Master Your Emotions - The Foundation of Mental Toughness

Situation: It’s the 4th quarter in a close game. You are on a 2-on-1 break, and you receive the pass in a position to score. As you jump, you feel yourself losing control of the ball. The layup bounces off the backboard, then the rim, then into the defender’s hands. The frustration inside you tells you to go for the steal. As you slap down, the referee calls you for a foul. That’s when you hear your coach say, “C’mon! I need you to be mentally tough!” The opponent shoots a 1-and-1 and makes both. Mental toughness is a term so often used yet so few people understand. We hear it a lot in sports, but it has a direct translation to all of our goals. What does it take to be mentally tough? There are a lot of things that go into becoming mentally tough. The foundation of mental toughness is learning how to master your emotions.

Think about how you respond in times when your emotions drastically change. Does it cause your behavior to change? Are you suddenly a different person? Controlling your emotions is about not letting how you feel make you do things you shouldn’t do, or keep you from doing things you should do.

Being able to control your emotions is not an easy thing to do. It takes self-preparation before any specific moment comes. Here are 3 ways you can prepare to be emotionally stable:

Be driven by your values, not rewards

Understanding who you are and how you approach things can help you remain on an even keel. Many teams have “Core Values” that they expect their players to play by. Some people have a mantra that they say to remind themselves of their self-expectations. Find out what you are about as person, and let that be a reminder of how you approach all situations.

Practice responding instead of reacting

When you are in a game, the heat of the moment can make you do things that you later realize should not have been done. Some mistakes are bound to happen, others are caused by emotional failure when we quickly react to something that happened to us. Prepare your mind on a daily basis to respond to emotional situations (controlled) instead of reacting to situations (uncontrolled).

Understand NEEDS versus WANTS

As our emotions change, things pop in our mind that we don’t need to do, but we want to do. If you have had a long day and are tired and feeling hungry, do you need to go through the drive-thru at McDonald’s? No, but you want to because it’s fast, easy, and cheap. What you need is some chicken and veggies. Always remember what you need to do.

Question for thought:

What situations do you find yourself losing control of your emotions? How can you change your daily behaviors to better prepare for those situations?