‘That’s mental!’, as they sometimes say over here, meaning something is crazy or mad. But that’s not what I mean by mental, at least not in this post.

I played in a table tennis tournament a few Saturdays ago. I’ve been playing quite a bit lately, but it’s been all practice and no matches. Some practice matches, sure, but it’s not the same thing. I played quite well in the tournament, at least for someone in his supposedly declining years, but I lost all 3 of the matches that went to a 5th game ‘decider’.

What I told myself, and anyone else who would listen, was that I wasn’t match tight, I’m not playing enough matches. That might be true, but it masks the fact that the mental side of the game has been my weakness. The talent and the work-rate is there, but the mental part has been not as strong, and it’s resulted in a failure to close out more than my share of matches in my favour. In sport, at all levels, so much is down to the mental side – belief, confidence, trust in one’s abilities, positivity, good decision-making in the heat of battle, presence of mind to close out the victory.

It got me thinking about the working world, and whether we’re neglecting the mental side of our development as well. We work hard, we update our learning, we follow process, we’re open to best practice. Do we make decisions and execute to the same high level with the top two inches? I came to the conclusion that we probably don’t, and it’s probably an area we should work on more.

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