Mental Strength

So there was a SuperBowl yesterday, and TB showed up, while KC’s O-line decided to take a breather. End result, is further proof of Brady’s position as GOAT in terms of QB position. I’d question anyone’s sanity declaring he’s an actual top 10 athlete, as much as Kasparov would be, but damn if he doesn’t dominate his role.

But its the commercials that people are going to talk about a week+ out. Do you know who won the SuperBowl ’84 game, or do you remember the Apple commercial instead? There’s always winners and losers in this space too, and some that really are so far out of the game that it doesn’t matter. Indeed really did a good job here, Amazon/Alexa is making water cooler talk (irony of irony having Colbert talk about supporting local business to be followed by an Amazon ad), Chipotle’s make-a-better-world burrito ad was neat, and finally Under Armor’s Michael Phelps ad on mental prep.

High performance sport way back when had only a little bit to do with mental preparation. Sure, you studied and practiced, but that was less about thinking and more about managing options. Sports mental coaching really only took off in the last 15 years, with the last 10 having the biggest push forward. Coaching teams are supplemented with psychologists to build a more resilient athlete.

In team sports, traditionally this falls to the head coach. They’ll call a time out and try to refocus the team on the goal. No question they tried that in KC, but very little success. Momentum is a thing, and when a team has it, then it feels like nothing can stop it. You may not be able to stop it, but you can certainly reduce the impacts.

The advantage of sports is that it is outcome focused, at least from the outside. You can measure progress in concrete terms. It is really hard to do that in non-competitive environments. In art? In relationships? At the job? Ehh. While sports certainly have the measure of the end goal (winning), it’s also related to winning in a healthy manner. If you win, but lose yourself in it, did you really win? (see every cyclist in the last 30 years.)

That said, the techniques in mental strength are of absolute benefit to all aspects of our lives. We all encounter adversity, daily. We all have doors closed on us without our control, or input. We don’t all have parents willing to give us a million $ to achieve our dreams and have to really build it ‘on our own’.

I lift weights and run to keep physically fit. I need equipment to do most of that, but more importantly, I need a knowledge of the subject and a plan. Watch any amateur CrossFit video, most people are doing the exercises in a dangerous manner, putting themselves at large risk. With training, they greatly reduce that risk to comparative levels of other sports.

With mental fitness you need to take the same approach – the right tools, some understanding, and then a plan. Similar to physical sports, the simplest path to that is with a coach. The downside is that these folks are next to impossible to find in the amateur space, or perhaps better articulated, educated and accredited coaches. You can find any influencer that will peddle something, but the quality is always going to be questionable. For the time being, your best bet it either through literature from an expert, or just having an honest conversation with your family doctor. A good doctor will refer you to someone that can help you.

I’d be remiss to say that this isn’t a requirement by any means. There are plenty of people who don’t look after their physical bodies and live relatively happy lives. And there are people who spend every waking moment thinking about their physical training and are depressed. Each person has a balance that’s unique to them. I thought I had that balance prior, but life taught me otherwise. So the past 5 or so years have really been focused on finding what works for me. It’s given me additional context for not only setting goals, but achieving them. And importantly, taking any set backs in stride.

Hopefully this post just gets people to consider the concept and do a bit of reading on the topic. Our minds are our best asset after all.

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