Simply stated, some days are tougher than others. Our training, sleep, stress, food and hydration all affect the way we feel at the start of any competitive performance situation whether it’s athletic, professional, or personal. However, how we RESPOND to our performance over the course of the competition will dictate how well we finish.

The 20-60-20 Rule:

Twenty percent of the time, we feel pretty bad – tired, sore, grumpy, error-prone, etc. Sixty percent of the time, we feel ok but not ideal. And 20% of the time, things feel great and we seem to be executing ideally with little effort.

Mentally tough athletes or professionals typically fall at the higher end of the performance curve with the elite 20% because they choose to behave and think in ways that tend to improve their starting position. Which means by the end of the competition, they can feel good about their effort and attitude. They are able to “win ugly” when necessary, and perform well in their biggest events.

Fortunately, no matter where you initially start on this performance curve, you can always improve your position. How often you train, the quality of your training, sleep schedule, nutrition, hydration, etc.) are all factors that dictate where you start, but it’s your mental toughness that affects where you’ll finish. Refer to one of our previous articles to learn more about mental toughness. With proper, consistent practice of mental skills training, you can take control of your improvement and effectively impact HOW you respond while you’re performing. After all, it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish that counts!

About the Authors

Sarah Frey earned her masters degree in Kinesiology & Sports Psychology from the University of North Texas and is a Certified Mental Trainer®. Dr. Bob Neff is the founder of Mental Training, Inc. and has provided mental training services for athletes, performers, and business executives since 1990. His athlete clients include world champions, and Olympic Gold Medalists. Dr. Bob is on the United States Olympic Committee sport psychology registry. Both Dr. Bob and Sarah are among 25 MTI Mental Trainers® who provide 1 on 1 mental training in the Dallas area and worldwide through video conferencing.