7 Mental Toughness Tips from a Tightrope WalkerDo you ever feel as if you’re walking a tightrope at work—teetering to stay balanced as you cope with projects, people, and expectations?
On June 23, 2013, high-wire daredevil Nik Wallenda tightrope walked across the Little River Gorge near the Grand Canyon. Afterwards, he said it was “mental toughness” that helped him face 48 mph winds as he balanced on a 2-inch wire that stretched 1,500 feet.
The fact that he did it without any safety equipment meant that if he had stumbled, it would have been the end.
However, he didn’t focus on the danger. He reminded his fans that danger is all in one’s head. That’s the kind of mental discipline that helped him accomplish the historic 23-minute stunt.
I train professional sports coaches, pro athletes, and top-level executives in Mental Toughness. Mental Toughness increases their job performance, and it can increase yours too. Here are seven ways to apply Mental Toughness to your work and life.
Develop your self-image. Nik Wallenda grew up in the legendary “Flying Wallenda” family of daredevil performers, and has been performing stunts since childhood. He knows who he is, but do you? The first rule of Mental Toughness is to have a well-developed vision of yourself. You should be able to name your purpose and your priorities.
See the challenge in detail. Before he walked across the “Little Grand Canyon,” as it’s called, Nik Wallenda and his crew visited the site many times over four years to study everything from wind speed to temperature changes. You need to have a similarly detailed vision in order to accomplish a major goal. Do this by creating a 30-second reel in your head with you in the starring role—doing exactly what you want to do. Replay your mental reel at least once a day.
Finish and follow through. Accountability is as necessary for your success as it was for Nik Wallenda. He had to be accountable for all of his behaviors before and during the high-wire act, from the securing of the cable to the fitness of his body. Now that you have a specific goal you want to achieve, figure out precisely what needs to get done—on a daily basis—to get you closer to your goal. The difference between wanting to win and actually winning is accountability and follow-through. Identify three smaller goals to finish every day that will help you achieve your larger end goal.
Outdo yourself. The last stunt Nik Wallenda performed was walking across Niagara Falls. He wore a safety harness that time; this time he did not. Which aspect of your life are you trying to outdo? Spend a full 15 seconds every day looking in the mirror—I call this “15 seconds of accountability.” Take this time to evaluate your personal progress and to identify areas where you can improve. Keep written success logs. This will help you maintain Mental Toughness.
Don’t take your eyes off the task. Had Nik Wallenda lost his focus for one second, his life would have been over. Unwavering focus is a fundamental aspect of Mental Toughness. Develop focus by knowing and practicing what you’re going to say before you say it. You’ve already defined the tasks that deserve your focus. Now write and memorize scripts for key interactions to help you maintain focus. These scripts build confidence and reduce performance anxiety so you can avoid distractions.
Cultivate optimism. Like all athletes and peak performers, Nik Wallenda confirms that staying positive is crucial to mastering a difficult task. One way to remain upbeat is to replace all problem-focused thinking with solution-focused thinking. Another technique is to acknowledge, every day, something you did well. Also, look for areas in which you can continually improve. Ask yourself, “What’s one thing I can do differently to make this better?” When you answer this question instead of thinking about problems, you demonstrate Mental Toughness and resiliency.
Don’t waver in your discipline. When you have a task before you, find a way to get it done, no matter what. Limit temptation that eats away at your discipline. Overpractice being disciplined so that it eventually feels natural and gets easy. Nik Wallenda has a family legacy to uphold, and that keeps him disciplined, but you can create the same self-motivation by internalizing someone whom you admire, and keep him or her in your mind’s eye as your own personal mental coach to motivate you and keep you on track.
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