A few weeks ago I found a book in my laundry room’s library called ‘Mentally Tough’ by Sports psychologists and entrepenurial workshop gurus Loehr & McLaughlin. I found this book fascinating and practical. Here are my thoughts and summaries.
There are a few key ideas in this book that stand out for me. The chief one being that a positive mood is not the result of good performance, rather that good performance is the result of a positive mood. Stress is the response, not the event. You can be threatened by change, or challenged by it. The authors make a great case illustrating how mood can be controlled irrespective of your external situation, and they label this ability to control your emotional state Mental Toughness.
A lot of the chapters revolve around strategies to recognize, and move through emotional states, leading to a state where Peak Performance can be manifest. Strategies involve diet, exercise, visualization, and (surprisingly) breath control. Many of the approaches are framed around a quadratic framework for mood states. Here is a summary:
HIGH POSITIVE (Energy without tension)
Grounded, aware but not distracted. Highly focused & efficient but detached from the task. Finding joy and elation in the present moment. Your very best.
HIGH NEGATIVE (Energy with Tension)
Frenetic and stressed out. Rigid performance fueled by anger or fear. Caustic and prone to lashing out.
LOW POSITIVE (Neither Energy nor Tension)
Mellow, relaxed. Calm and uninvolved with external stressors. In a state of recuperation.
LOW NEGATIVE (Tension without Energy)
Depressed. In dread or despair. Wanting to escape / crawl in a hole. Hopelessness and anxiety.
The authors do a great job of using this structure as a baseline of identifying mood, as well as applying it to a myriad examples of how people change states. For instance, someone who is in Low Negative and in a stressful situation where they must perform (a demanding job for instance) may use coffee or stimulants to move to a High Negative, and become energized but edgy. Bad diet or excessive alcohol/lack of sleep may drop people into a Low Negative, dreading the next day, rather than a Low Positive in which they truly unwind.
This book was very practical and proves the test of at least a few decades of development in psychology and business strategies. I’m keeping it.