In just finished reading The Fighter’s Mind by Sam Sheridan. It was a solid read. Sheridan is a bright guy and he regularly referenced some of my favorite sport psych/philosophy reads and writers: Herrigal’s Zen in the Art of Archery a quick, deep read; Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow the work that really did a nice job of Westernizing concepts of Eastern philosophy; Gladwell’s Blink which I think trumps Outliers; Lehrer’s New Yorker articles that always give some keen insights into human performance and action; William’s Applied Sport Psychology in my eye the essential applied sport psychology textbook.
This book is grounded in stories from legends and superstars of the fight game (trainers such as Freddie Roach, Greg Jackson, and Mark DellaGrotte; legends such as Dan Gable, Marcelo Garcia, Frank Shamrock; superstars such as Randy Couture, Kenny Florian, and Renzo Gracie), yet is really an examination of mental toughness for athletes of any sport. This book has nothing to do with blood in the cage, but everything to do with the mindset of a true warrior – during practice and competition. The thing that strikes me most about this book is how all coaches and athletes interviewed truly got the mental game. They share few new insights, but rather they clearly articulate in their own words tried and true principles of mental toughness. They make it clear that certain ideas are universal to a sound mental approach:
- To improve your mental game, you have to think about the mental game
- Ego limits, humbleness with open-mindedness leads to true greatness
- Purposeful, focused practice is at the foundation of high performance
- The possibility of losing must be accepted, before focus can truly be placed on competing well
- Persistence trumps talent
- Belief in self and one’s potential allows one to go further than most think is possible
- The process, art, and efforts of competing are more important than the outcome
- Consistent learning leads to consistent success
- Loving the sport… the training, the competing, the playing is at the heart of everything
These were not some textbook, scientific findings but rather the words of men that have battled, beaten, and been beaten in the most literal of senses. Tough guys that get the softer science down to their cores. They really get that there are no secrets to mental toughness, just limits by lack of commitments to a consistent mental approach.
Not only is this book impressive in that it is not some literary fluff full of shameless MMA love. It is honest. Neither Sheridan nor interviewees suggest that mental toughness can be found in 3 easy steps, a few moments of visualization a day, five positive affirmation each morning before starting the day, or anything of the like. They also do not suggest that champions are born mentally tough. There are no shortcuts. The mental game, like the physical one is within reach to all that commit, reflect, refine, and practice good mental habits consistently.
While it is popular to make the mental game mystical… it really isn’t… the best know there are no secrets and no shortcuts… yet consistent competitiveness is within reach. If you are an athlete or coach consider checking out The Fighter’s Mind.