Mental toughness requires honest assessment

The mental toughness needed to be successful in the face of discomfort, obstacles, and adversity is not a “magically acquired” quality. It takes intentional work. Part of this work involves a step that coaches and athletes can be tempted to minimize or neglect altogether: honest evaluation of our current state. We cannot effectively grow toward mental toughness without having a clear-minded understanding of our present condition.

In the last devotion, we began the discussion of how mental toughness is developed according to biblical principles. We’re building on Tim Kight’s teaching in The Focus 3 Podcast. Kight served for several years as the leadership coach for Ohio State football under Urban Meyer. The previous devotion looked at the first dimension of improving mental toughness: clarify what glorifies God in your present situation. When you have a clear mental picture of what would glorify God, you’re motivated to stay the course and to coach your players to stay the course in spite of adversity because you can visualize the long-term payoff.

We now move to the second dimension of improving mental toughness: honestly evaluate your current state. This dimension is about assessing what you’re currently feeling, thinking, and doing in comparison to what would glorify God. The Apostle Paul instructs us in Romans 12:2 to “let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Paul goes on in Rom. 12:3 to say, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment…”

Here’s what Paul teaches: look to God to transform your thinking so that you have a clear picture of his good, pleasing, and perfect will – what glorifies him – in your present situation. Then honestly evaluate how you’re currently doing in comparison to what glorifies God, even as this is uncomfortable and possibly painful. What emotions or thought patterns are hindering you from pursuing God’s design? Are there behaviors you tend to turn to when things become difficult that work against your ability to push through? Do you habitually engage in negative self-talk or excuse-making that doesn’t honor Christ?

You have to be honest about these things before you can address them with God’s help. Glossing over or excusing them undermines mental toughness. You need to know where you are before you can understand what’s needed to push forward toward what would glorify God. Honest evaluation enables you to see the specific steps that can help you develop mental toughness. Sober assessment opens the door to growth by Christ’s power and grace.

The first two dimensions of the path toward improved mental toughness involve clarity and honesty. This foundation of vision and assessment is a must if you’re going to be able to identify and actually take the right steps forward. This takes intentional effort, but it’s also an opportunity to experience God’s gracious work. He wants you to thrive in who he created you to be. In the next devotion, we’ll look at how Lord directs us in the next critical dimension of being mentally tough.

For reflection: Take some time to honestly evaluate where you are when compared with what would glorify God in your current situation. As you see where you’re falling short, bring these things to the Lord. Experience his grace and trust him to show you how to move from where you are to where he desires for you to be.