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Craig Manning, BYU Athletics' Mental Strength Coach, spoke Tuesday about the psychological ability to think positively under extreme pressure or boredom and how it relates directly to the first principle of the gospel: faith. 

Craig Manning
Craig Manning
Photo Credit: 
Sydney Tittle/ BYU Photo

Sharing a personal story about his struggles to focus on his talents rather than his deficiencies as a professional tennis player in Europe, Manning shared some insight about the juxtaposition of faith and fear.

"Dwelling obsessively on what we do wrong is one of the greatest sources of interference to maximizing our potential," Manning said. "I believe doubt to be one, if not the greatest, of the adversary’s tools. It is the antithesis to faith."

As a student athlete at BYU, Manning said he felt like he had the opportunity to reset. He began to understand that faith was the answer to his deficiencies, but he had no idea how to "do" faith.

Studying psychology with a gospel perspective was his answer. Manning explained that the law of occupied space states that an object can only occupy one place at a time. Just like the object, only one thought can occupy our mind at a time: faith or fear, self-belief or self-doubt and simply positive or negative thoughts.

"This is potentially the greatest lesson the Lord has taught me: Faith begins with how you talk to yourself," Manning said. 

This connection, Manning said, has allowed him to turn this principle into actionable knowledge, both mentally and physically. He calls it mind mapping, or coding the mind. 

"This is done through the creation of relevant cues," said Manning. "A relevant cue is two to three actionable words that act as triggers, exact enough to hold an individual’s attention under extreme pressure or under extreme boredom. These cues enable an individual to direct their attention to very specific actions creating relevant skills rapidly."

In his work as a mental strength coach, Manning has seen faith and positivity allow tennis players, working professionals, and even Olympic athletes find success. 

"We don’t do anything without first putting in the mental effort," said Manning. "We need to work hard both mentally and physically to increase our knowledge and intelligence."

Next Devotional: Elder Quentin L. Cook, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

The next BYU Devotional address will be given by Elder Quentin L. Cook, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, on Tuesday, Feb. 7, at 11:05 a.m., in the Marriott Center. 

His remarks will be broadcast live on BYUtv and BYUtv.org, KBYU-TV 11, Classical 89 FM and BYUradio.