What sets the highest achievers apart from the rest? It isn’t their level of knowledge and it’s not necessarily their skill sets. The idea that talent alone is enough to put someone at the top has largely become defunct. So are they just lucky?
It turns out, rather, that top performers do have something extra to pull from to help them get ahead: mental strength.
Mental fortitude is the ability to remain confident in the face of challenging moments and uncomfortable situations. Mentally strong people find a way to recognize feelings of self-doubt, concerns over judgment, and fears of failure yet still move forward despite these emotions.
Adonal Foyle has made it a mission to not only strengthen his own mindset but to help others do so as well.
He learned very early on during his career as a professional NBA player that a balanced life that left room for both physical and
mental improvement was essential in reaching his goals:“That first year in the league was one of the hardest moments. In college, I played for 30 games each season. But then I came to the NBA where when I reached 30 games, I realized I wasn’t even halfway through the season. And my body, my mind, everything was just exhausted. It was hitting a brick wall. And I had to find a way to carry myself through the rest of the season. I had to find different ways of stimulating my mind and motivating myself.”
Retiring after 13 years in the league, Adonal then pursued a Masters in Sports Psychology. He continues to promote the importance of mental toughness through Foyle Performance Coaching and consistently works to help people incorporate mental fitness into their lives: “Performance is performance, whether you’re performing in an NBA game or you’re performing in front of people at work.”
We sat down with Adonal to discuss how anyone, athlete or not, can incorporate mental strength training into one of the most high-stress situations: interviews.
Recognize The Tension
One of the most common reactions to stress is the urge to suppress it. But for many, trying to ignore tension can often increase it, making high-pressure situations like an interview worse. Bringing attention to anxiety may sound counterintuitive, but it’s actually an important and often-missed first step in minimizing it.
“You have to recognize what’s making you nervous and why it’s making you nervous. Usually, it’s because whatever is going on, whether it’s a game, an interview, or a presentation is important to you. You’re invested in the outcome and you want to do the best job you possibly can because the result means something to you. If it wasn’t important to you, you wouldn’t be nervous,” says Adonal.
Dig deeper into the moment and figure out what exactly it is that’s causing you to feel stressed. In a crucial setting like an interview, there could be a thousand reasons why you’re anxious. Perhaps you don’t want to disappoint your loved ones by not getting this job. Or maybe you’re nervous you won’t have an acceptable answer to a question. But without taking a moment to gain an understanding of which elements of the situation are making you nervous, you won’t be able to address them.
Build A Strategy
Once you have a better understanding of where your fear is coming from, then you can come up with strategies to help you dissipate that anxiety and improve your performance. And as momentous as stress can feel, it doesn’t necessarily require drastic changes to minimize it. Even small adjustments to your outlook and behavior can provide that confidence boost when you need it the most.
For Adonal, this means trying to break through his tension with positivity:“I have a lot of techniques that I personally use and a lot of them are quite honestly silly. When I’m nervous, I tell myself to start smiling. It sounds funny but it helps dissipate some of the anxiety I’m feeling. It tricks my body in a way to release the tension I’m feeling. But my favorite technique is to just laugh. Often, that’s enough to break my tension and keep me present in the moment. It helps me relax and gives me the approach I need to start my work.”
But to really make a difference, your strategy needs to begin before you even show up to the interview. Just as in sports, preparation is key. And building a routine for yourself can be a helpful step. Think of it as practice or a dress rehearsal for your interview. The goal is to prepare yourself by going through the motions of everything you’ll be doing so that it becomes familiar. Familiarity can help decrease stress because it means you’re already used to something.
Start by drawing up a plan for the interview. Include details such as how many people will be in the room and who they are. This way it won’t be a shock when you walk into the room. Then, make a list of everything you’ll need to take that day so you don’t forget anything. Setting your self up to be as prepared as possible before the day of the interview arrives will help keep you calm.
Next, shift your focus to your talking points. The most common first asked question during an interview is “tell me about yourself”. Find comfort in the fact that you know this is how the conversation will start and take time to prepare a solid answer.
It’s important to create answers to as many questions you think will be asked as possible. Though you may still be thrown a curveball and asked a question you didn’t see coming, the preparation you’ve done beforehand will leave you with an arsenal of information and prepared answers to pull from.
Never Stop Improving
The key to mental fitness is that the work is never done. Even after a big moment, such as an interview passes, there are still steps you should take in order to start preparing for the next big moment.
But first, don’t forget to take time to celebrate yourself. It’s important to give yourself the recognition you deserve for your accomplishment. But make sure to set a time limit on your celebration, as the moments immediately following a performance are crucial in helping you prepare for the next one.
Next, take time to assess where you could have improved. This isn’t about beating yourself up over the parts of an interview that didn’t go well, but rather recognizing where you can shift your focus to preparing for next time.
Finally, seek out someone whose opinion you care about for some serious critique. Perhaps it’s the interviewer, a former manager, or a trusted friend. Regardless of who you choose, make sure they’re willing to provide you honest critique and unafraid to provide true feedback. Keep in mind the goal is to seek out true insight rather than just finding critique for the sake of critique.
To learn more about Adonal’s recommendations for learning mental strength training techniques, check out Foyle Performance Coaching.