The Mental vs the Emotional Component of Sports Psychology

The human mind can be broken down into two components: the mental and the emotional. The mental component of the mind can also be labeled as the cognitive component of the mind. This component consists of abilities such as concentration, rational thinking, decision making, goal-setting, working memory, stored knowledge, and intelligence. All of these abilities are very important for athletes. However, it is not enough just to have good cognitive abilities. There's plenty of athletes with very strong mental/cognitive capabilities that don't succeed very much. This is because the emotional component of their mental game isn't as good.

The emotional component of the mind consists of things such as emotional regulation, motivation, purpose, and love. These things are needed just as much as mental/cognitive skills. For instance, it doesn't matter how intelligent or rational a person is. If they can't regulate their emotions under pressure, or if they have no motivation to work hard, then they won't go very far in life.

And of course, you can't just have strong motivation and emotional regulation without any mental/cognitive skills. The goal of sports psychology is to help you develop both the mental and the emotional component of your mind. This is the point of distinguishing the emotional from the mental component. This helps you appreciate each component so you can train both and have a more balanced mind that leads to the most success and happiness.

It's worth noting that these two components are very interrelated. For example, improving your rational thinking improves your emotional regulation and vice versa. Nonetheless, it is very important to try to train specific attributes of the mental and emotional components of your mind. While some attributes of your mind are influenced by genetics, there's still many ways in which you can train your mind. Here are many examples:
  • To improve your rational thinking, you can practice thinking critically and solving problems.
  • To improve your concentration or will power, you can focus your attention deliberately through practices such as mindfulness and meditation.
  • To improve your knowledge and intelligence as an athlete, you can study lots of film, read books, and learn from coaches.
  • To improve your motivation, you can search for reasons to strive towards your goals.
  • To find more meaning and purpose in life, you can reflect on the big questions in life and search for the truth.
  • To improve your emotional regulation, you can practice cognitive-behavioral therapy, mindfulness, and you can also get help from a psychotherapist or some other mental health expert.
There's many other ways in which you can train your mind. I'm sure you've found ways that work best for you. My final advice is that you find a systematic way to train your mind that balances both the mental and emotional component, and that you incorporate it into your daily regimen. The more systematic and consistent your mental training is, the better your results will be.

For more information regarding a "balanced brain," you can read my book reviews on Perform Under Pressure and Mindsight.