There is always a mental game

There is always a mental game

How many times have you seen an athlete or sports team in the midst of their competition or game lagging behind only to somehow, in a miraculous way, turn the tables around and achieve great victory at the end?

There are so many examples:

Take for example the 3-2 victory of the Canadian men hockey team over the USA in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics finals after the Americans scored 2 consecutive goals tying the score to 2-2.

I searched for examples in Tennis and found many, including two of my heroes: Andre Agassi defeating Andrei Medvedev in the 1999 French Open final after being behind in the first two sets. In addition, Roger Federer who defeated Rafael Nadal in the 2005 Miami Masters final after being down two sets and behind 3-5 in the breaker.

Can you imagine the level of pressure and stress these professionals and teams have to endure? Can you imagine the level of focus, concentration, and positive spirit they have to maintain in order to overcome these high expectations and pressures?

Mental stamina and mental endurance are not tangible nor are they hard facts. We cannot see, quantify, or measure them precisely. However, we talk about them and believe they exist.

These mental components help us understand why one performer is superior to another when operating in similar conditions and circumstances. They also give us a set of lens through which to examine and develop our own mental state when we take on difficult challenges and opportunities.

In sports, I often hear commentators attribute an athlete’s success or failure to their Mental Game. In business and corporate life, however, this nuance is almost always ignored.

What a mistake that is.

I have worked with businesses that even in challenging, economical times continued to thrive. I have also worked with companies who struggled even in the best of times. Why?

Companies and teams have a collective mental game, too. It can seen in their team culture, their dynamic, and in people’s outlooks, attitudes and spirits. When people are working together in genuine alignment and unity toward the bigger good of the company, it is a clear sign of a successful mental game. When people are interacting and communicating in an honest, authentic, courageous, and effective way that is another clear sign. When people come to work with a positive, optimistic, passionate, and committed mindset, that is a third sign of a strong mental game.

Whenever we take on a sizable accomplishment, as individuals or a team, in our professional or personal life, there is always a mental game taking place that determines our success or failure.

Our mental game determines what internal conversations we pay attention to or ignore. Sometime we lose patience or get discouraged midcourse because we allow doubt, second guessing, and other negative thoughts and attitudes to needlessly cloud our judgment. This unhealthy mental game directly influences our performance.

For example, when I was a rookie sales manager, I often had very high results in pitches, even though I felt that I was performing very poorly. Had I listened to my inner-criticism, I could have easily given up.

I also had instances in which I felt I was doing so well, yet the results were very poor. Because I was so hypnotized by my inner-praise, my performance became complacent and arrogant, which negatively affected my results.

When asked how they performed so well, athletes often share: “I visualized how I wanted my end-game success to be, and then I stayed focused on that image throughout the race.” Well, we can do the same in our day-to-day commitments and projects.

When taking on any project, from losing weight, or finding a great relationship, to creating a new business, you can visualize your desired end state, and then keep that image in front of you throughout the process without allowing anything to distract you. That is an example of a powerful mental game.

The more you are aware of the impact of your mental game, as well as your ability to form and shape it, the more powerful of a performer you will be in any game.

Try it, and see how it works.

Founder and President of Quantum Performance Inc., a management consulting firm specializing in generating total alignment and engagement in organizations.

His work has encompassed a broad range of industries including banking, telecommunications, manufacturing, entertainment, real estate, retail, startups and non-profits.

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