I have my New Year's resolution! And it came by accident from reading the November 2008 issue of SKATING magazine. In it, there was a great article entitled The Five Rings of Mental Toughness -- Creating an unshakeable mind. The author was Dr. Alison Arnold (see right), who is the mental toughness coach for U.S. Figure Skating. Let me repeat that -- mental toughness coach for U.S. Figure Skating. Are you surprised? Or not that surprised? With today's elite skaters surrounded by coaches, trainers, choreographers, agents, family, critics, and I'm leaving out tons of others, of course, a mental toughness coach is necessary, even required, to succeed in the sport.
In the article, Arnold used the five Olympic rings (which symbolize strength, dedication and commitment) to come up with the Five Rings of Mental Toughness. She writes that the five rings work together "to build an athlete who is eager, disciplined and committed to be the best he or she can be. It's about being mentally tough and having, what I call, an 'unshakeable mind.' An athlete with an unshakeable mind is so strong and confident that nothing can affect him or her."
So that's my New York's resolution -- to try and utilize Arnold's Five Rings of Mental Toughness to achieve the "unshakeable mind." Enough with the silly resolutions of the past (lose five pounds, stop annoying my friends with "I haven't lost a pound!", get to know my neighbors, etc.). This resolution is far more valuable in the long run. So in the next several days, I'll be posting Arnold's Five Rings and who knows? Perhaps you too will be inspired to adopt these principles into your life.
The first ring of mental toughness is awareness. A great skater must be aware of what he or she is thinking if there is any hope of being mentally tough. The mind is like a monkey in our heads, taking us on field trips. The question is, do you want to go where your monkey-mind is taking you? When you are aware of your thoughts, you can change them. Just as your coach points out "loose body" or incorrect body position, begin to notice "loose mind." Loose mind is any thought that is negative, fearful or doubtful. What are the loose mind thoughts you say to yourself? Do you say, "I'll never get this" or "Everyone's better than me." Just as you can see improper physical technique, you can also see loose mind. Popping, circling and negative body language are all indications of a negative field trip. Commit now to be aware of your own loose mind, and change it as soon as you notice. Become unshakeable on the ice.
Next up...Ring Number Two: Vision
About Alison Arnold, Ph.D.
Doc Ali, as she is also called, is the Peak Performance consultant to USA Women's Gymnastics, United States Figure Skating, and Australian Aerial Skiing. Her She founded Headgames to help individuals, teams and companies achieve their potential through strengthening the mind. Most recently, she was on television as Scott Baio's life coach on VH1's "Scott Baio is 45...and Single."