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Footprint of Mental Toughness


As a child, I threw a tennis ball against the outside steps of my house countless number of times.

I did it to practice my baseball fielding. Sometimes the ball would catch the corner of a stair and it would shoot off and make for an “amazing” play.

I did this for hours on end… I enjoyed it, I kept score, it was fun, and my fielding was never better! I made some killer plays in the actual field because of my repetition. 


Have you done any activity so many times that you lost count?

Imagine how many steps it would take to leave footprints in stone?

Footprints represent where we were and what we have done. 

In order to leave footprints there must be a blueprint. 

One has to think about and plan not only the sheer number of steps to create footprints in stone, but also the manner in which the steps are placed. 

Creating footprints of mental toughness requires a blueprint of dedication, sacrifice, teamwork, and extreme precision.

It has been done.

Every second of every day since 1937, men and women followed the blueprint and created these footprints in stone. The Honor Guard for The Tomb of The Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. check out more of their exact requirements and sacrifice here. 

The detail is how the footprints are created in stone. The Honor Guard march in specific twenty-one step arrangements, The heel strike and toe push are so precise, that footprints are eventually created. Twenty-one steps and 21 seconds in-between movements at the end of each walk. Twenty-one symbolizes the 21 gun salute which is the highest honor bestowed in the United States military. Every second of every day the tomb is guarded and footprints are made.

The changing of the guard is where the blueprint gets riveting. Each changing of the guard is so precise that perfection is the goal and each sentinel is graded after every change. If there is a mistake, each guard will hear about it during review. 

Tradition demands it and Honor Guard enforce it.

What is amazing, is that even with the blueprint and the evidence of the footprints made in the stone, they still make mistakes. Perhaps the posture is a tad off, or their tone in voice is low, or there is an error like what you’ll see here. Can You Catch it? 

Here’s the head fake.

These are the folks with footprints of Mental Toughness. However, even the best in the world with a perfect blueprint make mistakes. What seems to matter more than the footprints is that they keep following the blueprint. That’s only when footprints can be made. 

Does your team have a blueprint and can you keep following it long enough to create footprints? 



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- 

training mental toughness

Are We Testing Mental Toughness OR Training Mental Toughness? 


On a long run , I passed two people and asked them for what race they were training. She said a half-marathon, but hedged her statement with, “If my speed work is good enough.”

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 just 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 final exam 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 mental toughness, 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.


What’s the training mindset of mental toughness

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 our grit and resilience by staying in the moment and not thinking too far ahead, which again only adds undue stress.

Remind yourself- I will be ready when the event is here! 

Someone asked the other day if I was ready for a talk I was giving to a company. 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 in training mental toughness mode. 

I went home and prepared some more. 


 


dr rob bell speakerDr. 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.