I need somebody
(Help!) not just anybody
(Help!) you know I need someone

The opening lyrics to The Beatles hit, “Help” takes on one of the most problematic mental toughness myths: asking for help means you are weak.  

In fact, it’s more than just the opening lyrics, the entire song tackles the myth. Take a look:

I never needed anybody’s help in any way
But now these days are gone, I’m not so self assured (but now these days are gone)
(And now I find) Now I find I’ve changed my mind and opened up the doors
Help me if you can, I’m feeling down
And I do appreciate you being ’round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won’t you please, please help me?
And now my life has changed in oh so many ways (and now my life has changed)
My independence seems to vanish in the haze
But every now and then I feel so insecure (I know that I)
I know that I just need you like I’ve never done before
Help me if you can, I’m feeling down
And I do appreciate you being ’round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won’t you please, please help me

Many people want everyone to believe that they were born in a log cabin they built themselves. Here’s the problem with that mentality–it’s impossible. Think about what you have eaten today. You had help from hundreds of people to get that meal (the cook, the farmers, the production line, the grocerers, etc.). You simply cannot go through life without help. We need relationships. We need other people to help us get through life. No one gets anywhere alone.

So why do we want to believe the myth that asking for help displays weakness? Because it allows us to believe that we are superhuman. That we’re special. We’re superheroes in our story and destined for greatness at every turn. The myth creates a default future that means our path to greatness will be easy. But, you will find out as you move through life, helps is needed at almost every turn.

When it comes to mental fitness and mental health, the critics are even harder to silence.

“Asking for your help with your mental fitness means you are really soft and really weak.”
“If you need medication for your mental health then you’re really weak.”

It’s ironic to me that asking for help for in some of the harder situations of life like mental illness means you are weak. No one thinks that about diabetics who need insulin, or someone who takes meds for acid reflux. 

The truth is, the higher you climb, the more help you need, because details matter even more. If you don’t seek help, odds are you’re likely to feel more isolated, a feeling no one battling situations wants.

Michael Phelps, one of the greatest athletes ever, talks about the specific challenges he faced after the Olympics and how he asked for help (and if you think he is weak, you are delusional).

Let’s circle back on the Beatles song conclusion tells us what happens when we accept help. 

But now these days are gone, I’m not so self-assured (but now these days are gone)
Now I find I’ve changed my mind and opened up the doors
And now my life has changed in oh so many ways (and now my life has changed)

Nearly every time I ask for help, I find that I learn, grow, and find a new perspective.  You can too.  Accept your fear and the vulnerability that comes with asking for help.  Afterall, sometimes asking for help holds the key to better performance.

Change will do you good

Change: It’s the only constant in life. Change is messy, stressful — even when it is something you want to do. 

Mentally fit athletes are okay with change. They are prepared for it, and see it as a challenge and opportunity to learn. They adapt and create something new. 

Why as athletes do we need to be prepared for change? Everything changes: Conditions, coaches, teammates, roles, your body, your opponent, your game plan. You have to accept that it happens. 

My family and I recently made a change. It’s something we wanted to do for a while now, but, things changed. The events of the world forced us to pivot. 

We had hoped to move a couple of years ago. I have been through numerous moves in my life and all had their challenges.  

Being okay with change was a process for me. At times it’s filled with challenges that I created, and some that were just plain unavoidable. At times I really struggled with the unknown, and in some cases the commitments that went with it. 

The most flexible people survive and find success. This time through, the change went better than most I have experienced, even though there was more to do as it wasn’t as easy as just packing up, but we also had to ready our old house to be sold.  As I said before, we had been ready to move for awhile and although we had many improvements, the change in our timeline meant re-doing some, and more being added.  

So I wondered what was different and how did I handle this change better than others? Here’s what I came up with:

• I accepted that the unexpected could happen but knew I could handle it. 

• I knew we would have help from our friends and family were there.

• I stuck to my habits, meaning mostly good nutrition (although I had some – like a bag of it –  candy corn and peanuts). 

• I meditated everyday, but maybe not at the same time. 

• I let people know when I was stressed, and I viewed it as normal.

• Last, I let go of unrealistic expectations and focused on the next most important thing.  

We struggle when we hold onto past success by clinging to processes that are outdated, and blame and complain, see change as a conviction of poor character while refusing to learn.  

Embrace the shake that goes with change.  Here’s a great ted talk by Phil Hansen, who did just that. 

Like with moving, when it comes to change as an athlete, it’s important to remember:

1) Stay in a learning zone. Don’t box yourself into thinking it will always be this way — it won’t always be this way.  Settling into a new normal requires unpacking the old and finding a new place for it. Be confident you can adapt.  

2) Adapt. Be satisfied but strive. Your opponents will.  Don’t rely on that’s the way we have always done it.  Discard poor habits.  Create new ones.  Tweak what works. 

3) Maintain a high performing mindset; View skills, self-talk, game planning as a changeable. Challenge yourself.  Self-Forgive. Embrace the uncomfortable. 

Success comes when we learn what to hold onto and what to let go of. Moving forces you to do that over and over again (especially when you have 20 years of stuff in one house). Care but don’t overthink, and be confident but coachable. Don’t forget to pay attention to the results and the process, and always differentiate between who we are versus what we do. 

When it’s time to change you got rearrange like the Brady Bunch did. 

Mental Fitness Fridays

I’m sharing this article by Steve Mann of Minnesota Hockey on Mental Toughness and Resiliency.  Knowing we all share the mutual interest of making athletes better, I think you will find it very interesting. I appreciated being approached by Steve to share my perspectives in the article. 
Here’s the link.

I purposely used the term “Mental Fitness”.  The term Mental Fitness changes the narrative away from the damaging myths of the often-used “Mental-Toughness” term.  I believe “Changing the narrative” helps “change the paradigm.”

Over the years, the stigmas about mental health have been changing. I’ve been told that I can’t talk about mental health and performance psychology together because it will scare people away. In some cases that is true, but over the last 20 years, my experience tells that most of the time it is not.  We seem stuck believing many of the myths about mental toughness and mental health.    

The last year has been extremely challenging time for everyone on planet. The stress we are all feeling often can be indicators that we are having challenges with coping and many times we are either reluctant to address them because of the stigmas associated with these myths. As the pandemic has unfolded, the need to challenge the myths has grown – because our mental health is suffering.  

Demand for our services has never been greater and our reach is limited by the hours in the day. We feel a responsibility to do as much as we can.  I would sincerely appreciate your assistance in helping us to change the conversation and the stigmas. Initiatives like #BellLet’s Talk are terrific, and we want to help amplify them! 

So, this Friday, February 19, I am launching Mental Fitness Fridays. We plan to create a series of short videos we can all share to help change the conversation and better understand how to build Mental Fitness.