Mental Toughness Digest for Sport & Performance.
“Boiling It Down”
By Chris Pomfret (PSY0000966671)
Maybe it’s the sheer volume of cooking shows on television these days, but quite a few of my recent discussions with athletes, coaches and parents have involved food analogies to explain some core principles of mental toughness. There is a lot to admire about the clarity chefs have regarding exactly what goes into a meal and how to deliver it onto a plate. This edition of the Mental Toughness Digest has been written to get you thinking about breaking performance down and getting the mix right (no pun intended).
Any good chef works to a recipe. This recipe may change slightly over time (hopefully for the better), but certain core components of a dish will remain. Think back to the last time you cooked your favourite meal: the end result may not have contained every single ingredient, but you would have ensured the essentials made it into the pot and onto the plate. When these ‘non-negotiables’ are included, you have your best chance of producing the desired outcome of a tasty meal. When core ingredients are omitted or the recipe is ignored, however, you tend to get something else entirely. A delicious meal is typically made up of limited number of core ingredients, all in balance. If these ingredients are of a high quality and in the ideal quantity you’re onto a winner.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a recipe for sporting success? I mentioned earlier the clarity which chefs have when it comes to producing their dishes. A good chef has a general sense of what needs to be incorporated into a meal, roughly how much to put in, and about how long to cook it for. A great chef knows precisely which ingredients to use, exactly how to measure them out, and the specific time increments for cooking. Picture your best possible sporting performance: how confident are you that you could write down a specific list of ‘core ingredients’ which could be passed on to another athlete to produce a similarly excellent performance? Are you staying true to this recipe yourself, or are a few essential items missing?
Those of you who are familiar with the Metuf mental method Simplifying It will recall that one extremely useful way of breaking down performance involves identifying the 5 pillars of performance excellence (Mental Toughness, Tactical Wisdom, Technical Consistency, Physical Capabilities, and Lifestyle Choices). In the same way that a delicious meal can be viewed as a combination of a few core ingredients, your best possible performance can be viewed as a combination of these 5 pillars. If you’re going to better understand – and therefore improve – your cooking game, it would be beneficial to have a framework for understanding the key components of a dish before you step into the kitchen. Similarly, Simplifying It teaches athletes to identify the ‘core ingredients’ that drive performance in order for these ingredients to be refined and improved through weekly effort.
So what are these core ingredients, these 5 pillars of performance excellence? Mental Toughness means having your mind on your side, rather than working against you. Tactical Wisdom refers to knowledge of your sport and decision-making when competing (‘when to’ or ‘why to’ do something). Technical Consistency is essentially skill execution through movement and biomechanics (‘how to’ do something). Physical Capabilities involves the body in such domains as strength, fitness and flexibility. Lifestyle Choices can be regarded as your ‘sport/life balance’.
The 5 pillars of performance excellence are the simplified but essential core ingredients which form the basis of your recipe for success. This is not to say that there is a ‘secret formula’ which guarantees optimal performance in any area of sport, or that there is a ‘one size fits all’ approach to reaching your potential. However, a meal won’t taste as good if core ingredients are missing. Taking a look at your current endeavours to improve your performance, are you satisfied that all the core ingredients are accounted for? Are they of the highest possible quality? Do you feel as though you have the mix right? What could you add / remove / modify that would make things even better? If you were building the recipe from scratch, how would things be different?
Once a recipe has been developed and the dish has been tried and tested, there is of course the matter of stepping into the kitchen and bringing it to life. In sporting terms, following preparation comes the time to compete and showcase your talents. We might leave that particular discussion for another day, but in the meantime the team at Condor Performance have a few tips if you’re looking to spice things up.