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Three Ways To Be As Mentally Tough As A Pro Football Player

Three Ways To Be As Mentally Tough As A Pro Football Player

While serving as the Director of Mental Training for the St. Louis Cardinals, Dr. Jason Selk helped the team win their first World Series in over 20 years, and in 2011 he assisted the Cardinals in the historic feat of winning their second World Championship in a six year period. Considered to be one of the nation’s premier performance coaches, Dr. Selk helps numerous well- known professional and Olympic athletes as well as Fortune 500 and Fortune 100 executives and organizations develop the mental toughness necessary for high-level success. In a recent column for Forbes, Dr. Selk shared his pointers for becoming as mentally tough as a pro football player:

From working with professional athletes, I can attest to the fact that football players are about as rugged as people get, both mentally and physically.

In recent times, we’ve seen remarkable examples of players who’ve faced enormous challenges to their health and career, yet were able to bounce back and inspire others. How did they do it? With mental toughness. Their struggles and eventual triumph define what it means to be mentally tough.

Here are three lessons we can learn from three great football players.

Never Stop Evaluating Yourself–Like Tim Tebow

Tim Tebow was told since high school that he would never play college football as a quarterback, but he knew his dream and capabilities better than anyone else. He went to University of Florida and won two national championships and player of the year. Then, even after the most illustrious college career of all time, he was still told he would never be a QB at the next level. He ended up going pro, and finally got his chance with the Broncos. Mocked by many, Tebow never wavered from his faith in God and in himself. When he finally got his chance, he didn’t disappoint. He took over the team with a losing record and went on a miraculous streak to reach the playoffs and win a game against the Steelers. Although he has never started another NFL game, he is still a legend and a winner. Mental toughness means knowing yourself, striving for your personal best, and not letting yourself be distracted or deterred by critics, saboteurs, or skeptics.

Be Relentless About Improvement–Like Peyton Manning.

Peyton Manning essentially had a career-ending neck injury and then came back and put together nearly the greatest season a QB has ever had. He is even better this year. Those who have studied Manning and his recovery arc say that he demonstrated incredible fortitude and determination. Knowing that his arm strength is still off, he has nevertheless continued working to make his throws better and more accurate, rather than merely stronger. The key to being mentally tough is to stay disciplined in your pursuit of excellence. If things are going well for you, it may be even more challenging to try your hardest every single day. You can do it by setting small goals every day that will continually move you toward the next big goal you want to achieve.

Envision What’s Possible And Put In The Work–Like Adrian Peterson.

No one believed Adrian Peterson could come back from a torn ACL in one year. No one but Peterson himself, that is. His almost mythical recovery from an injury that generally takes two years or more to heal up is unprecedented. But in interviews, he’s said over and over that he knows his body, he knows what it takes to heal, and he knows how to put in the time, energy, work, and dedication to make it happen on his timetable. Sometimes we allow ourselves to be limited by others’ standards. But to be mentally tough requires that we set our own standards of performance, and then do everything we can in a methodical and focused way to reach that bar.

In sports, in business, and in life, we are constantly assaulted with challenges. But if we can evaluate ourselves, relentlessly improve, and envision a lofty goal, no goal is out of our reach.

By Jason Selk/