One of the biggest problems in society today is the prevalence of “cognitive dissonance”- the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change. Cognitive dissonance is a trait common to those who lack mental toughness and commitment. There is no place for it in the mind of a serious athlete (or for anyone really).

What problems could cognitive dissonance cause you as a soccer player? Let’s look at an example: You’re a high school soccer player, highly sought after by college scouts. Your goal is to earn a scholarship to a top 25 NCAA Division 1 program. We all know this is not an easy goal to accomplish, but you can realistically accomplish it if you give everything towards it. You work extremely hard at every practice, play hard in every game and put in the extra time training. The problem is, your nutritional habits are poor, and you hang out with the wrong crowd on the weekends- partying and drinking.

Where’s the problem? – You say you want to be a top Division 1 athlete, but you aren’t living the lifestyle of one, therefore it will be very difficult for you to achieve your goal and reach your potential on the soccer field. Many athletes struggle with these sorts of problems- they say they want to accomplish something great, but the lifestyle they live says something different. Most of us tell ourselves stories to justify living subpar lifestyles- “I’ve worked hard this week, I deserve to have fun.” “I feel fine, I don’t need to eat healthy, nutrition’s not that important anyway.” This list goes on.

Reality is- you’re lying to yourself. If you have a high goal and haven’t fully committed to it, it’s just a wish, something that is nice to think and talk about. Take a hard look in the mirror at yourself- Do you really want to accomplish that big goal? If so, change your mindset to eliminate cognitive dissonance in yourself and start giving everything towards your big goal! Here’s a mindset exercise that will help:

Take responsibility for your excuses and bad habits- Write down everything about your lifestyle and the way you train that is inconsistent with your goal. Then you will write a personal responsibility statement to combat your bad habit/excuse. For example: I have poor nutritional habits- “I take personal responsibility for fueling my body in the best possible way and eating the right things to maximize recovery and my physical condition.” Now you will repeat this personal responsibility statement aloud, in the mirror, 10x everyday this week, literally taking a hard look in the mirror at yourself!

Take responsibility for the hypocrisy you are living and start making changes to build mental toughness and achieve your goals in soccer and life!