What is mental toughness and why do we need it?
Mental toughness is the ability to persevere and persist when all seems lost and defeat appears to be imminent. It is the ability to rely on previously developed, honed and ingrained habits that will get you through the difficult and uncertain times we all face periodically in life.
We need mental toughness in order to take on and overcome some of life's most difficult challenges. While this seems like a tall order, there are strategies and habits that can get us to a more mentally strong place.
As with most skills, mental toughness is like a muscle built in small increments and incorporated by suitable daily actions with the ultimate outcome being mental strength and resilience.
For example; strive to not miss a daily workout, or if you only feel like doing 10 pushups push yourself and do twenty. Likewise, stick to a planned routine; maintain a schedule, or set up to-do lists – all of which are also a ways of cultivating self-discipline.
2. Adopt a productive attitude. While we cannot think our way to mental toughness we can get into a productive mindset. A productive mindset puts you in a frame of mind where you are open to doing what needs to be done in any given moment. It puts you in a 'can do' approach.
3. Be proactive. During those times when cannot prevent overwhelming circumstances and challenging situations, we are able to control how we allow them to affect us. We can be proactive by choosing our attitude toward what is happening. When we are in better control of ourselves, we are in more control of the situation.
4. Take responsibility. Take ownership of both your actions and where you find yourself. Once you do, you will be in a position of personal power rather than victim hood. Victim hood immobilizes you whereas personal power emboldens you and propels you to take necessary and appropriate action.
5. Accept that life can be difficult. As I discuss in the essential life skill of acceptance, life is not always fair and it is often necessary to come to terms with that over which we have no control or the ability to change. When we accept the premise that life can be difficult, we avoid wasting time bemoaning that which is not, in favor of dealing with that what is.
6. Surround yourself with positive people and positive influences. Strive to be around people who are able to help lift your moods and offer solutions to your predicaments. If you cannot be around positive people, endeavor to read encouraging books and about the experiences of those who have managed to overcome great odds. A positive approach is a must for tackling difficult conditions.
7. Give yourself a break. Quite often we are hardest on ourselves. When we get caught up in self blame and recrimination we miss the learning opportunities which are inherent in all problems. In turn, we also delay working on those problems and in dealing with the business at hand.
"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are." Theodore Roosevelt
8. Capitalize upon and savor the moment. Aspire to find meaning even in the most difficult and challenging circumstances. When you focus on what’s in front of you, you are less likely to succumb to stress, anxiety and frustration and are thus in a better position to affect the result. Conversely, running away from or denying difficulty serves to ultimately defeat you.
9. Get physical. It's no secret that physical fitness promotes mental toughness and fitness. Exercise is vital for maintaining mental fitness and reducing stress while enhancing concentration and cognitive function. Scientific research has proven that regular exercise elevates and stabilizes mood, improves sleep patterns and boosts the overall quality of life. The mentally tough are also physically tough!
10. Let go. Once you've done everything within your power to address a problem or challenge let go and have faith that everything will work out as intended. Letting go relieves stress, anxiety and negative anticipation.
"When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need." Tao Te Ching
Ultimately, mentally tough people are equipped with more fortitude, tenacity and courage to handle the difficulties and challenges we all face in life.
Fortunately, with a little more daily effort and focus, each of us has the capacity to improve our mental toughness and strength.