Do You Have the Mental Toughness to Become a Champion?

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal, the nine-time winner of the French Open, is having a tough season. The champion has lost five times on clay this year, his favorite surface. Many are predicting that in this year’s French Open he will be defeated by Novak Djokovic, who trounced him on clay last month in Monte Carlo.

But Nadal is having none of it. He is one of the most mentally tough players on the tour.

When asked by a reporter if the 2015 French Open tournament might be the beginning of the end, he replied, “When I stop having the desire, when I don’t want to look hard at my problems and say that I want to overcome them, it won’t be the beginning of the end, it will be the end.”

Are You Willing to Change Your Life?

Like tennis champions, you need more than just talent, you need mental toughness to win in your career. But what is that almost indefinable characteristic?

Mental toughness is the ability to be strong in the face of adversity, always striving to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. It means staying the course to achieve your goals and not giving into your negative emotions and the desire to quit.

It’s essential to get out of your comfort zone to reach your next level of achievement. You can’t get ahead by running in place.

When coaching executives, we remind them that leadership is not about being comfortable. If that’s what you want, then it’s a lot easier to just stay in bed under the covers.

Understand Your Audience

Preparation, as always, is key to a successful pitch, speech or presentation. Survey the environment before you begin a presentation, whether it’s to your Board, a group of investors or customers.Transform Your Thinking

Learn about the participants and the politics of the situation. Get an understanding of their points of view or possible objections. Find a basis for consensus.

It isn’t always going to be a bed of roses. You have to take immediate action when you sense hostility in the audience. It’s not a good sign if people in the room are glaring at you with their arms folded over their chests.

You can’t keep just talking. You need to discover what’s keeping them from being engaged. You might say, “I sense some discomfort. What’s going on? It’s too early in the program for you not to like me. Let’s spend a few minutes discussing what’s on your minds and then we can get back to the agenda we all agreed upon.”

You may discover that they didn’t get served lunch because of a mix-up in the dining room. They’re hungry and distracted. Talk through whatever has gotten the group agitated and get them back on your side before you continue.

Transform Your Life

It takes mental toughness to achieve transformation in your life. Werner Erhard’s “est” training sessions over 30 years ago brought to the forefront the ideas of “transformation, personal responsibility, accountability and possibility.”

Just participating in the seminars required mental toughness as sessions lasted from 9:00 am to midnight or the early hours of the morning, with one meal break. We attended an est session and can attest to the profound influence it had in transforming our lives and on others who survived the grueling course.

One participant, Robert Kiyosaki, entrepreneur and author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad wrote, “In March of 1974, I walked into the est training, and two weeks later, as [my sister] had promised, my life changed. And my ‘changed life’ went well beyond the two weekends I spent in the est seminar. I realized I had the power to create the best destiny for my life, or the worst. It was my choice.”

It’s your choice, too, about whether you commit to having the mental toughness of a Rafael Nadal, to continue in the face of all odds. You can’t subscribe to “life is 80% about showing up,” as Woody Allen says.

You have to more than show up. You’ve got to make the changes, put in the practice and have the mental toughness to keep going no matter how hard the struggle, or how long the road.

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