The Mental Game

So much of what determines success is the mental game.  Having the confidence and self-encouragement to get the job done, under whatever circumstances present themselves.  It’s the same in business, sports, relationships….it’s all the same set of mental tools.  I recently heard of a woman who picked up tennis as a 3.0/3.5-level player and won the state championship two years later, through primarily focusing on mental exercises and, to a lesser extent, on-court practice.  Last week, I played a league tennis match against a focused opponent of lesser skill.  In both sets, I was leading early (2-0 in the first, 4-1 in the second), but he managed to claw his way back in.  I ultimately lost in a tie-breaker (6-3, 5-7, 10-7) and played decently, but couldn’t help but think it was the mental game that dictated my outcome (or lack thereof).  I immediately thought of this Nike Golf commercial, with Early Woods’ narration. Tiger has incredible raw physical skill, but so do each of the other top 100 PGA golfers.  What really separates Tiger from the pack is his mental game.  Mike Donald lost the 1990 US Open to Hale Irwin on the 19th hole of a playoff when Irwin sank a miraculous 70-foot putt.  Donald virtually disappeared from professional golf soon after, while Irwin became the dominant senior tour player.  The mental game has as much, if not more, to do with winning and losing a match, a negotiation, a sale as the raw physical circumstances.