Instead, it all comes down to mental toughness – the ability to make cool-headed decisions in heated moments and control things when they threaten to go astray.
Just look at some of the world’s top athletes – even Rafael Nadal credits his success to his strong mental resilience: “It is impossible to play great every time, but when I play so-so I’m still there mentally – the mental part is there 100%”.
Whether you’re an aspiring figure skater or cyclist, the mental resilience required to win gold in the greatest sports competition on Earth is the same. In a recent study, a team from Loughborough University spoke with 12 Olympic champions across a range of events and found they all possessed a unique mental toughness characterized by five unique attributes:
- Positive personality: Each gold medal-winning athlete had an openness to new experiences, was conscientious, competitive, optimistic and proactive.
- Motivation: Top athletes are motivated by multiple internal and external factors. While they have a passion for the sport, they’re driven to prove their worth so choose to compete at top level.
- Confidence: Their confidence is gained from a range of sources, from experience and self-awareness to visualization and coaches – this means a set-back in one area won’t hold them back.
- Focus: The ability to concentrate on the process rather than the outcome and self-reflect without distraction.
- Social support: They have a strong support network and believe high quality support, whether from family, coaches or teammates, is just a phone call away.