On your quest towards personal power, success, evolution, and happiness, there are always going to be detours, roadblocks, and setbacks that stand in your way and threaten to derail your progress.
Most of these challenges are out of your control but will weigh you down more than your abilities and ambitions would permit.
With all of the randomness and seemingly by chance effects of how life can twist and turn in and out of your favor, there will always be one very important, often overlooked aspect of performance, progress, and success that you can control!
This is something that you can use to overturn anything standing in your way as you strive towards what you know to be rightly yours: a life of greatness, power, achievement, and freedom.
In this article, we will examine the science of mental toughness as one of the most valuable ways to take control of your mind and the direction of your life.
Find Your Advantage
If your competitors are better than you, why compete? It just doesn’t seem worth the effort. Even if you are deeply passionate about something, you still need to be good enough to succeed at it, right? Well, this would be true, if you consider talent and ability the only factors in determining your success.
There is an interesting and consistent finding in psychology that intelligence, genetics and natural abilities will only contribute to about 30% of your success in many parts of your life. The rest is chalked up to how well you can handle the pressure of the inevitable challenges and circumstances that you will face.
Research is starting to reveal that your ability to develop a winning mindset — a mental toughness also referred to as “grit” — will play a more important role than anything else when it comes to achieving your goals in health, business, and life.
- Here is some fascinating research about grit and self-control (Angela Duckworth)
It’s easy to stay motivated and productive when the sun is shining and times are good. Mental toughness, however, is the ability to be mentally resilient, focused, confident in your abilities and consistent enough with your habits to constantly improve at what you’re doing, even through the hard times. It is the ability to overcome conflict without giving in to the resistance of your emotions.
Not only is mental toughness directly related to your success and achievement, this is also something that can be trained, developed, and strengthened. This is one of the most powerful assets that you can control and something that you can acquire over time. To become mentally tough is a skill that can produce a significant return on the time you are willing to invest to do so.
Applications of mental toughness
A number of studies (Gould et al, 1987; Bull et al, 2005; Weinberg et al, 2009) state that most professional coaches consider mental toughness to be a key factor in determining an athlete's ability to perform when in real-time situations.
Horsburgh et al (2009) go further to say that mentally tough individuals tend to be more sociable, great leaders, possess a high sense of belief in themselves and showcase a lot of faith in their abilities. When it comes to career, business, creativity, work, and life, mental toughness is the undisputed kingpin of self-belief and progress.
How do you develop mental toughness?
Develop habits that stand the test of time
Structure and habit are the keys to mastery. If you learn to wake up at a specific hour and practice meditation first thing in the morning, this should be the case every single day without exception. Over time, habits become ingrained in your mind and your physical and mental resistance will slowly dwindle.
These habits are particularly important when it comes to smaller tasks because being able to hack the nitty gritty puts you in a position to take on even bigger challenges. Routines over time become second nature, and you learn to overcome the temptation to front excuses.
Focus is crucial
Mental toughness has everything to do with being grounded in reality. You will need to avoid thoughts and ideas that have nothing to do with your current state. This is achieved by staying vividly in touch with your present moment. By staying present, you preserve your mental energy for when you will most need it.
People who tend to overthink every situation are most vulnerable to emotional turbulence and adversity, which will slowly chip away at their mental strength.
Mentally stable people are always aware of their surroundings and have learned how to develop an unshakeable focus. This present moment awareness allows them to adapt to changing circumstances extremely quickly, giving them a better opportunity to identify problems and come up with solutions.
Relying on other people is an easy way to put yourself in a position of weakness. The more you let other people dictate your outcome, the more vulnerable you become to feelings of anxiety, stress, disappointment, and betrayal. These are the emotions that threaten your mental capacity and constrict your room to maneuver.
Developing mental toughness requires you to trust yourself and be confident in your own abilities. Always rely on your own resources whenever possible. Test your strengths, but don’t take on more than you can handle. Let others handle the small details, and learn how to identify the larger tasks that require your attention.
As humans, we love to think of ourselves as intellectual, rational, calm, and controlled beings. In our daily tasks the mind seems to be strong and decisive, but when we are faced with conflict and turbulent conditions we are reminded of how emotionally driven we are. When things get tough, our rationality seems to vanish, and we become vulnerable to all types of destructive emotions.
Intelligence, theory, and knowledge will do nothing for you when your mind is overrun by your emotional responses. In order to counterbalance this weakness, it is necessary to instill strength, discipline, and presence of mind into your armor.
Mindfulness is attention and situational awareness used to reduce stress, increase focus and optimize your performance in the present moment. Mindfulness-based training is also referred to as resiliency training, brain training, and emotional intelligence training.
The idea of mindful meditation has been with us for thousands of years and has proven to be an extremely effective way to practice the presence of mind and mental resilience.
In mindfulness meditation, you learn to keep your mind in touch with the details of the moment. This is a practice that can help you maintain a better grip on your emotions when faced with tough circumstances.
Learn More About Mindfulness-Based Meditation:
- Mindful Meditation to Manage Anxiety
- How to Practice Detached Mindfulness
- Notice Your Surroundings | A Simple Daily Mindfulness Exercise
Expose yourself to adversity
Fear is not an option when entering battle. Not only does fear have the tendency to override your ability to think rationally, but fear is an emotionally charged reaction. An emotion that feeds on the unknown and will end up leading your mind further away from the reality of events.
By intentionally exposing yourself to situations that provoke fear (without putting yourself in danger), you will develop a better sense of your emotional responses and your presence of mind will grow stronger. Stepping into the unknown will give you confidence and reduce your anxieties.
Conflict teaches you how to be open minded about your weaknesses. Your mind will become tempered and you will emerge from conflicts tougher than when you faced them.
The heroes of the past and the present had to be tough to undertake their biggest decisions. They were resilient, committed, and ready to take on the challenge. You can be the hero of your own story, but only if you are willing to step into the unknown and overcome procrastination, lack of focus, and indecision.
To be mentally tough is to learn how to take risks. What you lose in time, energy, and money, you will gain ten fold in your ability to face your next and bigger battle. The more you toughen your mind, the greater potential you have to reach victory — the kind of ultimate victory that you have earned and that you can celebrate.