Dr Steve Harris, The Mind Doctor and motivational speaker in South Africa, recalls being told that no matter how hard you practice and strive for excellence; you can never achieve the same levels of mental or physical prowess as talented leaders, elite athletes, and high achievers. His research shows that this claim is false.
Steve agrees that some people certainly have a greater inclination for sports or certain leadership positions. For example, you are unlikely to become an international Lock Forward in rugby unless you are tall, and preferably taller than two metres.
However, everyone can acquire skills that enable them to improve their performance and excel within the realms of their boundaries – you need to learn how to become the best version of yourself. When you start out on this journey, the first thing you need to realise is that it is both mental and physical attributes that allow you to get ahead of the pack. Essentially, you have to be mentally tough and resilient in today’s fast-paced and stress-induced world.
Mental Toughness Requires a Holistic Approach
The ideal approach to developing mental toughness is a holistic methodology. You cannot gain a sustainable competitive advantage by simply concentrating on one angle. The key is to set an objective and be mentally tough enough to follow through with it. There must be an alignment between what you say and what you do to accomplish and develop a competitive advantage.
Nature and Nurture
Some people are born with or develop substantial physical or technical abilities that help them become successful. These abilities are enhanced when supported by mental toughness. Talent, combined with mental toughness is a powerful combination. Mental toughness is a resource that can and must be developed.
With increased mental toughness, those with a small amount of talent can become the best version of themselves and prevail over those with some talent, but no mental strength. However, mental toughness is not a solution on its own.
How Much Success can be Attributed to Mental Toughness?
Professor Ross Tucker talked about the relative mental and physical contributions needed to succeed. He concluded that there is no exact figure on how much each grants you. He said, “Some say it is 50% mental and 50% physical to 100% mental and 100% physical, but it depends on the context.”
In the above example, he was referring to sport. “Canoeing is different from athletics; long jump differs from high jump, both of which vary from a marathon. Downhill skiing, no doubt, requires substantial parts of both mental and physical application……, it’s difficult to pin down.” (Tucker, 2013).
Improve Your Inner Game
Playing the outer game of golf requires knowledge of the sport and its mechanical skills. To improve the outer game, you need to increase your game expertise and develop mechanical skills through learning and experience. However, your inner game exists beyond the knowledge and logistics of the game. Understanding and developing this intrinsic resource has a huge influence on your performance. Great golfers understand that the outer game can only take them so far; to get further, they need to improve their inner game because this understanding will ultimately enable them to improve performance over time.
In a last word about talent, Marianne Adams gave a TED talk, where the gist of her conversation was “Talent doesn’t mean anything if you are a jerk.” This requires no further explanation!
Dr Steve Harris has been studying performance for thirty years, of which fifteen have been devoted to performance improvement through an integrated mind and body approach. His MBA dissertation at the University of Cape Town focused on business performance improvement. He followed this with a PhD thesis on Mental Toughness as a factor in performance.
Academic research combined with experiences assisting business organizations and sport teams at all levels led to his work as a motivational speaker, workshop facilitator, conference speaker and keynote speaker. Steve is now also offering leadership courses. Steve has the business knowledge and skills to view a wide range of problems with a perspective broader than the established patterns that entrench thinking and close minds.