Three researchers- Graham Jones, Sheldon Hanton and Declan Connauhgton- conducted an investigation of mental toughness of athletes who have achieved ultimate sporting success: eight Olympic champions, three world champ coaches, and four Olympic sports psychologists.
A pretty impressive group, to say the least.
When it came to how these stellar folks handled success, the results were uniformly the same all across the board.
“These world class athletes all have an acute awareness of their own ability, their levels of fitness, their strength, limitations, and what needs to be done in order to achieve the level of performance required to win. . . .
They also knows when to stop celebrating and how long it will take to reach that top-level performance again,” (P 259).
It is actually very important to celebrate success. Whether you win a race, or land that promotion, or climb that mountain, you do need to take a breathe. Allow yourself time to decompress and revel in your victory.
Go out for a fancy dinner. Take a few days off your training regimen. Go on a vacation, for chrissakes.
But here’s what really sets apart the high-performers: they then immediately get back in the game. Sure, they celebrate. Yes, they take a moment. But as quickly as they can- they’re right back on the training floor. And, they’ve now set their sights on a bigger goal. A harder goal. The next step.
These people are never complacent. When they’ve crushed one goal, they just keep looking higher and higher. And that’s how they truly get so far ahead.
Winning and succeeding has become a habit. It's an engrained part of their psyche.
They also know how to handle the pressures of succeeding, and the extra pressure that success adds to future performances.
“If you win an Olympic gold the pressure to repeat that increases . . . expectations are higher because people, competitors and even you, have put yourself at a higher level. . . . The mentally tough know how to handle that and still keep their feet on the ground,” (P 260).
It’s true. Once you’ve reached a certain level of success, it sure doesn’t get easier. In fact, it only gets harder and harder. The stakes are higher. The people watching you increases and increases. It’s a heavy burden- to be truly, remarkably successful. And of course, this doesn't just apply to athletes. It's anyone who's seeking out- and obtaining- the next level in their life.
Maybe you just landed a big promotion. Or got a nice, fat pay raise. Landed the lead in the musical. Booked a speaking engagement. You went after a difficult goal, and you crushed it. Yay you! You fucking rock.
But so, whatever your personal victory may be- you have to be resilient after the fact. You have to block out all the critics (inner or outer). You have to ignore all the eyes on you. You have to know- wholeheartedly- that you did it once. You succeeded. So now you can do it again.
You can’t stop. You won’t stop. Nothing will hold you back.
Cross that finish line. Then take a breathe. Celebrate. Dust yourself off. And now do it again. Only this time, you’ll be a little faster. You’ll be stronger. You will go further…and further…and further….
And that’s how you CRUSH.
Jones, Graham & Hanton, Sheldon & Connaughton, David. (2007). A Framework of Mental Toughness in the World’s Best Performers. The Sport Psychologist. 21. 243-264.. 10.1123/tsp.21.2.243.