5 Tips on How To Develop Mental Toughness
One of the greatest gifts I received in life was my ability to hold on despite the tumultuous storms I would find myself in. Some of them were well deserved and self imposed, while others were unwarranted and completely outside of my control. In the end, it didn’t matter if it was a category 1 storm or a category 5 tsunami-I needed to endure them all just as you needed and will continue to need to survive all types of downpour.
In life, you’re either heading into a storm, going through a storm or coming out of a storm. I don’t know who deserves the credit for saying this, but it is 100% accurate.
I am going to give you 5 Tips on How To Develop Mental Toughness.
Tip #1 : Commitment Is More Important than Excitement
I want you to think back to your childhood. Every time you started something new you were excited. The possibilities were endless. During this initial phase you didn’t really know what you didn’t know. Everything was easy. It was all fun. That is, until you decided that you wanted to be good at it.
In the beginning everything is easy-especially when you aren’t keeping tabs on progress. There’s nothing wrong with this. There are plenty of activities & hobbies that people participate in for leisure sport or to pass the time, but the minute you cross over from recreational participation to actually wanting to win or to become great at something, it will inevitably become harder. You cannot escape this.
“But Paul, everyone knows this.”
Do they though? I’ve spoken to a lot of different success stories in different fields, and one common phrase I hear is, “Had I known just how difficult it really was going to be, I might not have gotten started.”
The point here isn’t to dwell on how hard something is or is going to be. The point here is to acknowledge that at some point it won’t be fun, and it is then that it will require commitment on your part. Anyone can give up when the excitement wears off. Champions stay committed for however long it takes.
Tip #2 – Stop Playing All the Negative Possibilities in Your Head
Have you ever had to make a difficult phone call that you’ve been dreading for hours, days, weeks, or even months, and after you eventually mustered the courage to do it, the outcome was nothing like you had expected?
We all have. Human beings are notorious for this. We fantasize about all the possible outcomes, we waste energy and lose sleep over the stories in our heads, over things that don’t happen.
Stop. Doing. This.
There’s no point in wasting time over things that are completely out of your control. In fact, it’s more productive to face your challenges as early as possible so that you can invest your energy in responding to them or in finding solutions.
The key is disrupting this pattern. I want you to identify a song, photo, scripture, poem, or passage that you can access in an instant that inspires you. For me it’s a photo of my family and certain songs that remind of very special moments with them. These are the kind of songs that give me goosebumps when I hear them. Talk about disrupting a pattern.
When you catch yourself playing, and replaying different cut scenes in your head, look for that source of inspiration. Use it. No matter the hour or the circumstance.
Tip #3 – Listen To Motivational Material Daily
I know you’ve been told this before and chances are you’re not doing enough of it. I consider myself to be one of the most positive and inspirational people I know, and I still have to wash my brain with positive messages daily, multiple times a day-and I’m not alone. The most successful people you know, listen or read these kinds of messages regularly too. It is because we are conditioned to think negative thoughts. It is engrained in our DNA. We come from a long line of hunters and gatherers and our forefathers had to be on their toes at all times or they would be eaten by larger animals. Like them, your brains is hard wired to keep you safe. I don’t need to explain to you why your brain doesn’t want your body to die and in order to survive and stay alive you question everything. You don’t have to be taught to think negative, but you do have to be taught to be a positive thinker.
The best way to become a positive thinker is to read and listen to positive material as often as time permits. If I am not careful I can begin to stew in my own thoughts, and I would much rather listen to something inspirational rather than question my skills or good looks.
Tip #4 – Get Up & Take Action
This sounds overly simplistic, but it’s often overlooked. When you’re stressed out and paralyzed in fear it can be suffocating. Those thoughts manifest themselves physically. Don’t believe me? Stress is one of the leading causes of death in our country.
The best way to combat stress is to take action. Don’t sit on the couch stewing in your mess. That’s quite possibly the worst things you can do, especially if you haven’t mastered your own thoughts yet.
Find and use your source of inspiration. Focus on it until changes your physical state, and most importantly get up! No. I mean physically stand up. When you stand up it puts you in a physical stance of authority. It empowers you. I work standing up in the office.
Ideally I’d like you to tackle what is challenging you at the moment, but even I have a problem with procrastination at times, so I’m going to ask you to find a small easy challenge to overcome. Whatever it might be. Start small. Tackle it. Acknowledge it. Find another task to complete. Complete it. Praise yourself for it. Take pride in work. Don’t half ass it. Whatever you do make sure that you do it to the best of your ability. You are developing a pattern here.
My mantra at home has been and will always be:
“How you do some things, is how you do everything.”
By starting with the smaller tasks and completing them as perfectly as you can you are developing this skill and commitment to excellence. I heard a commencement speech on YouTube and the speaker suggested that to have the perfect day, you start out by making the bed. He and I are saying the same thing.
You will eventually graduate to completing the larger tasks, hopefully sooner rather than later. If not, I’ll have another blog entry for that.
Tip #5 – Most Failure is Never Final
In life there are few mistakes that are truly final, and unfortunately in some rare cases fatal. I am not going to touch on those kinds of failures as I have never experienced them, and wouldn’t dare give advice on how to cope with them. Thankfully, most of us will never experience failure to that degree.
The reason that most people avoid taking risks is out of fear for what other people will think of them. Ready to have your mind blown? Most people don’t care about your screw ups because they are too busy condemning themselves for their own. So if everyone is stuck in their own head chastising themselves, why spend any energy worrying about what other people think about you? Accepting this can be unbelievably liberating. When you give yourself permission to make mistakes in pursuit of your dreams amazing things happen.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not giving you a hall pass to do things unethical or morally wrong. All I am saying is that not all of your ideas are going to work, and that’s okay. There may be a period in your life when you will try anything and everything that is presented to you. You might even be known as the guy or gal that is always trying something new, or the person who is always looking for some get-rich-quick scheme. I can empathize with this. I too have fallen guilty to the shiny object syndrome from time to time in my life. Don’t let those comments discourage you from testing and trying. My only advice is that you don’t make a habit of starting things and never investing the effort to see them through.
Your failures do not define you and the more often you try and fail, try and fail, try and fail, the more resilient you become. It is the people who spend their lives trying to avoid failure that never truly realize their full potential, all because they treated their first failed attempt at something as the end all be all. Don’t let that be you.
The Mental Toughness Muscle
Think of mental toughness like a muscle. The more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes. Don’t believe me? Think of someone you admire. On a scale of 1 to 10 what would you rank their mental toughness muscle? I’d venture to say it’s above 7. I’m not referring to financial success either. I’ve seen mothers flee their country of origin, children in tow, to come to the United States and start a new life. I’ve seen people overcome a debilitating disease. You can’t do these things without being mentally strong. Don’t wait for external circumstances to force you to develop your mental toughness muscle. Start working on it now. You’ll thank me later.