The Inner Athlete: Mind

Welcome back to the Inner Athlete series where today we shift from a focus on the body to the mind.

As I prepared to dive into the topic of the mind of the Inner Athlete, two quotes I heard before resurfaced:

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
― Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”
-Mike Tyson

The act of planning is likely one of the mental exercises that we all do most often.  Planning for work, game day, meetings, vacations, meals, exercise, quiet time, date night, etc. – it becomes second nature.

Yet, when it comes to the higher stakes experiences in life, how often do things go to plan?  It’s at these times when, after getting punched in the face, the autopilot for ‘the plan’ gets turned off.  You must have the strength of mind to keep the goal line in your sights and press forward.

The Inner Athlete prepares themselves to roll with the punches and execute in the moment, even when things start to fall apart.   Let’s begin to build a rock solid mindset through focus, resilience, and presence.

InnerAthlete-Mind

Strengthening the mind is by no means an easy task.  Even after months and years of dedicated practice we may still find ourselves rattled and potentially unable to battle back from adversity from time to time.

The goal, however, is not to be perfect but continue to minimize the number of times we are rattled and increase the times when we can successfully navigate adversity and the unexpected to make the best of or win the situation.

While thinking through where I struggle when it comes to the mind, I find the most value though intentionally improving the following areas:

Focus

I’ve heard the term ‘monkey mind’ from various sources, and it speaks perfectly to the importance of focusing on the task at hand and silencing all the other stuff going on in your head.

We live in a world of distractions where with a click of a mouse we can shift from working on our strategy for Sunday’s game or our budget report to a myriad of social media time sucks.  99% of the time we are no better for it, and further away from our goals.

Part of creating a focused mind is being clear on what you want to accomplish.  Not every associated task will be enjoyable or fun, but we need to work through them to get to the next level.

Let’s be better and build a focused mind by:

  • Becoming laser focused on your highest impact actions
    • Multi-tasking is crap – I recently read an article that referenced some of the negative impacts of multitasking – “What’s really happening is that your brain is either dividing and conquering, dedicated only half of its available horsepower to each task, or constantly switching between tasks.”
  • Being engaged with the people you interact with – focus on them and nothing else – make them feel like the most important person in the world
  • Getting clear on what you want for yourself and your world – what type of athlete will you be? how do you show up to others? – be intentional, genuine and consistent
    • During discussions with my professional coach, we often talked about how successfully being our true selves in all that we do should result in us showing up the same way no matter where we are (work, home, social life, etc.)
  • Not being a jack of all trades and master of none
    • Have a variety of interests, but to make the biggest impact you must identify what fires you up most and be world class at that thing

Suggested tools or strategies for improving focus:

  • Meditation
  • Pomodoro Timer (only allow yourself to work on a specific thing for the timer interval and battle the urge to multitask)
  • Listen to Binaural Beats (set for focus) while performing important tasks

Resilience

As I mentioned earlier, life will throw us curve balls and our best laid plans will get kicked in the junk.  Having a resilient mind allows us to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and make an impact on the next play.

I’m sure on some level we have all been there – once one thing goes wrong, we find ourselves in a spiraling crap storm where more and more goes wrong.  I challenge you as I challenge myself to ask whether that spiral was inevitable, or did we lack the mental resilience to recover and therefore turned our concerns about the future into reality?

We must own our mind and emotions and maintain a level head and temperament when confronted with stressful situations or people.  We don’t want to be known as the team member who crumbles under pressure but rather the star player that rises above and carries the team on their shoulders to victory.

Let’s begin to build our resilient mindset by:

  • Believing that you are never given more than you can handle no matter how dire or overwhelming a situation or point in your life may be
  • Putting things in perspective – there are many times when the smallest things feel like the end of the world – play the event or circumstance forward and question how bad it really is, and then take Mark Twain’s words to heart:
    • “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened”

Suggested tools or strategies for improving resilience:

  • Meditation
  • Thought Awareness (pay attention to the stories you tell yourself and question the negative ones – replace those with confidence-building stories)
  • Recovery (being well rested increases your willpower to work through tough situations)

Presence

Our time in this world is short whether we want to acknowledge that or not.  Therefore we must appreciate the experiences we have on a daily basis.

Yes, we are wired to always be working towards the next goal or accomplishment, but if we don’t take the time to appreciate the journey and beauty in our daily lives then when we do accomplish those goals, the joy will be short lived and we will be left feeling empty.

There is a time and place for looking to the future (goal planning, strategic thinking), and reflecting on the past (lessons learned), but we must remained grounded in the present.

My 3 year old teaches me this every day when I watch her play.  She is so happy and engrossed in what she is doing that the rest of the world melts away.  She helps me remember when I was able to be that engaged and committed to a singular moment, and inspires me to try and obtain that present mindedness again.

Suggested tools or strategies for improving being present:

  • Turn your smartphone off or put it in another room – be intentional about avoiding the disruptions
  • Focus on the Breath – whether overwhelmed or distracted, it helps bring you back
  • Ask yourself “Am I here?” when you feel disconnected – that simple question can help disrupt the monkey mind and any other garbage going on between your ears

Before I close, I want to leave you with a mantra to stay grounded in the present.  I admittedly have yet to read the book, but the scenes in the movie where this internal dialogue happened gave me chills and I think back to it when my mind is all over the place.

“Where are you? Here
What time is it? Now
What are you? This moment.
― Dan Millman, Way of the Peaceful Warrior

Discussion Question: How do you leverage your mindset to find strength in difficult situations?  What aspect do you want to most improve?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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