Mind Gym

Gary Mack with David Casstevens

Published 2001

Non-Fiction, Self Belief, Self Improvement

What is it about?

A sports psychologist unveils the winning mindsets behind some of the world’s top athletes.

How long is it?

200+ pages

Is it easy to read?

Yes, it’s not dry as you might imagine, it’s succinct and to the point.  

How will it inspire me?

I much prefer autobiographies to biographies, as biographers for the most part can only guess at the inner workings of their subject. With autobiographies however you can get inside the head of the person, see how they conceive the world and what conception they have of themselves that allowed them to accomplish the things they did. That is the question I always have when reading about successful people, what mentality did you have that helped get you to where you are? And how could I apply that to my own life? Which is why I like sports psychology, it attempts to make the psychology of success into a science.      

There is a video (see below) of the famous Swedish footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic in which he is asked who the most talented player he ever played with was. Bear in mind this is a player who had played at the highest level for some of the top clubs in Europe with the likes of Lionel Messi, Luis Figo and Andrea Pirlo as teammates. His surprising choice however was the Brazilian striker Adriano. Back in the early 2000’s Adriano was pipped to be the next world class Brazilian striker, he was nicknamed ‘the Emperor’ by the Italian fans at Inter Milan and was on a trajectory to live up to all the hype surrounding him. However after his most blistering season at the club at the age of just 23, he was informed of his father’s death and was never the same. By all accounts the player just imploded. He began drinking, gained weight and would show up late to training sessions or sometimes not at all. Eventually he slipped out of football and is now considered to be one of those great ‘what if?’ players. Think about that though, this guy was unchanged but for one thing, all the physical attributes and raw talent were still there, but the mental side of his game disappeared. This is the question that Mind Gym poses, ‘if 50% of your success as an athlete is based on your mental game, why is there not more of a focus on it?’ You train your body for success, why not your mind? 

Now understandably most of you reading this will not be athletes, but the principle is the same. For example I mentioned in my post about The Game a quote in this book that I love which is ‘you cannot outperform your own self image.’ In other words, if you don’t believe yourself or rather see yourself as a person who is capable of achieving the things you want, then you won’t do it. In The Game Neil Strauss struggles with his own conception of himself as an unattractive man for so long which affects his prospects with the opposite sex. However once this limiting belief about himself shifts and he begins to see himself differently, his success skyrockets. Your mentality no matter what you do matters greatly.

Athletes however are a good place to start when it comes to stealing inspiration for mental strength. Imagine a world class athlete at the top of their sport. Think of all the things this person has to contend with, the weight of expectation, the fickle love of fans, the armies of online trolls, the amount of players on their way up wanting to take his place, the media just looking for an excuse to bring you down, having to maintain discipline with all the temptation that would be on offer, what is going on in that person’s head that is keeping them from falling apart under the pressure of it all? This book gives an insight into that.  

Choice lines:

-Sports psychology has been called the science of success because it studies what successful people do. What we have found-and what McGwire and other great athletes validate-is the value of mental rehearsal and imagery.

-“Competitors take bad breaks and use them to drive themselves just that much harder. Quitters take bad breaks and use them as reasons to give up”

-There is a psychological principle called cognitive dissonance. It can be defined as the uncomfortable psychological state that arises when how you see yourself and what is really happening come into conflict. Many athletes who experience this conflict revert to their comfort zone.[…] Annika Sorenstam is a case in point. In an interview, the LPGA champion said that early in her career she was afraid of having to speak in public and felt so uncomfortable being the centre of attention that she would deliberately miss putts […] just so she could finish second. She had a fear of success, which is a fear of failure at the next level.

-Doubts cause intellectual confusion. Doubts can be paralyzing. It is said that a person who doubts himself is like a man who would enlist in the ranks of his enemies and bear arms against himself.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s