posted on: March 23, 2015
author: Brian Lomax
When all else is going wrong in your performance, there is one facet of the mental game that can salvage the day: your fighting spirit. If you continue to fight for your best performance, even on your worst day, you still have a chance of succeeding in the end. The persistence and intensity that you bring to competition defines your fighting spirit, and the best competitors are full of fight.
Although we know that the brain does not operate in similar fashion to a computer, I believe a comparison will be useful to explain how mental toughness works. In order for your computer to function properly, its operating system relies on a number of inter-dependent processes that allow it to run software, monitor activity, allocate memory, save files, etc. Mental toughness is also comprised of processes that enable your mental game to function at a high level. These processes represent skills such as focus, confidence, motivation, self-control, intensity, fighting spirit, positivity, and decision-making. You may add others to this list. Depending on the relative strengths and weaknesses of your mental game, some of these processes may be dependent on others. For example, if your focus goes down, you may lose your ability to control your emotions (self-control). These dependent relationships differ among athletes. Other processes may be more independent and able to sustain themselves amidst breakdowns. The goal today is to help you make fighting spirit one of those processes that is independent and never goes off-line. It is a skill that can be strengthened.
To help you develop fighting spirit and turn it into a strength, I want to highlight three basic skills that need additional practice: motivation, focus, and best effort
To be a great fighter, you need a personally compelling reason as to why you compete. If you’re not inspired to be your best in your sport, it becomes easy to quit in the heat of competition. Write the answers to the following questions to develop this compelling why:
After answering these questions, do you have a more compelling reason to fight harder in your competitions? If not, discuss your answers with a coach or trusted person and get his/her perspective. Then write the answers to these questions again, and repeat that process until you feel motivated by your Why.
In order to maintain your fighting spirit, you must understand what is truly important in competition and focus on that. There are so many distractions in sports: the last play, the consequences of winning and losing, what other people think. None of this matters if you want to perform your best. You have to learn to bring your full focus to the present.
The most important point/play/shift is the next one!
If you’re always focused on the present, you have a good perspective on what is important and your fighting spirit will stay strong. To learn to be more present focused, try the following:
Your ability to fight in competition can be depleted by focusing on distractions. Know what is important to your best performance (perspective) and focus on that. Your fighting spirit will be strong.
Most athletes report trying harder in competition than they do in practice, and that sounds natural. Unfortunately, that means you are probably only able to give 80 to 90% of your total energy capacity in competition because you’ve never really practiced best effort as a skill. Change that; push the limits of your energy capacity and see your fighting spirit soar.
Training your best effort as a skill in practice will ensure that you will have the energy you need to keep up your fighting spirit throughout your competition. One of my favorite quotes from The Fighter’s Mind by Sam Sheridan on this topic is “…it’s a battle of will, and nothing breaks will like fatigue.” Fatigue takes your fighting spirit offline, and that is exactly what you do not want to happen. Start increasing the limits of your best effort today.
If you are able to make improvements in your motivation, focus, and best effort, you will become a great fighter, and you will see improvements in your competitive performances. Give it a go!
Brian Lomax founded PerformanceXtra™ in 2009 with a mission of helping athletes achieve their goals and their top performances more consistently through a progression of mental skills that enables them to focus on what is truly important.
Learn more about the author: https://performancextra.com/brian-lomax/