Positive Thinking – Optimism – And Mental Toughness

  1. “Think it and you can achieve it.”
  2. “Positive thoughts bring positive results.”
  3. “Likes attract likes – so thinking positive attracts positives.”
  4. The Power of Positive Thinking
  5. The Law of Attraction
  6. The Secret

What do those items have in common? Some aspect of positive thinking and the supposition that by thinking positive – you change your world.

Positive thinking and optimism are basically synonymous. Contrary to what some people say, it really isn’t about seeing the world as “perfect” or that there are no problems or hard times. It is about viewing events and situations in life for what they really are (some say this is realism) and still finding a positive aspect to those things. The choice is to wallow in a less than ideal situation-scenario-event and reinforce in your mind how awful it is or to view the circumstance as an opportunity to learn or grow from or simply not to repeat in the future.

Optimism is a mindset. It is a mindset in describing things; and a mindset in which we attribute causes/outcomes in some kind of beneficial or “positive” manner. Again contrary to those who like to defend pessimism or realism as being more pragmatic, it does not ignore reality. Instead, it is an explanatory style of reality. And there are those who do not believe it is beneficial.

According to research there are some benefits to being optimistic: lower stress, improved immune system, decrease in heart disease related illnesses, less depression and overall feelings of well-being. They have also found higher degrees of persistence in the face of adversity.

Let’s take a look at an athlete’s mental game viewpoint. You do not change the reality of a bad race, an injury, being beaten by your nemesis, dropping out of a race or just not progressing as you wish. Any and all of these can get you “down”. You do control your attitude, view or mindset towards these. Being able to reframe a disappointment into a learning experience or merely an objective occurrence which provides feedback to you is a skill and technique to put that disappointment in perspective. It resembles but is not positive thinking. Though if the research is correct about optimists persisting in the face of adversity better than pessimists then of course, this would be a nice way of viewing things during those bad patches in a race.

There is one self-proclaimed “mental game expert” and motivational speaker who bases his work on the Law of Attraction and breathing exercises. That’s it. That is the secret to being mentally resilient – mentally tough. Just take a breath and think good thoughts.

I hate the term “motivational speaker” because so often they are full of fluff, feel good stories and telling everyone if they just believed (i.e. thought positive) the world is theirs for the taking. Rarely do they provide concrete techniques and strategies for an individual to apply. Most rely on stories of “belief”. Don’t get me wrong, I do “motivational speaking” and there will always be a place for compelling stories to illustrate points and get people excited. But to make the concept of motivation or mental toughness as easy as just thinking positive is worse than misleading. It sets people up for failure and greater disappointment because they cannot do this thing that the speaker said was so easy. So, now there really must be something wrong with us!

Thinking “positive” does not make you mentally tough. Here are the keys to mental toughness – your ability to focus (a skill) on the present (reality) and on what you control (you) and that you master this (techniques and strategies) in your training so that you can use them on race day. And, though simple, these are not easy to master. No single technique (such as breathing) works for everyone. The approaches have to be tailored to the individual. There is no magic pill! It requires practice to change  (unlearn then learn) our thought habits which have been learned and engrained in us since childhood.

In the end, being optimistic may contribute to better mental and physical health. Thinking positive may help you hang in there during the rough times. But, it takes far more than just positive thinking and an optimistic view of events to make you mentally tough. And the one thing that we do know is if you practice the right techniques (optimist, pessimist or realist) you will be mentally tougher!

You can contact me directly for information on mental game training programs which are research-based with sound psychological foundations – without the fluff. (OK – a little fluff to keep your interest.)


About Dean Hebert

I’m a mental game coach, author and speaker. I work with individual athletes, parents, coaches, and teams on sports performance enhancement. Beyond my academic post-graduate work in sports psychology - the psychology behind athlete performance – I am a certified Mental Games Coaching Professional (MGCP) and certified hypnotherapist. I’ve authored several books and hundreds of articles. “Coach, I didn’t run because…” (2008) is a seriously light-hearted look at making excuses not to workout and how to overcome them. “Focus for Fitness” (2009) and “Screw the Goals Give me the Donut” (2010) are two of my eBooks on mental game approaches for the everyday athlete. I wrote these because I believe that everyone can benefit from the powerful mental techniques that the world’s best athletes use. I have been cited in Runners World, Best Health magazine (CN), SWEAT Magazine, and the Washington Examiner amongst many other publications. I have been a featured mental games coach in Runner’s World and for the internationally acclaimed trail running resource - trailrunningclub.com. I also regularly appear on sports and fitness talk shows such as LTKFitness, Runnersroundtable and for more than three years I have co-hosted a weekly video series with Coach Joe English for Running-Advice.com. I specialize in mental toughness training. My clients include tennis, synchronized swimming, golf, race-kart, soccer, motocross, volleyball, MMA, cycling (road, off-road, time-trialist), running, duathlon and triathlon, basketball, football and baseball athletes. I have coached world-class athletes and athletes internationally. I have a passion for working with youth athletes and helping them apply mental game skills and techniques to all areas of life. Most importantly, my aim is to have people enjoy sports and life to their fullest through peak performances.
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One Response to Positive Thinking – Optimism – And Mental Toughness

  1. Pingback: Positive Affirmations – How Do You View the World? « GREAT MENTOR

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