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  • Colin Jonov

From Awareness to Adaptation: 5 Steps to Building a Stronger Mental Game

The “5 A’s Approach to Resilience” is a framework designed to develop mental fortitude. By navigating through the stages of Awareness, Acceptance, Action, Analysis, and Adaptation, we can develop robust psychological resilience that enhances performance under pressure. This approach empowers us to recognize and regulate our emotional responses, engage proactively with challenges, learn from our experiences, and adapt effectively to the unpredictable dynamics of competition.

Awareness: Awareness is the first step and may be the hardest to achieve. As I’ve written over and over again, we tend to lie to ourselves a lot. It is a developed skill to be able to tell ourselves the truth. Therefore, it’s critical to increase our recognition of the world around us. The best way to develop awareness is to have a thirst for knowledge: Read books, ask questions of trusted coaches, teammates, and friends, and most importantly, ask yourself difficult questions. As we begin to program our minds with more information, our brain will begin to process rapidly. As a result, we will develop a better understanding of who we are, our thoughts, emotions, skill sets, beliefs, our place among our peers, and the work it takes to achieve our goals. People say, “Ignorance is bliss.” I say ignorance is a chain that binds you to the darkness, while knowledge is the light that sets you free. Eliminate ignorance, increase your awareness.

Acceptance: This is the one I have the most difficulty coaching. Accepting losses, failure, and pain is a challenging thing to teach. However, it’s critical to learn to accept that certain things are out of our control. When you break it down, subconsciously, there has to be some level of acceptance that you may lose. The nervousness and adrenaline that come with competition suggest that we are acutely aware that we may lose because we are facing an unknown. Now, that may not make it any easier, but it does make acceptance possible. The emphasis should be on accepting the situation and one’s emotional responses without judgment. It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to be devastated. We should care deeply about the outcome. At the end of the day, we need to channel those emotions into action.

Action: Other than awareness, action is the hardest step to take. The overwhelming thoughts of time and difficulty prevent us from taking proactive steps to manage our state and improve the situation. Anyone who has ventured on a challenging path understands the adversity on the path to achieving great things. When we get to the pinnacle of our sport and fail, there’s a mountain of emotions that drops on your body and suffocates you. Your mind races, and thoughts act irrationally because you are fully understanding of how hard it was to get to the championship. You simply can’t stop thinking about how much further you need to go. The best way to combat this is to never make it about the championship in the first place. Make it about improving yourself each and every day. Be narrow-minded in the present moment and ruthlessly challenge yourself to chase marginal gains. The aggregate of marginal gains will be what allows you to reach the mountaintop and stay there. That is achieved through daily action.

Analysis: I am a firm adopter of the 24-hour rule. You enjoy successes or mourn failures for 24 hours and then flip the switch to focusing on improvement. After 24 hours, reflect on your experiences to understand what was learned. In both victory and defeat, there is always something to be learned. Don’t let victory make you naive. There are countless times where I have performed better in losses than in victory. Yet, I rarely spent time learning after a victory. I let the relief from victory distract me from pushing myself forward. Don’t be like me. Be better than me. We have to be obsessed with analyzing our performances with pure objectivity. Track your actions, thoughts, emotions, performances, and results. Log all of this into a database that you can store and always reflect back on.

Adaptation: The games we play are never static. They’re always changing. New players, new coaches, new techniques, training regimens, and new nutrition — you name it, there’s always something new. It’s imperative to use insights gained from reflection to adapt and enhance future performance. We want to operate in a world of predictability, but athletics and life are neither. The best way to add predictability is to be adaptable. You become adaptable by constantly analyzing and reflecting on past performances while simultaneously seeking new ways to improve. You build mental flexibility by repeatedly searching for new challenges. The more you challenge yourself voluntarily, the more equipped you are to handle involuntary challenges. Your brain will process threats more quickly and act faster and accordingly. You become adaptable by consistently putting yourself in situations where adaptability is a necessity.

The journey to mental resilience is ongoing and multifaceted, filled with continuous learning and personal growth. We need to confront our limitations, develop our strengths, and evolve in the relentless pursuit of excellence. It’s a testament to our commitment to not just survive but dominate. As we refine our skills, we don’t just prepare to face the next challenge; we ready ourselves to redefine our limits and elevate our game to levels we previously thought impossible.

To Building Fortitude.

Best Regards,

Colin Jonov, Founder & CEO Athletic Fortitude

P.S. Want to share your experiences or challenges with us? Reply to this newsletter or connect with me on social media @ColkyJonov10. I’m here to support you on your journey!

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