Summary: 10-Minute Toughness by Jason Selk

1. The 10-Minute Toughness program is simply about identifying and utilizing a handful of mental tools that are proven to help people perform more consistently.

2. Athletes using 10-MT spend approximately four to five minutes after each practice and competition to focus on strengths and goal-related thinking. They also spend five minutes a day completing a five-step mental workout prior to the next day's training and/or competition to help develop a pinpoint focus on what they are trying to improve and what it takes to make it happen.

3. The field of sport psychology has identified self-efficacy (self-confidence) as the most influential mental variable in controlling performance. This means that if you have a strong belief in your ability to perform well, then the chances of your actually performing well greatly improve. This program is specifically designed to help athletes improve self-confidence. The two most effective ways to develop self-confidence are to perform well and to physically and mentally prepare to perform well.

4. The program works because it has two primary strengths. First, it forces athletes to identify the "process of success." The process of success is a clear and concise assessment of what it takes for the athlete to perform well. This assessment is done daily after training and competition. Second, a mental workout provides a vehicle for mentally training the identified process of success. In addition, athletes visualize success outcomes to enhance self-confidence. They identify the most beneficial thoughts to have and then condition their minds to be able to maintain those thoughts more fully throughout training sessions and competition. It is certainly not rocket science, but it absolutely works!

5. There are three essential phases in the 10-MT mental-training program. Phase 1 is what I refer to as the mental workout. This individualized mental-training plan helps athletes identify and focus on their "control points," or what it takes for success.

6. 10-Minute Toughness Mental Workout:

a. The Centering Breath. A fifteen-second deep breath designed to control arousal states. 

b. The Performance Statement. A specifically tailored self-statement useful for increasing training and competitive focus. 

c. The Personal Highlight Reel. An advanced form of visualization allowing athletes to increase skill refinement and consistency. 

d. The Identity Statement. A concrete self-statement proven to enhance self-image and performance confidence. 

e. The Centering Breath. As in step one, a biologically established relaxation technique used to increase the potential to perform well under pressure.

7. Phase 2 comprises developing and utilizing an effective goal-setting program:

Vision clarity: Ultimate goal accomplishment associated with sport. 

Product goal: A result-oriented goal that is clearly measurable and is usually most effective if it emphasizes accomplishments in the next twelve months. 

Process goal: The daily action needed to accomplish both product-and vision-level goals. 

Success Log: Questions that encourage the identification of personal strengths and specific desires for improvement.

Personal Rewards Program Questionnaire: Questionnaire that identifies the athlete's motivational preferences. 

Personal incentive style: The motivational preferences of athletes that enhance training and competition intensity.

8. Phase 3 teaches individuals how to develop a relentless focus on solutions. 

9. Athletes and coaches are able to realize the small difference between good and great by asking, What is one thing I can do that could make this better?

10. Centering Breath = Diaphragm Breathing - I have tried to simplify diaphragm breathing by qualifying a good centering breath as one that lasts fifteen seconds. The formula is 6-2-7: breathe in for six seconds, hold for two, and breathe out for seven seconds. Individuals under the age of twelve should try to have the centering breath last eleven seconds (4-2-5).

11. One core aspect of training is known as arousal control. The heart rate is a primary control of a person's arousal state. It is important to control heart rate because using the mind effectively becomes increasingly more difficult as the heart rate rises. Once the rate gets to 120 beats per minute, the mind will not be nearly as sharp (unless proper conditioning and mental training has occurred), and at about 150 beats per minute, the mind will essentially shut down and go into survival mode. (In this state, even the best athletes will lose the ability to maintain mental acuity.)

12. A performance statement is a specifically designed form of self-talk. Self-talk is the conversation that goes on in a person's head throughout the day. It is said that the average person has up to sixty thousand thoughts per day—that's a lot of self-talk. The unfortunate thing about those thoughts is that the majority tend to embody self-doubt or negativity. If we do not choose our thoughts carefully, they can (and many times do) have a negative impact on performance.

13. From a mental standpoint, the most tried-and-true way to increase performance is to improve confidence. Self-talk is one of the most influential agents for honing self-confidence.

14. Extensive research in the sport psychology world confirms that an athlete's internal dialogue significantly influences performance. Athletes who have negative self-talk will generally experience poor performance; conversely, when athletes keep their minds focused on positive performance cues, they are more likely to experience success.

15. A performance statement is a type of self-talk designed to help athletes zoom in on one specific thought to enhance performance consistency. It is a simple, yet concrete, thought that specifically identifies the process of success, or what it takes to perform at your best.

16. For the baseball player, there may be a performance statement to emphasize hitting (track the ball, smooth and easy) and defense (set, stay down, watch it into the glove). A basketball player may choose to combine both offense and defense into one performance statement (hustle every possession; attack every rebound; drive, drive, drive), while the gymnast may have a performance statement for every event she competes on (floor: quick hands, tight legs, squeeze; vault: top speed, feet in front; bars: hollow handstands and elbows locked).

17. In my opinion, the essence of mental toughness is the ability to replace negative thinking with thoughts that are centered on performance cues or that contribute to improved self-confidence.

18. The more often negative thoughts are replaced with positive self-talk, the more successful and mentally tough a person will be.

19. The most helpful method to stop self-doubt and negative thinking is thought replacement. Effective thought replacement occurs when you decide what you want to have happen and then think more often about what it will take to make it happen. Whenever unproductive thoughts ("don't" thinking or mental clutter) infringe, replace them with productive ones.

20. The performance statement serves two principal purposes. First, it is a way to avoid self-doubt, negativity, or mental clutter(thought replacement). Second, it helps you perform at your best by directing your thoughts toward targeted areas of strength.

21. A client trying to prioritize exercise had this as his performance statement: "Three days on, one day off; dedicated and committed; I clear my own path." His highlights aren't as much about the technical aspects of doing it right as they are about his desire and ability to be healthy.

22. The personal highlight reel is an advanced form of visualization in which you create your own mental "SportsCenter" highlight reel.

23. People learn faster by visualizing success rather than by watching it on tape. Of course, there is considerable value in watching success on tape. In fact, during film sessions, Bear Bryant, the famous football coach at Alabama, showed his players only footage of themselves playing well.

24. Coach Bryant contended that showing his players what they did well helped them repeat the performance, whereas showing them what they did wrong would only increase the likelihood of their exhibiting more poor play in the future.

25. According to some studies, in fact, every minute of visualization is worth seven minutes of physical practice.

26. Visualizing is the act of watching something in your mind before actually doing it.

27. There are eight essential guidelines for visualization success:

Choose One of Three Camera Angles - whether 1. as if the camera is in the stands recording someone other than you performing the skill; 2. you are watching the mental video as if the camera is in the stands filming as you perform the skill and 3. you watch the mental video as if your eyes are the camera lens (or as if you're wearing a helmet camera). From this perspective, you would see whatever you actually see while you are performing the skill.

Pay Attention to Detail - Try to pay attention to three of the five senses while performing the skill: sight (What do you see on the surrounding field, court, or arena?); sound (Do you hear crowd noise, coaches, teammates?); and feel (What does the ball, bat, racket, club, etc., feel like? Also, what does your body feel like as it performs successfully?).

Frequent and Brief Is the Ticket - Visualizing many times for short stints is far more effective than visualizing for extended periods.

Visualize from Beginning to End - Make sure to view the skill or action in its entirety. Creating a comprehensive mental video helps to reduce distraction and eliminate potential problems with emotional control.

Emotionally Feel the Way You Want to Feel - Be aware of how you want to feel before and during competition, and then train yourself to feel just that way.

Replay Until You Get It Right

Give Credit Where Credit Is Due - Upon finishing each successful visualization, take a brief time-out to congratulate yourself on a job well done. A mental pat on the back or a few kind words to yourself after visualizing success will help keep you on an even keel.

Operate at Game Speed - Finally, watch the mental clip at the desired speed. While it is helpful sometimes to slow the mental video down to figure out some of the more complex skills, you should always visualize at the desired speed prior to the physical performance, or else the timing of the action may be off.

28. Camera angle number three is the most beneficial, because with this approach, your muscles can actually get stronger and muscle memory can develop. Many athletes refer to muscle memory as the ability to perform successfully while on autopilot.

29. Although I just told you that all three camera angles are helpful, I do not want you to use more than one camera angle when you visualize. Pick one angle to employ, trusting your instincts on which of the three is most appropriate for you.

30. The personal highlight reel is made up of three parts. The first part emphasizes a successful performance from your past, and the second and third parts address how you want to perform in the future.

31. Part 1: Sixty-Second Mental Video Clip of Excellent Past Performance - There are two options to consider when creating the first part of your personal highlight reel. The first option is to identify the best performance or game you have had in the past (the more recent the better). Imagine that the entire performance was videotaped; select three to five personal highlights from the videotaped performance, each lasting from ten to twenty seconds. The second option is to identify a few of your best performances and choose a combination of your best highlights from those performances. Choose the three to five best personal highlights, each lasting between ten to twenty seconds.

32. Parts 2 and 3: Sixty-Second Mental Video Clips of Upcoming Big Games or Competitions - The second and third parts are also sixty-second mental video clips, but instead of re-creating the past, you imagine what you want to have happen in your future.

33. Be sure to really hone in on what it physically feels like to emphasize your performance statement and emotionally focus on your ideal arousal state as you go through parts two and three of your personal highlight reel. By doing so, you will dramatically increase the effectiveness of your visualization.

34. Sean Townsend's Personal Highlight Reel 

Part 1 (Successful Past Performance): World Championships '02  

Good training leading up to World Championships  

Felt calm and confident in warm-ups; everything was smooth and fluid  

Hit four solid routines on the first day of competition

Superhit P-bars to win the gold  

Personal greatest moment in sport: gold medal ceremony (freeze frame: standing at the top of the podium) 

Part 2 (Next Elevated-Pressure Competition): USA Championships '08  

Good, solid warm-up, feeling calm and confident and taking one skill at a time, one routine at a time  

Hit all six routines on day one while feeling calm and confident and taking one skill at a time, one routine at a time  

Hit all six routines in finals while feeling calm and confident and taking one skill at a time, one routine at a time

Part 3 (Next Competition): WOGA Invitational  

Good, solid warm-up, feeling calm and confident and taking one skill at a time, one routine at a time  

Hit all six routines on day one while feeling calm and confident and taking one skill at a time, one routine at a time 

 Hit all six routines in finals while feeling calm and confident and taking one skill at a time, one routine at a time

35. An identity statement is a self-statement designed to improve self-image. Your self-image is essentially how you view yourself—what strengths and weaknesses you believe you possess. It has been demonstrated that what people believe they are capable of accomplishing largely determines how much they will actually accomplish.

36. Self-image is a proven agent of behavior control.

37. The effect of self-image is one reason why 80 percent of lottery winners file for bankruptcy within five years of winning. Even though their financial situation has dramatically changed, typically the self-image hasn't. For people who see themselves as not good with money, no matter how much money is given to them, they will generally find a way to lose it.

38. As pointed out previously, largely what determines people's self-image is the things they continually say to themselves, and unfortunately, much of our inner dialogue regards what we can't do rather than what we can do.

39. The key is to create the self-image desired—decide who you want to be and how you want to live—and then continuously tell yourself that you have what it takes to be that person. The self-image will guide and direct actions and behaviors until the self-image becomes the reality.

40. In the words of Maxwell Maltz, "You will act like the sort of person you conceive yourself to be. More important, you literally cannot act otherwise, in spite of all your conscious efforts or willpower. This is why trying to achieve something difficult with teeth gritted is a losing battle. Willpower is not the answer. Self-image management is."

41. I encourage athletes to create a two-part identity statement. The first part indicates a strength you currently have or want to have. Be sure the strength you choose to accentuate makes achieving success more likely. For example, your strength might be that you are a really hard worker. Whether it is already true or is something that you want to be true, the first part of your identity statement might be "I am the hardest worker on the team."

42. The second part of your identity statement addresses what you want to accomplish. It is OK to stretch a bit here. According to research on affirmations, the more imposing the desired task, the more impact it will have on the self-image. Frame both parts of your identity statement as though the objectives have already been achieved.

43. My own personal identity statement is "I am more motivated than my competition; I am the most effective sport psychology consultant in the world."

44. Examples of Identity Statements  

Baseball. I am the hardest worker on the team; I am a dominant major-league hitter.  

Basketball. I am intelligent and I know this game better than anyone; I am the most prolific scorer on the court.

45. Remember: the centering breath is a deep breath used to physiologically control heart rate and arousal. Taking a centering breath at the end of the mental workout is necessary for athletes because completing the personal highlight reel may cause the heart rate and arousal state to elevate.

46. I tell athletes that doing the mental workout one time a day is great. Some clients prefer to do it a couple of times a day, and that is OK, but there is no need to do it more than twice a day.

47. Give it a try. Complete the mental workout for two weeks, and judge for yourself if it helps you to improve focus, ability, and consistency.

48. The three levels, or types, of goals that I discuss with clients are ultimate goals, product goals, and process goals

49. Ultimate goals. Ultimate goals are the culmination of what you want to accomplish and how you want to accomplish it. When identifying your ultimate goals, imagine being able to look into the future and witness your retirement dinner. What accomplishments do you want to hang on the wall, and what would you like the speaker to say about you regarding how you played the game and how you conducted yourself?

50. Product goals. Product goals are result-oriented goals. They are clearly measurable and usually are most effective if they emphasize accomplishments in the next twelve months. I have found that the best formula is to assign yourself up to three product goals for the next competitive season in which you will participate and, again, up to three product goals for the upcoming off-season. For example, a basketball player may have the following three product goals for the season:

1. Score at least ten points per game 

2. Have a free-throw percentage of 80 percent or better 

3. Grab at least six rebounds every game

51. Process goals. Process goals are the "what it takes" to achieve the product goals you set. Process goals also must be specific enough to be measurable. For example, the same basketball player may believe that two of the best ways for her to score ten points per game are by being mentally prepared for each game and by aggressively driving to the hoop (within five feet) at least four times per game.

52.It is important to write your goals down and let others know of your intentions. Writing and talking about your goals will also increase your accountability and motivation for achieving them.

53. "What does Coach Wooden say about excuses?" He replied, "Never make excuses. Your friends won't need them, and your foes won't believe them."

54. For goals to work, they must become a part of daily training.

55. After practices and games, you will take about three to four minutes to fill out a Success Log. The Success Logs ask athletes to answer the following questions:  

What three things did I do well today?  

Based on today's performance, what do I want to improve?  

What is one thing I can do differently that could lead to the desired improvement?

56. Just before doing your mental workout, you will take one minute to review your Success Log entries from the previous day.

57. In my experience, athletes who establish a "personal rewards" system find it easier and more enjoyable to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve their goals.

58. Research strongly suggests that pushing to reach a goal provides more happiness than actually reaching the goal.

59. It is also important to set new goals once a goal is achieved. Remember that you stand to experience more joy and satisfaction from striving to reach your goals than from actually achieving them. So, keep replacing achieved goals with bright, shiny new ones.

60. Edwin Locke and Gary Latham, discovered after years of research on thousands of people is that the most successful men and women in the world use goals as their primary method of motivation.

61. Being solution focused means keeping your thoughts centered on what you want from life and what it takes to achieve what you want, as opposed to allowing thoughts of self-doubt and concern to occupy the mind.

62. "Every time I catch myself feeling angry or scared or depressed it is because I am thinking about what I don't have in my life or about something that is wrong with me. The instant I catch myself feeling uncomfortable I ask, 'What is one thing I can do right now that could make my situation better?,'

63. Bolster yourself. Surround yourself with people who want to scale the same heights. If your training companions are always complaining and wallowing in their problems, your solution focus is sure to waver.

64. Attitudes are contagious; people tend to take on the attitudes and actions of the individuals in their circle. A good attitude is just as contractible as a bad one. If you habitually conduct yourself with a solution focus, those around you will start to follow your model.

65. I consider an individual to be mentally tough when the mind is in control of thoughts that help the body accomplish what is wanted.

66. Let's review how the three phases of 10-MT can help you choose the right mental attitude.

Phase 1: The Mental Workout

Step 1: Centering Breath The centering breath is a fifteen-second breath in which you breathe in for six seconds, hold for two, and then breathe out for seven.

Step 2: Performance Statement After taking your centering breath, repeat to yourself the statement that most effectively focuses you on what it takes for you to be successful in competition.

Step 3: Personal Highlight Reel After reciting your performance statement, spend about three minutes visualizing what it looks like to be successful.

Step 4: Identity Statement Upon completing your personal highlight reel, repeat to yourself your identity statement to help mold your self-image.

Step 5: Centering Breath The mental workout ends the way it begins, with a fifteen-second deep breath. This breath resets your heart rate to a level of controlled arousal and increased mental focus. Use success logs to keep your daily training focused and precise. As best as you can, try to identify just one thing you want to improve prior to each training day.

Phase 2: Goal Setting for Greatness - When you know what you want to accomplish, write it down, and spread the word. Talking about your goals will spring them from your subconscious into your consciousness.

Phase 3: Adopt a Relentless Solution Focus - Anytime you are in the presence of adversity ask yourself, "What is one thing I can do that could make this better?"