Casey Stengel, manager of seven New York Yankee world championship teams, was known for going easy on his players during tough stretches but becoming downright nasty during winning streaks. This unusual approach helped Stengel keep his team mentally tough by addressing the two key components of progress: behavior and attitude.
If you’re not seeing the progress in your game that you’d like, it’s time to evaluate both your behavior (what you do) and your attitude (what you think). Since the two are closely related, you won’t notice development unless you’re committed to doing whatever it takes to succeed and following through on your intentions during practice, workouts and diet. Try these three tips to take your game to the next level.
Let Attitude Affect Behavior
Goal setting is a powerful tool, but only if it produces action. Many athletes don’t see results because they simply think about their goals (attitude) rather than writing them out, posting them prominently and taking action (behavior). Similarly, a confident attitude can come across as cockiness if it doesn’t produce actions, such as committing to shots, staying relaxed during free throws and putting in hard work. True leaders aren’t known for their attitude; they’re known for their actions, like encouraging others and leading by example.
Guard Against Complacency
Casey Stengel had all-time greats on his Yankee teams of the ’50s. He knew they would put in extra work when their swing was off, but would drift toward complacency when they were stringing wins together. By staying tough on his team through winning streaks, he got his players to stay focused on their mental games. When athletes focus exclusively on behavior, they tend to “go through the motions” and complacency sets in. Ward off this tendency by finding a teammate or coach who will push you to develop a core belief system that will motivate you whether things are going well or not.
Kickstart Attitude with Behavior
If you’re struggling, try reinforcing your belief in yourself with behaviors, which can include extra shots in practice, deep breathing, concentration exercises and rehearsing high-pressure situations. It’s actually easier to change your behavior than it is to change your attitudes about yourself. We can act our way into right thinking easier than we can think our way into right acting.
Developing mental toughness can be tough at first, but it’s also one of the surest ways to break through performance barriers. Develop your mental edge by checking out even more toughness tips.
Dr. Rob Bell is the owner of Dr. Rob Bell, LLC in Indianapolis, helping athletes, coaches, teams and parents build mental toughness. He is a certified sport psychology consultant with The Association of Applied Sport Psychology. He also works as a caddy on professional golf tours. His first book, Mental Toughness Training for Golf, was published in 2010. A prolific writer, Dr. Bell has been published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, Journal of Athletic Insight, Journal of Sport Behavior and Encyclopedia of Sports. He writes extensively on the mental game—for, among others, Runner’s World, The New York Times and STACK magazine—and he has been a presenter for numerous teams, schools and organizations. Dr. Bell earned his B.A. in psychology from Shepherd University; his M.Ed. in kinesiology, with a specialty in sport psychology, from Temple University; and his Ph.D. in sport psychology from the University of Tennessee.