I occasionally get asked about the importance of building a solid mental foundation. My answer is that every element of your game or work will ultimately rest on it. Thus, having a solid mental foundation is vital to you achieving the success you desire.
Just like the building of a house, where the quality of everything you build on top of the foundation will be compromised if it is not properly constructed, the same is true with your mental foundation.
Many golfers spend large sums of money working on perfecting their swing and a good number of basketball players spend similar sums trying to improve their shot. These are both good investments in their game, but if you do not develop an appropriate mental base, your beautiful swing or shot will not amount to much in terms of productivity.
A golfer or basketball player with the proper mindset and an ugly swing or shot will outperform one with an ideal swing or shot, who lacks the proper mental outlook, almost every time. The best swing or shot in the world cannot overcome an improper thought processes.
One key tenet of a strong or winning mind is a process orientation. Most people are result oriented and therefore prefer working on things of a physical nature where the results become evident to themselves and others rather quickly. For example, when you lift weights for the first time you see results almost immediately providing you with instant gratification.
Conversely, when you work on improving your mental game it is a fairly involved process where all the development happens on the inside. I like to say when you work on the inside it will eventually show on the outside, but there is rarely any instant gratification in mind work.
Building a solid mental foundation takes a lot of work and many athletes do not have the desire or dedication to change the way they think. Others simply do not recognize the importance of the mental side of performance.
By the time you reach the top levels of your sport the difference in athletic ability between all of the competitors is minimal. What separates the good from the great is almost always the way they use their minds. Many of the top players I have worked with have told me about guys on their teams who were much better than they are physically, but who are stuck on the bench because of their mindset.
The lower levels of sport are dominated by those with the most physical ability. The highest level of sport are dominated by those with the best mental games. The higher the level the more your mental game matters. I like to say that at the highest level the games become 90% mental, but although things have gotten better, most athletes still make the mistake of spending 90% of their time on the physical components of their game and this eventually causes a lot of regret.
As I often tell my clients, “There are two major self-inflicted pains in life, the short-term pain of self-discipline, and the never-ending pain of regret,” and it’s a good investment to do all you can, not live a life full of regrets.