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At BetterUp we are passionate about Mental Fitness™. But you might be wondering, what exactly is mental fitness? Mental fitness is a routine of ongoing practice and maintenance that creates the habits and mindsets we need to think, feel, and perform at our best.
Mental fitness doesn’t mean that we’re never unhappy or that we don’t have setbacks. Mental fitness gives us the capacity to find our way back to being our best and to reach our goals. Like hitting the gym, it’s a never-ending journey of maintaining and building the mental strengths that precede health, happiness, and success.
We sat down with figure skating icons, Olympians, and broadcasters, Tara Lipinski and Johnny Wier, and Global Mental Health and Wellness Program Lead at Accenture, Ali Cupito, to collect their insights on how we can harness the power of mental fitness to reach our fullest potential.
3 Mental Fitness™ techniques to unlock your best
Build a strong foundation
It is difficult to reach our full potential when our basic needs aren’t met. Our bodies need nutritious foods, movement, and sleep to fuel us on our path towards reaching our big goals. There are foundational practices that help us build a strong mental base. Maintaining a routine of mindfulness, gratitude, and mental rest builds the mental foundation needed for finding stability and rising to the occasion in high-pressure situations.
At Accenture, Ali uses the slogan, “reduce pace, create space, act with grace” to remind leaders of the importance of creating a foundation of well-being for their team during high-pressure months. With this foundation, leaders are more apt to prioritize mental well-being and recognize it as a driver of productivity. Leaders demonstrate this priority by modeling mental fitness practices such as rest, gratitude, and mindfulness for their teams. This shows their teams that it is safe, and encouraged, to prioritize their own mental health.
One way to keep your team focused on maintaining a foundation of mental fitness is to kick-off meetings with some genuine well-being focused questions such as, “How are you really doing?” or, “Let’s all share 3 things we are grateful for and one challenge we are facing.” When we create space for humanity during high-pressure months, we demonstrate that no matter the importance of the project, well-being has a space at the table and is a key lever for performance.
“Lack of sleep is not a badge of honor.”
Visualize and affirm your success
Once we have our base needs covered, visualization helps to crystalize our goals and prepare to reach the next level. Many Olympic athletes credit visualization as the secret to their success. Tara and Johnny each shared their unique ways of discovering and practicing visualization. Both concur that an effective visualization practice played a huge role in their ability to perform at the highest levels.
Tara was first introduced to visualization by her sports psychologist who helped her learn to harness the power of her thoughts. She would record herself talking through her routines and listen to the recording at night while she was sleeping. Research shows that when you go through the motions of a routine in your mind your muscles twitch and move, building actual physical strength as well.
Johnny had a different path to discovering visualization. As a young boy from a farm town in Pennsylvania, he didn’t have access to many trainers or psychologists. Instead, Johnny leaned on what he calls mysticism and manifestation. He would write his goals on a piece of paper, precisely, down to the scores he was aiming for in an upcoming competition, and tape them to his ceiling. His goals were the last thing that he thought about before going to bed and his reason for getting out of bed in the morning.
Lean on each other
Cultivating a sense of belonging and safety has a strong protective effect on our well-being and ultimately helps sustain peak performance. Trusting relationships help us feel safe to explore our higher-level cognitive functioning such as playfulness, creativity, and humor. When we unlock these skills we can make work light and become impact players in our families, teams, and companies.
Tara and Johnny attribute their ability to let go and step into a playful mindset to the camaraderie they have created over the years. Born out of the many moments where they consistently had each other’s best interest in mind, leaned on one another for support, and helped each other shine during live broadcasting events. Their trusting relationship creates a space where they feel comfortable taking risks and facing challenges that alone they might resist.
Ali has seen this play out in her work with leaders and teams at Accenture as well. When leaders build trust with their teams, members can challenge themselves, face failure, and accomplish more than they thought possible. Accountability is what drives the consistent practice of leadership behaviors that create trusting relationships like empathy, mindfulness, and vulnerability. Leaders have to be willing to express weakness, reach out for support, and meet people with empathy so that their teams will feel comfortable doing the same. At Accenture, they use tools such as BetterUp Coaching and an internal mentorship network to create the feedback loop and practice ground needed to master these leadership behaviors.
“Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength. It helps people to know that they're not alone, everybody is going through something and no matter what you are facing you are not alone.”
Mental fitness is the cornerstone of our ability to step into our highest levels of functioning and stretch the boundaries of our personal best. As we build a foundation for mental fitness, we increase our ability to take our performance to the next level by expanding our realm of possibility and building the connections that help us make our dreams our reality.
So, are you ready to take your mind to the gym?
Content Marketing Manager, ACC