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I remember the day like it was yesterday.

My nerves were at an all-time high.

I was about to walk onto Centre Court Wimbledon – the prize of all the Grand Slams.   Sure, I would be facing Martina Navratilova, but I was ready.

I had my pre-game routine and had myself in my Ideal Performance State.

I was ready.

I ended up losing in 3 straight sets, but I was there.  I made it and enjoyed every minute of it.

Correct – not a true story.

But maybe it could have been?  I had the work ethic, the talent, and the desire – but I didn’t make it …I hung up the racket and didn’t keep pursuing the big leagues.


Mental Toughness.

Or better said, the lack of Mental Toughness.

If I had known what I know now, maybe it would have been a different story (NOT that I would trade my current life for anything!).

Mental Toughness is THE differentiator between a great athlete and an ideal competitor.

I was (and I’d like to think still am!) a great athlete, but I was not an ideal competitor.   My head-game was my downfall.  I did not have the mental muscles to carry me through a double fault, through a simple unforced error at the net, or through being down a set.

Fast forward to today and it is a different story.  Thanks to a life-changing coach (Lorenzo Beltrame) journaling, podcasts, books, and my Faith, my Mental Toughness muscle is one of the strongest muscles in my body – far surpassing my tennis forearm muscle!

Mental Toughness may have its roots in sport, but its application throughout life is just as relevant.  We face time on Center Court all the time – at work, at home, in our community, with our family, with our friends, and yes – even still on recreational tennis teams.

Mental Toughness is the only leadership and “best life” topic that spans all three of our brands – The Riverbend Group, Prepare to Roar, and Doreen Linneman, LLCs.  We think it is that important.

The ability to move through a competitive situation as close to your best self as possible.  The ability to not have your ideal performance state hijacked.   The ability to purposefully put yourself in your ideal performance state before you go “on.”  The ability to leverage mental toughness to persevere through challenging situations.

These abilities are crucial.  They aren’t innate – otherwise, I would have been on the Centre Court. They can be learned, trained, and developed!

While we offer immersive Mental Toughness programs, you can start now with simple practices.

One of my personal favorites is to identify and name your derailers.  When you are in the heat of battle, what are the things that derail you from being at the top of your game, from being your best self?   What knocks you out of your flow? Identify them and proactively create strategies to counteract them BEFORE you enter the battlefield.

One such strategy is to script out a positive mental soundtrack to combat one of those derailers.  Put it in writing, put it on post-it notes where you need the reminder the most, put it on a calendar appointment that pops up before that big meeting or presentation – wherever you will SEE it.  Say it out loud, repeat it in your mind, and even write it down …again and again. Continue this practice until that new soundtrack is on autopilot every time that derailer shows its ugly head.

The beauty of Mental Toughness lies in its practice – the more you practice, the more adept you become! With this understanding, we can shift our mindset when confronting tough situations. We can view them as opportunities for growth – opportunities to showcase our Mental Toughness and further strengthen it for the next instance. Because there will always be a next time.

Author Doreen Linneman

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