Do you ever wonder what makes someone a good leader? Or a good athlete? Or a good parent? Why is it that some people seem to have it easier than others accomplishing their goals?
The answer isn’t talent – talent can only get you so far. The true answer to these questions is mental toughness, which plays an important role in achieving goals and overcoming obstacles and defeats.
Here are 5 skills needed to improve your mental fortitude:
1. What is Your Goal? Define What Achieving it Means to You
Whether you are tackling a life even, managing a career related problem, or looking to push yourself harder during your next workout, motivation is only the start to your journey. Often times people get stuck in the mindset of “I am doing this because I have to.”
Motivation will only get you on the starting line, but it’s your perseverance that will allow you to last throughout the race.
So the first step is to define what mental strength means to you. Maybe it’s…
- Going one month without missing a workout
- Spending one hour doing something creative each week
- Delivering your work ahead of schedule two days in a row
It’s difficult to define mental strength because it’s an abstract quality, but you can work that to your advantage. Because it is tied to concrete, real actions, you prove to yourself that you’re mentally tough through those actions and through your productivity.
2. Remember, Mental Strength is About Habits, Not Motivation
“We all usually make a laundry list for everything we want to do differently and then attempt to change them all at once. That’s a recipe for failure,”
Explains Christine Whelan, a sociologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“You can basically do one at a time. If you’re going to go to the gym, that’s the one thing you’re going to do.”
Essentially willpower is built through small, individual wins that creating habits. It’s like a muscle that needs to be strengthened through consistent use. It’s those habits that form the foundation of a person’s mental fortitude.
Some basic steps to forming new habits include:
- Focus on small behaviors, rather than life-altering ones.
- Turn that into a routine, and do it regardless of how motivated you feel.
- Stick to your schedule regardless of results.
- When fall off track, get back on as quickly as possible.
3. Where Am I Spending My Mental Currency?
Crafting a positive attitude will help you avoid obstacles and channel your energy in a more constructive manner.
Mental strength expends energy, and you only have so much to go around, and increasing your awareness of your thinking habits proves useful in building resilience to negative thoughts.
Learning to identify and replace your negative thoughts with constructive ones is important to keeping yourself grounded and avoiding stress, which can wear down your body over time and impact your mental fortitude.
Saving your energy for productive tasks rather than using it to put out negative fires will keep your momentum shifted forward.
4. Manage Your Expectations
Although maintaining a positive outlook can help you succeed, don’t forget to ready yourself for realistic expectations.
You should not only be capable of rolling with the punches, but think of how you can take a swing. You cannot control everything that happens, but you are absolutely in control of how you react to the outcomes.
Sometimes this demands a fair bit of patience. Take the time to look at situations from multiple angles, rather than setting your goal through an emotional response.
Motivation that is completely emotionally driven is typically just as fleeting as our feelings, but if you comprehend and understand the pieces of a situation first, you can react accordingly and set yourself up to succeed.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t experience emotions, but rather you should be acutely aware of your emotions so that you can respond to them in a way that doesn’t cripple your goals.
5. Learn to Delay Gratification & Let Things Go
It’s okay to let go of things that don’t benefit you or your goal. Great things are rarely easy to do, and saying no to instant and easy gratification can be a one of the most difficult obstacles to maintaining your habits.
Avoiding scenarios like “well, I did my work early yesterday, I don’t have to finish this project right now” will likely be your most difficult challenge.
Let’s have a quick recap on the essential steps to developing mental strength:
- What is your goal? Define what achieving it means to you
- Remember, mental strength is about habits, not motivation
- Where am I spending my mental currency?
- Manage your expectations
- Learn to delay gratification & let things go
Developing mental strength will always be a work in progress, and you should be vigilant in your constant improvement and focus. Sometimes it will be difficult, or even impossible.
But that’s the thing – you’re trying to prove that you can get through those difficulties and come out on top, so go out and do it!