Fitness + Well-being

published : 2023-08-25

The Mind-Guardian of the Greats: Inside the Wisdom of Top Performance Coach Greg Harden

Insights from Greg Harden: Developer of Elite Athletes and a Maestro of Mental Fitness

A close-up black and white portrait of Greg Harden, taken with Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, capturing his focused gaze set against a blurred background.

The secret behind Tom Brady’s seven Super Bowl victories is more than touchdown passes and a firm grip on the pigskin. It’s a man named Greg Harden — a specialist in the realm of peak performance coaching who has also mentored sports icons such as Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps and Super Bowl MVP Desmond Howard.

Harden's coaching is grounded in the concept of mental fitness, a discipline he believes can be trained just like physical muscles. His philosophies and techniques are detailed in his new book, 'Stay Sane in an Insane World', which includes personal accounts from successfulclients and features a foreword by Tom Brady.

Harden’s mantra is simple 'Just like you can train your muscles, you can train your mind'. He has spent over two decades at the University of Michigan as the director of athletic counseling, embedding this ethos into the lives of many.

Despite dealing with iconic personalities, his approach towards all his clients is equal. He perceives athletes as individuals battling the same challenges, doubts, and struggles as anyone else.

Harden's aim is simple: To support and guide people in actualizing their best versions. His methodology involves six elemental techniques.

A shot of Tom Brady in action, taken with Nikon D850, the focused look on his face clearly epitomizing the teachings of his mental fitness coach, Greg Harden.

First up, focusing on the very act of breathing. He believes it is an underrated but crucial weapon in the arsenal against stress, fear, and anxiety, reminding his clients that controlling their breath is intertwined with controlling their thoughts.

Harden’s advice for steadying mental health begins with identifying the positive aspects of life, focusing on relationships with people, places, and things. He insists on recognizing the difference between a relationship that nurtures versus those that inhibit, and evaluating our relationship with even time and space.

The next step involves a simple yet powerful formula for giving 100% in every circumstance. It's about developing a critical consciousness, recognizing strengths and weaknesses, and identifying missed opportunities as well as threats to success.

Harden recalls how this mantra of giving 'everything I’ve got' has resonated with many of his celebrated clients, encouraging a level of commitment surpassing the average individual, even for unappealing tasks.

Regardless of how daunting it may sound, this approach reaps benefits over time. 'If I have a mindset that says, I'm going to give all I've got to everything I'm doing, including the stuff I don't even like,’ my worst day will be better than the average person's best day', Harden asserts.

A well-lit shot of the book 'Stay Sane in an Insane World', its cover intriguingly placed atop a wooden table, taken with Sony α7R III.

Incidentally, Harden insists on individuals becoming self-experts, emphasizing the importance of self-love and self-acceptance. He believes humans possess grossly underestimated power to transform their lives intentionally.

Moreover, he urges individuals to shed the baggage of past traumas, the societal obsession with perfection, and to accept our nature - a mix of good and bad.

Harden illustrates this point with a personal anecdote involving a young Tom Brady, asserting that true perfection isn't about being flawless but about giving the best and finding harmony in the yin and yang of life.

He recalls telling a 19-year-old Brady to look beyond the game of football, using it as a means of self-expression rather than a determinant of life's quality. And it's evident that Brady took the advice to heart.

In the foreword for Harden’s latest book, Brady praises Harden as one of the greatest resources for student-athletes at the University of Michigan, crediting him for giving him the tools he needed to succeed on his own terms, and for rewiring his outlook and even his psyche.