On Sunday, Usian Bolt made history again. However, apart from a big victory, he also made news with his cheeky grin as he passed a fellow competitor. This photo is actually from the semi-finals but it is very defining of who he is. Cameron Spencer, who took this picture, said that he feels “there is no greater athlete on the planet” and that Usian Bolt is “an entertainer, he is confident and plays up to the crowd”.

However, what we need to acknowledge is that these are not idle traits that happen to be present him. His confidence, his extroversion – these all form the fabric of who he is, how he looks at life, and what makes him successful.

Confidence, Sass and Resilience in Usian Bolt:

When looking at the overall personality of Usian Bolt, we find the traits of what is defined as “mental toughness”. This is a term used by coaches and sports psychologists to define grit, determination and resilience. Loosely defined, it means the ability to give your best despite competitive circumstances. Mental toughness occurs due to a belief in yourself as well as a consistent track record of small, achievable goals. The consistency as well as self-belief help you to feel confident.

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When you feel confident, you can visualize yourself winning in a situation, and so, you try harder and better. Imagine, if Usian Bolt started the race thinking he would lose, would he win it? Would he have the cheeky grin close to winning? The grin signifies “I had hoped and believed I would do this, and here I am, accomplishing it”.

There has been a lot of evidence that mental toughness, or a constructive attitude towards adversity, helps more than talent or intelligence. In a study of military cadets, the researcher found that those cadets with more mental grit were 60% more likely to complete a very physically grueling summer course.

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Grit or mental toughness is basically about sustained effort. Grit differentiates those who will go to the gym daily and those who will drop out after a month. Grit brings confidence, which brings success. Usian Bolt is definitely a good example of this principle in action.

Tips to Become Mentally Stronger:

By this point, you are no doubt wondering how you could imbibe some of his characteristics of mental strength. Here are three simple tips:

Visualize the end result: Visualization in vivid detail is very important. Sports psychologists have advised swimmers to visualize the finish line to help them take longer leaps. Our brain is highly visual in nature. Imagining the end result can be a very powerful boost. Imagine how you would feel when you achieve your goal, imagine what all you would do, having achieved your goal.

Small attainable goals: Consistency is very important to feel confident. So make sure you set small, attainable goals that you can achieve with little difficulty. Challenge yourself only a little more everyday. Challenging yourself too much will not help you last very long.

Reward yourself: Rewards go a long way in making you feel good for what you have achieved. Usian Bolt celebrates each of his victories jubilantly. It is important to think your mind and body for the effort it is putting in. Make sure the reward is an experience you really look forward to.

Want to talk about your state of mind? Talk to a psychologist here.