Top 5 Things Mentally Tough Athletes Don’t Do

imagesP0PJN7L1In the past, I’ve written about the critical importance of mental toughness for athletes.  It’s easy to overlook the fact that there are actually two games going on in any sport.  There’s the game that takes place on the field and there’s the game that takes place between the athletes’ ears.  I refer to this as The Game Within The Game.   

Typically when I work with individual athletes or teams, I seek to empower them with specific skills and strategies, designed to enhance their mental toughness.  A to do list of mental toughness tools, if you will. 

However, it’s also important to outline various things that mentally tough athletes don’t do.  Below is a list of The Top 5 Things Mentally Tough Athletes DON’T Do, along with a mental toughness solution for each.      

Give their power away to people and things

You can’t feel like a victim and be mentally strong at the same time.  When you say things like – My coach drives me nuts or My parents are making me crazy – you’re giving your power away.  No one has the power to make you think, feel, or behave in a certain way. 

Mental Toughness Solution:  Recognize moments when you’re allowing others to rent space in your head and take your power back by simply saying, “I’m taking my power back.”

Spend time trying to control things that are out of their control.

Complaining doesn’t solve problems; it only drains your energy.  If you practice controlling what you can control (thoughts, feelings, actions), you’ll be much better prepared for whatever comes your way.

Mental Toughness Solution:  Pay attention to times when you’re tempted to complain.  Accept that the situation (person) is out of your control and focus on influencing, not controlling.

Hang out in their comfort zone because of fear, doubt, or other people’s opinions.

You can’t become extraordinary without taking risks.  Fear will tell you that any risk is bad, which is precisely why it’s easy to stay in your comfort zone. 

Mental Toughness Solution:  Identify your goals and then identify the fears that may appear as you work toward achieving the goal.  If you’re prepared for these fears and know your triggers, they ultimately lose their power. 

Dwell on the past.

Learning from the past is beneficial; carrying it with you is not.  Constantly questioning your past choices keeps you from enjoying the present and making the future as good as it can be.   

Mental Toughness Solution:  Make peace with the past.  Give yourself some grace and recognize that your past doesn’t define you.  You don’t drive your car by looking in the rearview mirror, so why drive your life that way.      

Expect immediate results.

Self-growth develops slowly.  There is no such thing as an overnight success.  Bumps on the road are minor setbacks, not total roadblocks. 

Mental Toughness Solution:  Learn to ‘trust the process.’  When you find yourself thinking about where you should be, try to celebrate who you’ve become on your journey. 

If you’d like to learn more about my work with athletes, please email me at



  1. Libby Edmonds says:

    Hi Mike, I have been receiving your amazing Kaleidoeye post for a few years now. Its one of the best EQ materials I receive. Practical to the point and very user friendly. In this tech world there is so much information overload. I love receiving your info as I know I can apply it in my own life and as a teacher.
    Keep up the good work.
    Best wishes

    • Hi Libby. Thank you for your kind words. It’s great to hear from you.

      I’m honored that you find my EQ Materials to be so meaningful. If I remember correctly, you’re in New Zealand, right? Perhaps I can travel to your neck of the woods someday and meet you in person.


  2. bob reichard says:

    Hi Neighbor, I love most of your dialogs, but this one really sticks out for me !!
    Keep up the good work !!!!!

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