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Mental Toughness in Sport: Part 3 - Putting Problems and Setback

This is the third in the series of articles on mental toughness in sport.

This article provides some other tips on dealing with defeat and poor performance, by putting them into perspective. It will cover some important elements of how you can see and consider events in different ways, and hence altering the meaning you place on these events so that you can feel more confident.

Different Perspectives

We all place meaning on events and situations - that is one of the ways that we function as humans, and how we can 'make sense' of all the billions of pieces of information and events we could pay attention to. The impact of any situation depends on the meaning we choose to place on it. That is why two people can respond differently to the same situation, for example one member of a team can be galvanised into a better performance when the opposition scores, and another member can feel deflated.

If we place a 'negative' or un-useful interpretation on an event, in addition to some of the tips from earlier articles, there are several other options we have to change it.

Firstly, if we are overly disappointed or affected by, for example, a poor run of form or results, we can put into perspective by mentally going into the future to a time when we had overcome this temporary setback, and noticing what we had learned from that (earlier) period. We can all learn from events from our past. This approach changes the temporal perspective, so that instead of actually waiting for, for example, six weeks to elapse and then taking the learnings, we can go forward six weeks in our mind to accelerate our learning process.

Secondly, we can consider it in the bigger picture of our life or even of the world - will this period matter when we are 80 years old with our grandchildren? Is it that important in the context of some of the other problems in the world? This is not to suggest that we become blas?�, simply that we put it onto perspective and manage/control the situation, rather than let the situation manage/control us!

Thirdly, we can ask ourselves what else could this situation mean or be (positively) interpreted as. For example, we could consider this as simply another challenge to overcome in our development as both an athlete/competitor and as a person.


This article has considered different ways to interpret events. The more we can place a positive or useful interpretation on events, the more likely we are to be able to handle challenging situations.