% everyday.  If we focus on being just 1% better everyday, then we improve dramatically over a span of time.

One of the toughest things is being able to come up with a vision of who we want to become. Not what, but who? I want to become someone with no regrets and in the game. I don’t want to sit on the sideline of life and not go for it.


I once wrote down a list of 100 things I wanted to do before I die. Complete a full-Ironman was on this list. However, a ½ Ironman wasn’t on there. It was a mistake on my part because when writing down goals, most want to be President, but who wants to be Vice-President?  I also have an extreme love for my kids. I want to constantly model for them the importance of having a vision and the mental toughness to execute it.

Oddly enough, my future self may have been the biggest driving force for me signing up. It helped me answer the questions of: Could I do it? Yes, (I think so). Would I injure myself? (I don’t know). Did I want to do it? Yes, (I think so).


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 all the books on Mental Toughness

out of comfort zone

11 tested ways to get out of our comfort zone

I’ve ran two marathons and I put everything I had into both. My best time was a respectable 3:21 and that was running six days & fifty miles a week with speed work. I kept track of every run and reviewed it the other day; it was intense.

I’ve also done an ultra marathon, 1/2 ironman, full ironman, Tough Mudder.

We get nowhere until we get out of our comfort zone.

Mental Toughness is not just physical. Most relate mental toughness to physical tasks because we can measure it and it is indeed difficult. However, we all can improve our mental toughness.

We just need to get uncomfortable.

 My 4th book on mental toughness was published specifically for parents. I wrote every single morning for 1-2 hours. It is uncomfortable and some days are worse than others. But, my belief is that they don’t give bestsellers away.

1. Want to vs. have to…

If we are not doing what we love to do, what’s the point? Not many people get better at things they don’t enjoy. Our mental toughness is aligned with our passion, perspective, and gratitude.  If we dwell on the things that we don’t have, we are operating from a viewpoint of scarcity instead of abundance. Remember, we focus on negatives in the darkroom.

2. Start with the hardest…

One of the PGA Tour players that I worked with taught me tons about mental toughness. Before Scot Stallings won his 1st PGA Tour victory, we were at an event that changed the way I approach life. He had to complete a putting drill in order to leave the course. There was one putt that was unreal and I figured he would save the toughest putt for last. He pointed at the Rasputin of holes and said,“ I’m starting with that one!”

Tracy Thorsell graduated with a degree in electrical engineering from the Naval Academy.and speaks five languages. She took Chinese in High-school because it was the toughest.

Too often we start with and only want the easy tasks. Get uncomfortable and build our mental toughness by starting with the hardest task. We’ll get confidence and get momentum from accomplishing the most difficult first.           

3. Sit in a different seat & go a different route…

When I was a University professor, I had no seating arrangements, but people sat in the same seat every time. We seek comfort and we are creatures of habit. That is why we congregate around the same area and drive the same route. Go a different way is a simple way to engage the mind and get out of our comfort zone.

4. Be Honest…

I was once asked if I had seen a certain movie. I actually lied that I had because I wanted to be in on the conversation. Honesty with others is tough, but honesty with ourselves is way more difficult. Changing for the better is a good thing, however it requires honest self-assessment. Not many people can be honest, because it makes them vulnerable.

5. Connect w/ others…

Mushrooms and negatives grow in the dark. It takes little mental toughness to isolate. But, our condition changes with the books we read and the people we meet and interact with. Get out of the comfort zone by meeting one new person a day.

6. Suit up & show up…

A boxing coach, Jason Minnick, told me that the boxers who are mentally tough are the one’s that show up… after a beating. The toughest part is indeed showing up. Too often we allow one mess up or mistake to define us. It doesn’t matter how bad we messed up, learn from it, and get back on the path.

7. Don’t complain…

John Wooden said, “Don’t complain, whine or make excuses, your friends won’t need them and your foes won’t believe you.” Life without complaint means responding to situations and people, not reacting.

8. Face the fear & do it anyways…

I wrote NO FEAR: A simple guide to mental toughness because FEAR is the biggest thing keeping us from our goals.

Everything we want in life is on the other side of that fear. The story that we tell ourselves either lifts us up or tears us down. Everyone is afraid, but few address it. Get out of the comfort zone and just do it, whatever your “it” is.

9. Trust others…

My friend Keith Tyner took his family on an R.V. trip out west. For every person he encountered and had a conversation, he simply gave them a little book reading light. Do you know how many people struggled with taking that small gift?

I hate trusting others, because it means I’ll may hurt. I hate asking for help because it means I’m stupid. That’s the story I tell myself that brings me down. The better story is I need to trust others because we can help each other. The odd thing is that no one wants to ask for help, but everyone wants to give it.

10. Pray & pray again…

Get uncomfortable by surrendering the things we cannot control. If prayer doesn’t’ work the first time, then pray again.

11. Trust your gut…

Our gut is our in-born smoke detector. It’s our GPS. However, it’s a tough choice whether we listen to it or not. I am convinced we are right more often than not when we trust our gut. However, we will still be wrong on occasion, we just can’t let our mistakes to dictate how we operate. When we trust our gut, it simply reflects that we are confident.


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-

 6 Mental Toughness Hacks for Injured Athletes


Injuries are unfortunately a part of the world of being an athlete, even a corporate athlete.  I feel bad however when I witness so many athletes having the wrong experiences through their injury and especially returning to injury. Here are 6  techniques to help the injured athlete. 

mental toughness hacks for injured athletes


 

Athletes will experience getting depressed. Feeling the blues, getting down, sad, and angry are normal, so expect it. Remind yourself that this is temporary. These Mental Toughness Hacks include being patient and saying “this too shall pass.” Click here if you want more information on Mental Toughness Coaching.

Remember,  It’s not about the setback; it’s about the comeback.


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

Are We Testing OR Training Mental Toughness? 

 


On a run the other day, I passed two people and asked them for what race that they were training. She said a half-marathon, but hedged her statement with, “as soon as I can get through my speed work.”

I gave her unsolicited advice and told her she was ready and just to sign up that night instead.

I’m not sure she agreed. I felt like an idiot so I ran faster.

She was basically doing what we all do. She was testing herself for the race instead of training for the race. She was playing the if/then game. If her runs were good enough, then she would sign up.

Testing, testing, 1…2…3…

We test the microphone. Bands do a sound check. Plays and weddings have rehearsals. The difference is that they’ve committed to the event, they are preparing. Imagine instead if a band did a sound check weeks before the event and only if that went well, then they would do the gig. However, that’s often what we do.

Teachers in school don’t give a test and then prepare you later. That’s what life does, life gives you the test first and then the lesson comes after.

When we test ourselves, we are operating under the mentality of, “Am I good enough right now?” or “If today was the event, would I be ready?”

Testing ourselves is brutally flawed thinking and it adds undue stress. The flawed thinking is that the event isn’t here yet, so while it would it be nice if we were ready, we don’t have to be. When we are testing ourselves, we are also in constant comparing mode, comparing ourselves to our future and ideal self, the one that is near perfect. Comparing ourselves to our future self also means taking us out of the moment, which is dangerous.

There’s a difference between training ourselves as opposed to testing ourselves for an event. This small shift makes a huge impact on training mental toughness.

Instead, when we are training ourselves instead of testing ourselves, our mindset changes. When we train, we no longer evaluate if we are ready, but approach it more as if “what do I need to work on?” Yes, we will still think about the event and compare ourselves, but now there is a context and a backdrop. Instead of testing ourselves, we are now training mental toughness.

We operate in training mode by first recognizing when we actually need to be ready. A poor training session can then be learned from because the event isn’t here yet, so we are still preparing. We are training ourselves. We are also training mental toughness by staying in the moment and not thinking too far ahead, which again adds undue stress.

Someone asked the other day if I was ready for a talk I was to give in a few days. I said,”NO, I’ll be ready then.” I wasn’t speaking at that exact moment, so I didn’t need to be ready. No need to test myself, I was still training.

I went home and prepared some more.


 

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. Click Here to check out any of his books on Mental Toughness. 

My top 5 game changer albums

I took my daughter to a Rob Zombie concert because we workout together to his music. She took me to Taylor Swift; I took her to Rob Zombie.

Music is an index fossil. You’ll see from this list of my favorite albums, my approximate age, likes, and a specific period of my life. Is it odd that my favorite all-time albums are all from a certain period of my life? I still listen to music today, but now, I download singles. 

The list is my top 5 game changer albums.

Why game changer? Well, these all left a huge timestamp in society! These are the albums that could be played today and whatever song was on still crushed it. I wrote this because I guess I want my athletes today to see another side that still reveals awesomeness. Heck, any artist current or past that could release an entire album of quality music earned my respect. That’s the equivalent of having a great season rather than just a good game.

Put together your list, I’d love to hear yours.

  • janes-addiction  Jane’s Addiction (LIVE)-    The iconic hit “Jane Says” leads this entire parade of songs that mesh the different kind of guy that Perry Farrell was along with the rock sound that this album enveloped. Release date was 1987 although I didn’t first listen to it until much later. Hinge moment but new label, Epitaph records, was going to sign either Jane’s Addiction or another hollywood band Thelonious Monster. They chose to sign the latter, eeeeeek. 

 

  • pauls-boutique Beastie Boys (Paul’s Boutique)–  This hip-hop album is by far the best one of the Beastie Boys’ and it was a follow-up to License to Ill. Shake Your Rump is the party type favorite on this album, but there are sweet hits galore from these three guys from Brooklyn who earned my respect especially because they played their own instruments. Hinge Moment, but these guys were all punk, and actually had a fourth member before refining their craft and releasing License to Ill. “Dropping science like Galileo dropped the orange.” 

 

  • bob-dylanBob Dylan (Blonde on Blonde) Of course, the greatest song writer of all-time was going to be on this list. The issue was, which album? This was the 1st Dylan album I ever listened to, it was a double-album, and it also had my favorite tune, Visions of Johanna. It’s the closest thing to perfection from a song standpoint. “We sit here stranded, but we all do our best to deny it.” 

 

  • no-control Bad Religion (No Control) I don’t know what type of punk music reigns supreme in today’s landscape. This is Bad Religion’s best album and close to the best punk album of all-time. You’ll need the lyrics to keep up along with a dictionary, no joke. Fast, angry, politico, & still relevant today. “If you came to conquer, you’ll be king for a day,
    But you too will deteriorate and quickly fade away.
    And believe these words you hear when you think your path is clear…”

 

  • nirvanaNirvana (Unplugged)-  MTV had acoustic sets from some of the best bands during this time. I watched this album live, and probably the last time I watched MTV honestly. Check it out. It remains such a riveting show, because it had killer covers, and displayed the genius of Kurt Cobain, which made his death not long after such a unbelievable event at the time… “Jesus don’t want me for a sunbeam.” 

 

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 Kids: Build Their Mental Toughness   

Al Bundy stuffhappens.us

I was in Tennessee with a golfer at the PGA tour event. On wednesday afternoon, We were all standing around the chipping green while I was talking with my players’ caddy.

From literally nowhere, this guy, drove a gator tractor over my foot with the front tire and then just stopped with the back tires now on my foot!!

I yelled at the guy to “KEEP GOING” because he just had a blank stare on his face. He looked like he couldn’t believe he just did that. I couldn’t believe it was happening.

Time does stand still for the precious seconds that a gator tractor is on top of your foot while you try to lift it up.

The entire process took less than 10 seconds, although it felt like minutes.

He pulled forward and I didn’t have shooting pain down my foot, so I knew it wasn’t broken.

Even though I didn’t do anything wrong, I was still a bit embarrassed. 

I said “Man, I hope you don’t drive like this is real life.”

After the commotion was over and people asking if I was okay and such, The guy walked back over to me and apologized.

I apologized as well!

I know he didn’t do it on purpose!

I said “I hope I didn’t say anything derogatory to you, I was just upset.”  I also said, “If this is the worst thing we ever have, we will be okay.” He laughed.

He made a mistake and was embarrassed as well. I could have blown him off or yelled at him some more, but what would that have accomplished? It would have made the issue way worse!

I wanted to use this situation as a quick lesson on how I want to conduct myself and stay calm. If I lost my cool, maybe I would have been viewed as an idiot.

How can we make our mess, our message?  Mental Toughness is doing the next right thing and apologizing is a big part.


 

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 Kids: Build Their Mental Toughness   

Everything we want in life is on the other side of our comfort zone. Building mental toughness means being comfortable getting uncomfortable.


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 Kids: Build Their Mental Toughness   

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As Good As its Gets Tri-Star Pictures

As Good As its Gets
Tri-Star Pictures

When I first heard the Beatles song, HELP  in high school I loved it, but actually thought it made little sense.

When I was younger (So much younger than) so much younger than today
I never needed anybody’s help in any way! 

But as with life, songs that were just cool, Glory Days, & The Summer of 69′, actually began to change and deepen their meaning over time.

I always enjoyed listening to a coach’s Hall of Fame acceptance speech, as they thanked their partner! It made sense, rightly so, but like the songs, I couldn’t really get it until later in life! No one gets there alone, and especially without a loving, supportive partner! A coach’s husband or wives are the one’s who make the biggest sacrifice!! My wife is the best! I needed her help.

My life used to be predicated on the erroneous belief, that if it needs to be done, “Rob, you better do it.” That’s the wrong song to play in my head. The issue was that in many ways it was effective. Running a marathon, publishing 4 books, starting a business, working with elite athletes, caddying on tour, was on my own strength, right? ha, wrong! It’s only after things go bad, do we understand how much that we need others!

Mental Toughness is not doing it all by yourself, it’s actually being able to ask for help!  People want to help, but ironically no one wants to ask for help! It is best to know what type of help that we want and are we willing to take it?

Here’s five ways to ask for help!


  1. Can you watch this?

    These are a coach’s favorite words to hear! A coach is someone who helps you get somewhere that you want to go. They want to help, so be prepared to be willing to receive the feedback they offer.

  2. I’d really like your opinion on something…

    I have found that most people don’t expect you to solve their issue for them, but to just listen! However, too often we feel the need to sweep in and try and fix it. If we do this, then they may not turn to us later, or worse, expect us to always fix “it.” Either option actually build’s dependency, not capacity.

  3. Have you ever struggled with?

    Just be honest! Lay it out there and you’ll see how many people will connect with you. A true friend or coach is someone who can tell you, “Hey, I get it, it’s okay.”

  4. How do you?

    My friend Matt Tully is a good golfer, but every time we play, he starts asking me questions about swings, mechanics, strategy, tour players, etc. Then he proceeds to shoot 74 and beats me. This isn’t a game by him, (he actually is the best guy ever) so I concluded that he really wants as much information as possible just so he can get better.

  5. I look forward to hanging out with you…

    The things that people miss most are just hanging out with one another. That’s why so many    relationships are built on the golf course. Peyton Manning said it during his retirement, the thing he will miss most is the time in the locker room, just hanging out with one another. So, be sure to  tell whomever your going to hang out with that you look forward to talking.


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 Kids: Build Their Mental Toughness   

mental toughness at the mountai

is mental toughness at the mountaintop

Is Mental Toughness Really at The Mountaintop

When I lived in Colorado, I met Russ, who was half-way to hiking all of the 14ers.

A 14er is any mountain top above 14,000 feet. There are 54 of them in Colorado. Some of these hikes are difficult, while others are fairly simple.

The mountaintop experience in Colorado is the best! We all want the mountaintop experience. The feeling of success, the reward of the journey, security, peace, serenity, and the view! Russ would eventually have 54 of these.

The tree line in Colorado is about 12,000 feet. Close to the tree line lives the oldest known species of tree, the Bristlecone Pine Tree. Some of these trees are over 5,000 years old, which means they were around when Julius Caesar was alive.

This tree is indeed tough because it survives in the worst type of environment.  However, the mountaintop is not where growth takes place.  To illustrate, this specific bristlecone pine tree is decades old. Due to it’s environment, it’s growth takes centuries to full maturity.

Growth and Mental Toughness is not born at the mountaintop, it’s born out of the valleys.

The mountain top experience is temporary and we will spend more time hiking the actual mountain rather then taking pictures at the top.  Such is life. We will lose way more than we will ever win.

Only during the valleys in life, the tough times, the struggle, and the journey is where real growth happens.  It is no fun at all going through the hardships, just as hanging out in the valley the entire hike isn’t much fun either. But it is necessary. So, Is Mental Toughness Born elsewhere? 

No Valley = No Mountaintop.

An experiment in the 1980’s created a bio-dome in the desert where humans could live. Everything actually went great, except when the trees inside the controlled climate bio-dome reached a certain height, they toppled over. What scientists could not account for was the lack of wind. The wind is what creates the strong roots, so that trees can continue to grow.

No wind =  No growth.

If you want to live on the mountaintop, your growth will be small.

If you relish in the valleys,  you’ll grow, and still enjoy the mountaintop when you arrive.


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