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Steps to Achieving Mental Toughness

From sports to psychology; something that seems specific, yet general, all at once is mental toughness. Something that allows people to persevere through pain and become the best version of themselves. This article explores what mental toughness means and how to incorporate this into your day-to-day life.

Mental Toughness Definition

Mental toughness refers to the resilience and strength that some people possess that allows them to fight through struggles to succeed. Some may call this “grit” or “resilience.”

In other words, mental toughness is the ability to overcome personal doubts and challenges that may hinder your chances of achieving success or excellence. Some may argue that it’s what separates the good from the great and the exceptional; whether it is in sport, work or self-development.

What it Means to Be Mentally Strong

This is a question that so many people ask (as can be seen by the titles of countless self-help books and articles). Being mentally strong means being able to push yourself past exhaustion, challenges and opposition with strength and confidence to achieve a positive outcome. It means being able to tolerate uncertainty and regulate your emotions in a world that is terrifyingly unpredictable.

People who are mentally tough are not obsessed with being happy, yet they still have the optimistic outlook required to access happiness!

Emotional Intelligence Explained

The term “Emotional Intelligence” is used readily in passing conversation, but do you truly know what it means? It basically refers to the ability to be aware of, distinguish, regulate and express your emotions; as well as to understand the emotions of others. It involves being conscious of your own emotional state (positive or negative), whilst also being tuned into the emotions that others may be experiencing.

The Fundamentals of Mental Toughness

Let’s explore the fundamental principles of mental toughness.

Intention

A dream without a way to get there will always be just a dream; but add intent to the mix and you have a goal. The decision to either do nothing or do something is what makes the the difference between a vague “want” and a clearly set intention. A person with intention is clear about where they want to go and how they intend to reach their goals.

 Effort

Mental toughness means being willing to expend effort. This is the conscious expenditure of energy that’s required to achieve your goals. True success cannot occur without hard work.

Courage

Facing challenges with courage is a key aspect of mental toughness. It allows people to push through situations that are both tough and terrifying. It’s also courage that allows people to face up to challenges and use these challenges as opportunities for growth.

What Makes People Mentally Tough?

Let’s explore some categories of people who need mental toughness to do what they do.

Elite Athletes

Most elite athletes have the ability to push through mental and physical pain, in order to excel despite fierce competition. However, there is much more behind an elite athlete than mental toughness. These people usually possess another closely related key aspect known as consistency.

Elite athletes never miss practice, they don’t give less effort when they’re tired and they don’t let their team down. Basically, their effort is consistent.

Leaders

Again, in addition to being mentally tough, great leaders are substantially more consistent than their fellow colleagues. They push through circumstances to achieve the vision they have, without allowing external barriers to stop them. All great leaders also consciously build up those around them; again, consistently, despite how challenging it may be.

Artists and Writers

On top of mental toughness, what do great artists and writers possess? The answer is courage. People who forge success in their fields need to be brave enough to put themselves out there and create content or art that’s new and exciting. There is always a risk of rejection and failure and it definitely takes mental toughness to take a chance anyway.

Skills That Mentally Tough People Have Mastered

What are some of the essential skills that people with mental toughness have typically developed?

Viewing Challenges as Opportunities

No one likes to struggle, but mental toughness means embracing adversity. Understanding that challenges are new opportunities to grow is a key feature in overcoming them.

Taking Control of Their Own Life

It’s easy to blame others; but using that same logic, it’s easy to attribute your success solely to external factors. Thus, building mental strength is very closely related to taking responsibility for your life in all its successes and setbacks. Those who are mentally tough are willing to take a step back and own-up to their own faults, making space for personal growth.

Committing to The Task at Hand

Although mental toughness is a rather abstract concept to define, you could say that its related to concrete actions in the real world. It is necessary to commit to achieving mental toughness. This means setting goals and persevering through the challenges that will arise on your journey.

The road to mental toughness is not a quick race, it should rather be seen as a journey. Mental toughness, like your muscles, is built up by the effort that you put in every day. Even the smallest efforts should be celebrated, just as much as the larger achievement that awaits you further along in the road.

Being Confident

Having a strong belief in your ability to be triumphant is key to achieving success. Many athletes attribute their success to the confidence they have in themselves. Thus, applying this principle in everyday situations may be vastly beneficial to all of us.

Staying Positive

Finding and maintaining positivity in various situations (even if they seem negative) can serve as an opportunity to learn. This, in turn helps you to develop mental strength. Through positivity you will not only develop the ability to focus on the positive, but you could also find ways in which you can overcome any situation and grow from it.

Mental Toughness

5 Tips For Cultivating Mental Strength

Let’s cover 5 practical pointers for cultivating mental toughness.

Believe That You Can Achieve Your Goals

…and you’re halfway there? I’m sure that’s how the old saying goes. As cliché as it may sound, the fact is that it’s true. Your inner voice can be your biggest ally, or your biggest enemy. Luckily, you can decide which you’d like to side with. Believing that you can achieve your goals is undeniably important. In fact, the world’s most elite athletes attribute unshakeable self-belief as a major factor that contributes to their success.

Find Happiness in Intrinsic Motivations

If you’re constantly motivated purely by uncontrollable external factors, you’re likely to be engulfed by them before you know it. Intrinsic motivation allows for a much more stable road to mental strength. Such motivation will count a whole lot more when it seems like the external is crumbling or when it seems to be inconsistent. Internal motivations drive people to be the best versions of themselves by pushing harder, for no other reason than feeling pleased with themselves.

Don’t Allow Mistakes to Get You Down

It’s an age-old saying, “Learn from your mistakes.” If you didn’t make them, how would you be able to grow? Challenge yourself to look mistakes dead in the eye and ask yourself what you can learn from them. Developing this mindset will help you much more than allowing your mistakes to hinder you along the way.

Create the Life You Want

Setting goals and pursuing them (regardless of challenges) is an important factor in achieving what you want to achieve in life. Working towards a goal by instilling daily habits and completing smaller goals along the way is an important factor in attaining those broader visions.

Maintain Focus

Distractions, disruptions and discord will happen along the way. The ability to stay focused despite such factors is a large facet of being mentally strong. It allows you to maintain the direction needed to attain your goals, despite other aspects that may compete for your attention along the way.

Powerful Exercises for Achieving Success

Let’s cover four simple exercises to get you where you need to be.

Count Your Blessings

Research has shown that this is related to high positive levels of alertness and determination; just what you need to develop mental toughness. Being thankful helps you to reflect on (and realize) the good things in your life, whilst allowing you to push through negative circumstances.

Make Time For Relaxation

Relaxation encourages a healthy mind, in part because it gives your body time to take a break. This is just as important as constantly pushing yourself to achieve your goals, as it allows your entire person to recuperate and regenerate. This, in turn, allows you to push harder when effort is required.

Practice Mindfulness

Being able to pay attention to the present moment with intention, and without judgement, is the crux of mindfulness. It’s important for a range of factors, from increased immune functioning to increased concentration and reduced ruminative thinking. All these factors are important for achieving your goals.

Behave Like the Person You Want to Become

Start acting in accordance with the vision that you have for yourself as a person. If there are any inconsistencies between your behavior and the person you want to become, be sure to identify them as the obstacles standing between you and your goal.

Mental Toughness is a Choice

This article has discussed the seemingly elusive concept of mental toughness; that which makes the difference between surviving and thriving. What we’ve seen today, is that mental toughness is not out of reach; anyone can achieve it. It simply takes persistence, routine, dedication and the right mindset.

To paraphrase Vince Lombardi (NFL legend), “Mental toughness is character in action.” Do with that what you may!

About The Author Daniel Sher
 

Hi there, my name is Daniel. I’m a clinical psychologist, registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa. My professional interests as a therapist include long-term psychodynamic work, as well as cognitive-behavioral and mindfulness-based interventions. In my practice, I work as a sex therapist with men who struggle with sexual dysfunction. I also work closely with people who have diabetes and other chronic illnesses. Finally, I have a keen interest in neuropsychology and neuropsychoanalysis. When I’m not practicing, I enjoy writing on the topic of psychology, surfing, hiking and practicing martial arts.