Yesterday, ESPN’s Steven A. Smith said that he believes that the Buffalo Bills Head Coach, Rex Ryan is Mentally Weak. Here is how he defined it:

“But then when you turn around and get ultra-sensitive when somebody brings up FACTS that contradict all the stuff you bloviated about, and you get all sensitive where that ultimately is your answer to every other question that follows, it shows me that you're mentally weak.”

Whether or not you agree with Mr. Smith is irrelevant. However, he did make some points that run hand and hand with those that are mentally strong compared to those you are, what Mr. Smith would call, Mentally Weak. So, now that he said these things, let’s take a look at a few things and see if you can consider yourself mentally strong.

Being Mentally Strong Means You Are Willing to Communicate

Mentally strong athletes talk to their teammates and coaches. They do not try to take the weight of the team on their shoulders and not work with the people around them. It does not make you mentally weak to be a good teammate or a coachable athlete. It makes your more respected and will boost your confidence. And if you are coaching or managing, there is no reason for you to think you are showing weakness by talking to your assistants or members of the team by telling them how to do things better or just talking to them in general. Don’t shut people off when it is time to be strong, bring people in.

Being Mentally Strong Means You Are Looking at the Facts and Finding Ways to Improve

There is nothing wrong with admitting that things are not going well. In fact, it’s the best thing that you can do for you, your team, and the people closest to you. The worst thing an athlete, coach, or manager could do is ignore hard data and just work off assumptions that things are actually going ‘ok’ or that they will ‘get better eventually.’ Smart, Mentally Strong, and Tough leaders don’t ignore the facts – in fact the data makes them better. It allows them to make better decisions not just focus on what they are doing, but how they are doing it.

Mentally Strong People Don’t Care if People Like Them or Not

When we do testing of athletes and managers, one of the things that we try to pay attention to is if they are considered ‘pleasers.’ Being a pleaser means that rather than making the right decisions, you are more concerned with the outcome being one that others may like then making the best decision for you and the team. Making the right decision may make you unpopular at times, but in the long run, popularity does not matter to those who are mentally strong. What matters to them is doing what is right and seeing the results of those decisions. Being popular is a result of making good decisions, because they were the best for the team.

Although this is a simple list, if you can have all three of these traits, then you are on the path to being mentally strong. If you don’t, remember, when in doubt – to communicate, live by the facts, and don’t worry about what people think of you. Do what is best for you and your team. If you can start to walk that path, then you will find the results will be what you want them to be.

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