Friday, October 28, 2011

Overcoming Mental Barriers

It’s been said that sports are 90% mental (and the other half is physical, at least for baseball, according to Yogi Berra). As I progress towards my dotage, I believe in this more every day. If you think you can or can’t, you’re right. Mark Allen, the many-time Ironman champion, says that his success was purely mental, as the athletes he faced were superior physically to him. Maybe or maybe not, but mental barriers are often all that stand between you and success. There are some common roadblocks on the road to success and simple ways to overcome them.
  • Roadblock #1 - You don't understand willpower. Most people think willpower is just a matter of deciding to be strong. However, If your goals require any sort of long-term commitment, you can't muscle through on willpower alone. Think of it this way: A breakthrough is not just about will. It's also about skill.
  • Roadblock #2 - You think you can run out of willpower. Willpower is limited only for people who believe that it's limited. To overcome this, you can adopt a growth mindset—and the shift is simply a matter of self-awareness. You can teach yourself to see struggle and failure as an opportunity for growth, not as a confirmation of the futility of even trying.
  • Roadblock #3 - You have a bad coach: yourself. Just as a bad coach belittles you, you may belittle yourself. The self-determination theory of motivation states that you're far more likely to complete a task if your motivation is intrinsic. If someone or something is pushing from the outside—a boss or a coach or a reason like I need to lose weight for my reunion—you'll stop performing as soon as the pressure lets up.
  • Roadblock #4 - You're not having fun (yet). Many think self-improvement is a tough slog. According to self-determination theory, we're optimally motivated when we have three things going for us: autonomy, mastery, and social support.
  • Roadblock #5 - You try to do too much too soon. What we know from motivation science is that a series of small successes will hook you into an activity. Start small and watch your progress accrue.
  • Roadblock #6 - You're talking to yourself—and saying the wrong things. Replace the chatter in your head with something a little more helpful. It's called self-talk. When you're faced with a difficult task, why not say 'I can do anything,' rather than beat yourself up? Experiments have shown that positive self-talk improves performance in everything from dart throwing to the 100-meter dash. There are two types of self-talk:
    • Instructional - helps maintain focus ("see the target") and execute proper technique ("midfoot strike").
    • Motivational - works best in sports requiring strength and endurance ("I can do this!").
Pretty simple and this sort of mental training does work. Just ask Mark Allen.

Source: Men's Health

Have a great weekend all!

Midwest Multisport Life on Facebook


  1. So, so, true. When I begin something I've trained and trained for, I don't necessarily hope my training holds up. What I want most at the start line is good focus and a positive attitude. That's what ultimately gets met to the finish line. : ) Thanks for sharing.

  2. Great post.

    I am a HUGE believer in #6. I don't think there is something I CAN'T do. I believe I can do anything given the right training/practice. And I don't believe its cocky to say that but instead I have the utmost confidence in myself to get it done.

  3. Number 4 on the surface seems contradictory, but I think it's true. You need to be automonous. You shouldn't rely on others excessively. It is mostly up to you. But the social aspect is important as well. I have received a lot of help along the way.

    Thanks for sharing the article.

  4. #1 - You don't get the skill until you have the will!

  5. this was a great list! i've copied it for my bulletin board.

  6. All very true. Talk to anyone who started out struggling to do 4 hours a week of training but eventually worked themselves up to 10 + hours a week over time - 4 hours/week now seems life a footnote. And whether or not it was consciously or not, they dealt with all 6 of those points to get where they are.

  7. Awesome post! I especially agree with #6. Self talk undermines will power, motivation, and all the rest.

  8. I agree. Three years ago a friend asked if I wanted to run a half with him. My response "I can't run more than 5 miles". His "that's all in your head". Now I tell myself how far I'm going to run and just go do it. If I could just tell myself how fast, I would have it made :-).

  9. I used to say I couldn't run a mile. Now I run whatever I want. What changed? Of course I have gotten stronger and fitter, but mostly now I KNOW I can do it and I let nothing stop me. Good post.


Leave a comment, tell me what you are thinking!

Running, Skiing, and Endurance Sports -

REI: Gear for the Great Outdoors

UnderArmour - I WILL

Outdoor DIVAS - Adventure Gear for Active Women