Finding Your Mental Edge- Some thoughts for uncertain times!

Been a while since I have put pen to paper (fingers to keyboard!).

With all the noise around at the moment about the current situation around Covid-19 I didn’t want to just add to it with the standard self help and fitness programmes that are filling up our feeds.

So I’ve been thinking about how I could produce something positive, something that doesn’t just focus on the current situation but can echo into the new world that could come once the situation improves.

Our mental game is always going to be important, for the first time a lot of people are now having to think about their day to day lives in a different way, they have to locate themselves around their own home, when mostly we spend our lives away from it, having to re position work and think hard about educating our own children!

So a strong mental focus, and a handle on our environment is going to be key, being able to react and assimilate into this new world will ensure that we can thrive through this period, be prepared to adapt quickly once it changes and be in a better mental place.

I wrote an article recently for where I described the current situation in military terms, where they use the acronym VUCA  to describe environments that are Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. This applies to war zones and conflict, but could also describe the current situation in the world, where we are uncertain about what Covid -19 is, what it could do, how it has affected our daily and professional lives. We are having to putting trust in people who we don’t trust usually, who are being ambiguous about their decisions or motivations, and we are seeing the concept of society being pushed to its limits, not knowing how things will go if this situation changes or goes on longer, and all the time things are unpredictable and the future a clouded place, that we don’t recognise any more!


These elements could give us an opportunity to think about how we mentally deal with any situation and relate this to our performance, either as professionals, sports people, in business, in family life and ultimately as a global citizen.

The Chinese warrior/philosopher Sun Tzu is often quoted  for his insights into strategy and mental performance, one quote of his is-
“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win”.

Which I think is an ideal quote, not just for our current situation but one we can take forward in preparing ourselves for the future. What I take from this quote that I think are useful are 6 key points-

Mental grounding– thinking through a situation, researching and gaining knowledge about the situation or the enemy. Preparing and organising yourself and your resources.

Vision– Picture what victory looks like, vision the win! Don’t get caught in the fog, the worry or the ego. Realistically create a vision of success, and how it will feel when you get there, and use it as an aiming point to drive towards.

Stay Positive– if you put your head down and dwell on the fear then this will lead to defeat. You need to stay positive, create little wins from goals. Talk positively to yourself, don’t big things up, stay realistic but when you talk to your self, try and do it positively, use words like – “we can” & “we will”.

Walk through– these are used a lot in the military and in elite sport. Imagine yourself walking through a situation, in slow time. What do you see? What do you feel? What are your actions at given points? Really prepare yourself and be confident that you have thought through any scenario.

Don’t rush to action– take time to think through new situations, don’t rush towards it, or make rash decisions.

Face your enemy (competitor/ life changing injury/ business decision or new pandemic!)- know their strengths and weakness. Learn about them and the way they operate, find the chink that can be exploited or worked on, think through your strategy to overcome that. But don’t shy away from facing them.

Sun Tzu said you need to win the fight in your head 100 times first, once you know how and why, and you have studied your opponent you have gone 90% of the way to winning. But if you spent too much time not aligning your vision and purpose with your tactics, then you’ve pretty much lost the battle.  As all you are doing is thinking of the fight and just reacting to your opponent or challenge. Rather than taking control of your mental game you start on the back foot from the beginning. Therefore time spent visioning your victory, understanding your threats, preparing to face them is key to gaining your mental edge.


One thought on “Finding Your Mental Edge- Some thoughts for uncertain times!”

  1. Nicely put! I’ve gained a bit of useful insight to help with climbing from “The rock warriors way” which expands a bit on some of the themes above. It centres around Samurai warrior preparedness for battle and the mental strategies they adopt. Worth a read for anyone interested in this sort of thing.


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