What is the difference between someone who is a champion and someone who is the runner-up? What makes someone able to look an impossible situation in the face and willingly conquer it? It’s the same thing that Super Bowl MVP’s, successful CEO’s, and leaders of all types posses. It is something that you should posses! It may be the one factor that determines whether your goals are realized or not.
In all of my years in school, I don’t think that there was any course that specifically taught me how to be mentally tough. Those who play competitive sports may understand mental toughness more than those who do not play sports but just because you played a sport, does not make you mentally tough. Here I will breakdown what mental toughness is and the benefits of having it. Then I will lay out all of the ways you can become mentally tough and thus dramatically increasing your chances of success.
I’ve been looking for the perfect definition for mental toughness but there seems to be a slight discrepancy on what it actually means to be mentally tough. I found a few decent definitions but most of them dealt exclusively with athletics. But since I am convinced that mental toughness is necessary in order to overachieve in many other parts of your life, this is the way I’d like you to understand what mental toughness is.
Mental Toughness- Having a physiological edge that enables you to be consistent, confident, focused, and determined during high pressure situations in order to perform at maximum potential.
Listen to me people, you need to have this! People might think that this is a skill or trait that someone is born with. I don’t believe that entirely. I’m leaning more towards the idea that some learn how to be mentally tough earlier than others but I stand by the notion that this skill can be learned. It is not an easy attribute to acquire however, that’s why so many people don’t have it but trust me it is well worth the work. Just imagine the advantages of being tough minded.
-Excel during high stress and pressure situations
-Have a mental advantage over competitors
-Being able to bounce back quickly after a setback
-Produce results even when the likelihood of success is low
-Be unshakable through most any circumstance
More specifically, here are some scenarios when being mentally tough comes in handy
-Your business or investment has been failing
-You have received a bad management and/or peer review at your job
-Everything at the party/wedding/gathering that could go wrong, has gone wrong
-You’ve been assigned to work with a group of people that you do not get along with
-You just got fired
-You have to speak in front of a small or large audience
-You are way behind on a project and the deadline is fast approaching
You will come across something this week where your mental toughness will be tested.
Characteristics of Mental Toughness
Those who are strong minded are not hard to spot. True mental toughness, however is sometimes hard to find. There are many characteristics that a person may possess that may mimic the characteristics of a mentally strong person. If someone is stubborn, opinionated, outspoken, bossy, or demanding some might see them as strong minded and may confuse that with toughness. Toughness is not usually seen in the actions of a person, rather in the reaction of that person.
You might know a person who seems to be a rock mentally. This person seems to know what they want and know how to get it. Not only that, they have an answer to every question, an opinion for every topic, and an idea for every circumstance. That may seem to be the formula for success in the mind, but what happens when something goes wrong? Or a plan or project fails over and over and over again? This is where those who are mentally tough strive and excel. There are six major characteristics of mental toughness
Having the belief in yourself may increase your mental toughness if applied correctly. If you believe in your ability to succeed, then you are preparing yourself for success and bracing yourself in case of obstacles.
When a person cannot stay focused it is easy for them to mentally collapse in high pressure situations. The ability to concentrate on the task at hand and stay focused on that task is an unbelievably important skill that many cannot seem master.
Have you ever been really excited about a goal and then weeks later you lose your excitement? Of course you have, everyone has. Finding motivation is easy, keeping motivation is a challenge. Motivation ties in closely with focus because the majority of lost motivation stems from the lack of or a shift in focus. In situations when the climb is uphill, motivation, focus, and resiliency should be your best friends.
Remember that being courageous is not being fearless; rather it is having fear but acting as if you don’t. Acts of courage are usually accompanied by a mountain of fear but a courageous person will do what they have to do in order to get done that which has to get done.
Roget’s New Millennium Dictionary Thesaurus has a lot of good synonyms for composure such as self-possession, coolness, equanimity and control. They have fortitude listed but I think that has more to do with strength and endurance than it does composure.
It doesn’t matter how confident, focused, motivated, courageous, or composed you are, if you do not see your goal to the end then it may turn out to be pointless. Being resilient is pushing through until you reach your destination.
Developing Mental Toughness
Seeing point A and getting to point B
Now you should be ready to develop mental toughness and also reap the benefits of having it. I strongly believe that the mind is the most complex and advanced computer the world will ever see. It does what it is programmed to do. What your brain is now is what you have already programmed it to be. You must be aware of how you will react in situation where your mental strength may be tested. In sports, it’s knowing how to react when your opponent is stronger, smarter, faster, than you are. In business it’s knowing what to do when your employees come up short of your expectations, your deadlines are not going to get met, and profits are way down. In your personal life it’s knowing how to deal with heartbreak, handle those who try to con or take advantage of you, and assert yourself in order to project the image of the person you want to be.
This starts with programming the mind to do what you want it to do in those situations. Begin to understand the best possible action or reaction for a circumstance that will require you being mentally tough. I suggest writing down how you would usually react in those situations, then writing down how you would liketo react in those situations. See the difference? The shortest distance from point A to point B is a straight line. Start focusing on point B which is how you want to react until you begin to feel like you can react that way. Run the scenarios in your mind and you will begin to feel more comfortable in your new mind.
Before you can run you need to crawl. Every opportunity that you miss to strengthen your mindset is a step backwards. Be on the lookout for ways that you are acting mentally weak throughout your day. Chances are your actions and reactions are habits that must be broken. Put in place a small goal or challenge for yourself in order for you to test your toughness. It is very important that you set groundbreaking yet viable challenges or else the exercise is useless. Do this on a daily basis and you’ll begin to notice that the test will begin to become bigger and more challenging. The reason for this is because those small steps are becoming larger steps and your mental toughness is growing. Don’t stop, keep testing and challenging yourself.
I hate being nervous. Nervousness is one of the more uncomfortable feelings a person can experience. The tougher you are mentally, the less nervous you will become. People who are constantly nervous are allowing outside circumstances to determine their mood and the outcome of their situation. Now think about it. Once you have composure and are in control of yourself, you can then move on to controlling your situation. I can’t stress enough how important of a skill this is to learn and master. In fact, I think I’ll do some research on it and write a post sometime in October. For now, the best way I’ve found to staying calm and keeping your composure is to practice calming yourself and preparing yourself for high stress situations. Make sure you do this exercise as if it were a real life situation so that you are more equipped to handle the real thing.
Bounce Back Quickly
“Obstacles can be discouraging and can create the feeling of failure. Once that feeling is there you may entertain thoughts of giving up the journey. In order for you to bounce back quickly you must prepare yourself for these obstacles internally and externally. Do all that you can to prevent these setbacks from happening but if they do happen, remind yourself of your goal. Surround yourself with positive people who will encourage you when you are tempted to give up. Keep motivational materials around also. Posting motivational quotes or reading success stories may give you that recharge that you need to keep you going.The quicker you bounce back the quicker you will reach your goal.”
This is a segment from another article I wrote and I think it works perfectly in building mentally toughness. Take initiative, take control If you’ve dealt with the nervousness issue this shouldn’t be that hard. If you’ve practiced composure then your mind should be clearer and you should be able to think straight. The clearer your thoughts, the better your decision making will be. At first you may be hesitant to take control if you are not accustom to doing so. But building toughness is like building muscle, you have to work at it in order to make it stronger.
Look out for opportunities to take control of a situation. Look out for opportunities to do something that requires you to be in control even if it’s something that you’ve never done before. If you are already mentally tough, raise the bar and set a long term challenge that will test the stamina of your toughness.
At the end of Michael Jordan’s career there was almost no question that he was the best player in NBA history. Wilt Chamberlain who played in the ‘60s and ‘70s had a marvelous career and scored more points in his career than Jordan did. Wilt even scored 100 points in a game. But when it was all said and done, Jordan was still seen as the greatest. Why? As one analyst pointed out Jordan had an amazing ability to excel his performance in a clutch situation. Mentally, he intimidated his opponents, and was never intimidated by his opponents. His tough mindedness made the difference in his life and it can make the difference in yours.