What are mental skills and why are they important?

There are nine specific mental skills that contribute to success in many areas of life such as sports, weight loss, careers, or even tackling new challenges. These nine mental skills are necessary for performing well in sport as well as in non-sport performance situations. They are all learned and can be improved with instruction and practice.
Although each of the nine skills is important, its primary importance will occur during one of three phases: day-to-day, foundational; immediate preparation for performance; and during performance itself. The nine include: attitude, motivation, goals and commitment, people skills, self-talk, mental imagery, dealing with anxiety, dealing with emotions, and concentration.
The four foundational skills are like the foundation of the house. You pour that concrete foundation on firm ground and you are going to be able to build a strong and sturdy home. You pour that concreate out on sand or other soft soil and the foundation will shift and eventually crack causing anything that had been built on it to crack as well.
The key to learning these skills is just that…you can learn them. You need to understand what you are currently doing and what changes need to be made to shift your thinking to a more effective manner. Below are the different skills and what is involved for each.

There are four (4) foundational, day-to-day mental skills:
Attitude:
*Realize that attitude is a choice.
*Choose an attitude that is predominantly positive.
*View your sport as an opportunity to compete against yourselves and learn from your successes and failures.
*Pursue excellence, not perfection, and realize that you, as well as your coaches, teammates, officials, and others are not perfect.
*Maintain balance and perspective between your sport and the rest of your life.
*Respect your sport, other participants, coaches, officials, and yourself.

Motivation:
*Are you aware of the rewards and benefits that you expect to experience through your sports participation?
*Are you able to persist through difficult tasks and difficult times, even when these rewards and benefits are not immediately forthcoming?
*Do you realize that many of the benefits come from your participation, not the outcome?

Goals and Commitment:
*Set long-term and short-term goals that are realistic, measurable and time-orientated.
*Are you aware of your current performance levels and able to develop specific, detailed plans for attaining your goals?
*Are you highly committed to your goals and to carrying out the daily demands of your training program?

People Skills:
*Realize that you are part of a larger system that includes your families, friends, teammates, coaches, and others.
*When appropriate, communicate your thoughts, feelings, and needs to these people and listen to them as well.
*Have you learned effective skills for dealing with conflict, difficult opponents, and other people when you are negative or oppositional?

What areas do you have strengths in? What areas need some work? What steps can you take today to begin building these skills?

Until next time….
Change. Discover. Transform.
Carla Carter, Ed.D., LCPC, CMPC, EMDR Certified

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