Why do we neglect mental skills?
Despite wide-spread recognition that mentality plays a crucial role in how we behave & perform, there is very little development delivered in this area. In a recent survey of 100 leaders in high performance environments, 95% said mentality played a critical role in performance. However, only 5% had resources to develop mental skills & only dedicated 3 hours per week to this. (Aaron Walsh 2020)
Can you imagine a sports club not having fitness or technical coach's to develop those skills. In an age where there are specialist's coach's for almost everything, & an army of Analysts, why are mental skills neglected?
Mentality is often only referred to in a negative context, as a character flaw in times of crisis - therefore it is addressed as such. This deficit approach does not prepare or provide the tools required to deal with challenges, even when they are predictable. You would never take this approach with other performance skills, yet it is so often the case with mental skills.
Can you imagine a scenario where technical or physical skills were not developed until there was a performance issue to fix? Of course not – we develop them on a regular basis, over a number of years, looking to continually improve & deliver on match day.
So, why is this approach not taken with mental skills;
It’s personal -
physical & technical issues don’t require much internal work & there’s no negative stigma to it. However, to admit the need or develop our mental side can be perceived as a reflection on our character as we are “mentally weak”.
It’s hard to measure -
physical skills are without doubt much easier to measure – for example run faster, further or lift more. Therefore, we can easily see progress & identify areas to improve. Mental skills are not seen as measurable, but I would ask how do you measure technical skills?
It’s not practical & can not be practiced -
there has for too long been a misconception that development in this area is not practical & can not be practiced. Therefore, a belief they can not be developed & applied when needed the most.
These challenges & myths are born out of the belief that mental skills can not be developed (i.e. you are born mentally strong or not) or its too difficult.
Because of this, development in this area is not understood & does not get the time or investment it deserves - even when the need for it is acknowledged.
Like any skill, mental skills can be developed to improve confidence, resilience & performance but it must be developed as a skill.
Developing mental skills allows individuals & teams to maximise other skills sets, natural abilities & to perform at their best.
What is needed is the knowledge, tools & techniques to normalize this within training regimes, to close the gap between potential & actual performance