For the most part, athletes are characterized by their physical strengths.
Measuring just how great of an athlete a person is is all about who’s better, faster and stronger. It’s all about who can jump higher, bend farther, run quicker, etc.
But when it comes to applying those strengths, physical attributes are far from the only things that matter. The wide world of sports is one in which many of the greatest wins are attributed to one competitor having a “mental edge” having that “something extra.”
And what both of those intangibles usually come down to is mental strength. Some people have it and some people don’t, but not many people could deny it when they see it.
That’s because the signs of mental strength, particularly in athletes, are as easy to recognize as the hair on one’s head.
Because of that, it’s not only easy to point out what these athletes can do, but what they don’t do as well.
Here are 15 things that mentally strong athletes don’t do:
They don’t receive criticism immaturely
Mentally strong athletes won’t fall into the trap of receiving criticism as a personally insult. That can only produce a feeling that sees it necessary to retaliate somehow, meanwhile the issue that deserved said criticism in the first place gets ignored.
Rather, they take criticism as nothing more than a sign they are human and as crucial to the process of constantly improving.
Sure, criticisms can sting (being wrong is never pleasant, after all), but even when critics speak most harshly, they’re usually doing it with some form of credible reason.
They don’t lose concentration
A lack of focus and awareness can sometimes be as detrimental as any physical weakness.
If, for just one moment, you lose concentration on all of the different elements you’re responsible for contributing to a certain task or objective, you’re putting your and/or your teammates’ success at risk.
When it’s time to compete, mentally strong athletes immerse themselves into the business in front of them, and become practically immune to distractions.
They don’t get caught unprepared
Giving your all and coming up second-best against equally formidable opposition? OK. Trying your absolute best and still coming up short? All right, fair enough.
But get caught falling victim to a situation that could easily have been avoided with just a little bit more studying, practicing and closer attention to detail, and now you’re just doing yourself a disservice.
Mentally strong athletes know that preparation is the key to success.
They don’t lack confidence in their ability
All people have skills, but they can use it in different ways. Those who have a supreme sense of confidence in that skill apply it that much more emphatically, with conviction.
Those who, for whatever reason, are not so confident in their skill use it hesitantly, which usually results in their lacking that extra inch or that extra second of speed need while applying that ability. And that is crucial, because time after time, sports are decided by the smallest of margins.
Once you have a skill, it’s there for you to use. Do it confidently, and you’re that much more likely to succeed. Do it hesitantly and you open yourself up to being noticeably vulnerable.
They don’t let others get inside their heads
For one individual’s ability to be impaired by something so intangible and, in the grand scheme of things, unimportant as another person’s negative words is one the biggest tragedies that can occur in the field of play.
The worst part about it is these tragedies occur all the time; good players and competitors being put off their game by a bit of trash talk from an opponent.
When that happens, it’s a true shame, and it’s as good of an indication as any that the affected party did not have that much confidence in his or her own strengths in the first place. And that, as implied above, is a sign of a lack of mental strength.
They don’t complain about not having the spotlight
Mentally strong athletes know their worth, and don’t need anyone else to reaffirm it. They’re all right with letting others grab headlines and attention because personal achievement and success are what truly matter and those can never be taken away.
They don’t lose composure
Mentally strong athletes don’t lose their cool when things are not going well. They don’t act out erratically nor do they become content with knowingly making unwise decisions because they’ve lost faith in their initial game plan.
Mentally strong athletes hold their nerve, and are able to look toward creating solutions instead of complain about problems.
At most, they’ll change their game plan, but only after carefully considering what has gone wrong and moving forward with efforts to address the issue in an intelligent way.
They don’t use tiredness as an excuse
Rarely, if ever, are our bodies as incapable of more as they lead us to believe during those first few signs of fatigue.
Even when our bodies seem like they are crying out that we can’t, there is usually always room for one more rep, one more sprint, one more push and one more jump.
Fatigue makes those extra efforts harder, true, but it should not limit us full-stop. Mentally strong athletes know this more than others.
They don’t dwell on mistakes
They can accept that they’re wrong, but they will not allow mistakes to hover over them like a dark cloud that reigns over their sense of self-belief.
Mentally strong athletes can accept their faults, and commit to addressing them, without receiving those faults as a sign that they can’t, in any sense.
They don’t shrink in the big moment
Every moment is not as important as others. Finals are much more important than exhibitions. All of that is true. But while the stakes can vary on any given day, the physical aspects of the game never change.
For the most part, every competion features the same measurements and dimensions all the time, every time.
While competing for the highest stakes, mentally strong athletes are able to focus on that tangible fact rather than allowing the intangible gravity of “big moments” to knock them off their game.
Mentally strong athletes don’t jeopardize long-term goals for short-term gains. They’re OK with missing the big party the night before the big game.
They also know one slip can ruin everything they worked for and/or create bad habits.
They don’t throw others under the bus
Throwing blame or publicly shaming others is perhaps the most underrated sign of mental weakness.
For someone to consciously increase the amount of scrutiny on a teammate, which is usually done by people to get themselves out of the firing line, is counterproductive to fostering team spirit.
Issues should be dealt with internally, not in public and certainly not in front of your opponent. That is, unless, you want to create disunity. But that would never be something that mentally strong athletes aspire to.
They don’t allow success to get to their heads
Mentally strong athletes don’t take success as reason to show off and lose all sense of humility. These athletes don’t need to brag and try to shamelessly draw attention to themselves, as if trying to convince themselves that they are important after a life of not totally being convinced they were.
Mentally strong athletes enjoy their successes and triumphs, but they don’t need to continuously beat their own drum.
They don’t break away from their routine
Missing one day of a well-thought-out plan, which was presumably made for your own betterment, is a pretty clear sign of either a lack of discipline or desire.
When mentally strong athletes are determined to achieve a certain goal, they do not allow themselves to break their own regimen, barring extenuating circumstances.
They don’t give up
They don’t ever give up. No matter how many seconds are left, no matter how big the deficit, no matter how difficult the task, mentally strong athletes never allow themselves to fall into apathy.