I know that my fighters will come from my student base. Every fighter in my gym has to start as a student and earn the right to be a fighter. So, I start everyone in my gym with positive motivation. I always tell them to "never give up", "never let negative thoughts stay in their minds", "focus on the drill or technique", "have self respect", "continue to break those negative thought barriers" and to "expect more out of themselves". I know, I know, you have heard all this before but have you heard it on a daily basis, hourly basis, every round? Having a strong mind isn't something you work on sometimes, its something you work on ALL THE TIME!
When I started training to fight I went about it the same way everyone else does; be tough, try hard and do your best. Yeah, being tough in my opinion isn't something that's hard to learn if you already have it in you, but sometimes it takes time to grow in your heart. Trying hard and doing your best is something you should always do but most people don't do either to their full potential. Why, because most of us listen to that little voice in our mind that tells us when we are done. That little voice that tells you, "this is all you have" or "this is all you have ever done". Well, I'm here to tell you, that little voice is dead WRONG. The first time you hear that little negative bastard tell you to ease up, that's your cue to put it in another gear and focus. That little voice in your head speaks for every time you; only did so many reps, only ran this far, only lasted 3 rounds, couldn't finish the last workout, etc. That little voice in your head is YOU saying; "I'm done". You will always hit that barrier until you learn to control your own mind and believe that you can do more. You may never learn to do that until you really focus or simply "trick" yourself into believing that you are just getting started. It's an inner struggle that you should always fight until you are filled with focus and positive thoughts.
When I train my students and fighters, I like to put them into situations that I know they can handle physically but will test their mind. I never want to break their minds down but give them something I know they can finish so that they are built up and happy with their effort. I try to give them a drill that will push their bodies hard but I know they can finish, IF they have a strong mind. For example, Ill give them five rounds at 5 minutes each round of drills they have done a thousand times. The difference is, I will tell them that they will be punished an extra min if they don't stay sharp throughout every second of the rounds. An extra minute If they; drop their hands below their chins at anytime, start walking instead of using proper footwork, hunch over or look tired, sprawl and not pop back up into a proper stance, etc. Those little things that most people do here and there because they are tired and their coaches let them get away with, will slowly weaken the mind. That's how it all starts, fighters thinking; oh, Ill just rest my arms here or relax my legs for a second. Setting strict rules that they must follow will make them more aware of simple technique but will also make them think more. Thinking more can somehow make you feel more tired and will start a chain of negative thoughts that tell you; "this is harder than last time you did this". Is it really harder than last time? No, you are just not allowed to be weak minded and take your "little breaks". I'm not talking about being efficient so please don't get this confused with that kind of training. This is training for a strong mind.
That was just a single example of how I train my fighters to have a strong mind. I will not allow them to show me with body language or facial expressions that they are tired or have had enough because those two things contribute to feeling sorry for yourself. If you feel sorry for yourself then you don't have a strong mind. There are so many things you can do to strengthen your mind, the most important thing is to ALWAYS be aware of your weakness and overcome that little voice that tells you "you cant do it". That little voice is a habit that formed throughout your life and its going to take a great deal of blocking it out during training to get rid of it.
Start with running, biking or skipping rope. Do any of these and as soon as you find yourself wanting to quit, DON'T. Tell yourself that you are not done, you are better than that and you expect more from yourself. Try thinking of something else or better yet, setting a goal or distance, time or speed. Set reachable goals so that you remain motivated to beat those goals. Understand that you will not always beat your last effort physically but you should always beat your last effort mentally. Meaning, your body may be tired but your mind should ALWAYS be strong. Always be happy if you know you broke those "negative thought" barriers and keep training hard but smart! Never let your mind tell you when you are done, your body will stop functioning properly when it's had enough. Too many people stop because their mind tells them they are tired, only to be just fine physically one minute later.
One of the best fighters I have ever trained with once told me something I will never forget. "Most people suffer from this disease that they cant get rid of, its called 'cant suck it up' disease." - Scott Shaffer
People like Scott not only have the drive but also the will power to do what it takes to be the best. Good luck to everyone on your quest to retrain your mind to open more doors then you ever thought were there.