Without a shadow of a doubt, there is no single mental capability that can have a greater impact on you reaching goals than mental toughness. Things happen. Things are always happening. Rarely do those things that happen come only in a form of blissful wonder and amazement. Most often, the things that happen to and through us are full of difficulty, challenge, and unexpected outcomes. People are complex and the world, full of people, takes complexity to new heights. If you want to stand out and be in a high percentile of people who can set, reach, and exceed personal goals, you must increase your mental toughness. Here’s 5 ways you can become a mental obelisk.
1. Pay Attention to Details
Without understanding that which is affecting you, you will be hopeless in mastering adversity. You see, when you look up to someone who you would describe as mentally tough, what you’re really saying internally is that person is able to endure or recover from difficult experiences or environments. Without an accurate understanding of what exactly is impacting you, or why you’re feeling or thinking what you are, you will not have the ability to endure or respond appropriately.
Here’s a good example. I’ve put myself through a variety of nutritional and exercise regimens over the years. One such experiment I’ve enjoyed is intermittent fasting, or IF, as directed by the incredibly well informed Dr. Berg. Intermittent fasting is the act of ending the proverbial grazing of food for a certain time frame. This is often described as a fasting window and an eating window. Many people who do implement intermittent fasting fast for 16 to 20 hours and have an eating window of 8 or 4 hours. Some only eat once per day, which is referred to as One Meal A Day (OMAD).
What’s this have to do with mental toughness and attention to detail? Quite a bit actually. When you’re body and mind is used to a certain way of eating your entire life, it’s surprisingly difficult making a switch. Unless you move very gradually from one spectrum of grazing to the other spectrum of intermittent fasting, you’ll feel a flurry of emotions. You may become exhausted, lethargic, irritable, angry, sad, desperate, emotionally spent, mentally confused, or even discouraged enough to quit. All because you feel and think certain things. The reality is there are very logical and clear reasons behind what is going on inside. If you understand the processes and the source behind the experience, you can make those tough decisions and train yourself to adapt to the adversity.
Knowing my body would feel hunger at the time of day I used to eat, I was able to combat that feeling. Later, when I had gone longer in the fast, I knew it was an appropriate time to have my meal. The decisions I made were based on accurate details of what was happening to and around me. Where did I come up with knowing the details? Research. Study. Seeking information. Learning. Growing. Experimenting. Do not sit idly by and let life happen to you. Figure out exactly what is going on and use it to make informed decisions and judgement calls.
2. Make Small Tough Decisions
No professional fighter decides to go big all of a sudden. They have trained their body and mind over time, beginning with the basics and moving to advanced techniques. Similarly, your mental toughness does not just go big or go home. Mental toughness is forged in the fires of experience. Each day, small tough decisions must be made. You must make them. Because as you make tough decisions over the small things, you’ll be able to make tough decisions over the big things.
Often times I tell myself “No!” over little things. Things that don’t matter so much. What does matter is my ability to say “No!” over the big things has greatly improved. This is beautifully illustrated in the world of finances.
In America, there is a debt epidemic. People simply do not want to tell themselves “No!” As Dave Ramsey, the financial mentor to America, puts it, “No” has become a bad word. But here’s an easy guide to know how to develop yourself, especially your character. Whatever the mainstream masses are doing…do the opposite. Tell yourself “No!”. You want to buy that new pair of shoes but your current pair are fine. “No!” You feel like buying a tub of ice cream because you’re bored. “No!”
These may seem trivial, but the lesson is huge. When you train yourself in your decision making for it to not be dependent on external factors, you can consider what is truly best for yourself and others. As you make tough decisions on little things, you’ll find yourself easily making tough decisions on bigger things.
3. Don’t Blame Anyone
Blame is an interesting animal. Although I believe credit and consequence are due to the appropriate individuals (which requires the concept of blame), the majority of blame used in the world today has little to do with justice and more to do with excuse. Do not use blame as an excuse. Too often we justify our lack of work ethic, lack of progress, failed attempts, or bad experiences on everyone and everything other than ourselves. But guess what? I’m not really interested in you blaming yourself either! What you must focus on is solutions. The past is only beneficial in so far that you leverage it to impact your future. What has happened, happened. Now, what will you do?
Here are some questions for you to consider next time blame and excuses creep into your mind:
- What can I do now to heal/grow?
- What can I learn so this does not happen again?
- What can I do to achieve a different outcome?
- Who do I have in my corner, and who can I get in my corner, to help me through this?
- What attitudes or tendencies do I have that may have lead to this outcome?
- What skills and abilities can I learn to change my outcome?
- Are they really that different from me?
- Am I truly less capable than them?
- Am I leveraging all that I have available with my skills and abilities?
- Am I giving all that I can physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually?
Mental toughness is a personal act. It’s between you and you. No body else. No one thinks, “Whoa, Tom really helped Bill be mentally tough today.” No. What we really think is, “Bill is a warrior and Tom is a weakling.” Be honest. I’ve said it a million times and I’ll say it again. Hard work pays off.
4. Humility Begets Success
You may have seen me write about this on my Twitter account, @Rhys_Keller. Humility truly does beget success. Success is a funny little thing because it requires a relatively accurate assessment of your current conditions. You want to become stronger? Then you must have assessed yourself as weaker. You want to become wealthy? Then you must have assessed yourself as not-so-wealthy. You want to publish a book? Then you must be as-yet-unpublished.
To become mentally tough and push through adversity towards a goal, you need to know where you are right now. If you don’t know where you are, you can’t possibly get to where you’re going. You see this in the exercise industry all the time. Someone sweats it out in the gym and then stuffs their face with sweets. They have a goal but have no clue where they actually are in that goal progression process. If they accurately assessed themselves and their condition, paid attention to the details, and began making tough decisions in the little things to strengthen them for tough decisions in the big things, they’d reach their quickly.
Let’s take an author or illustrator for example. Perhaps this is you. You desire to become represented by an agent or agency and hope to be traditionally published. It’s a worthy goal and I applaud you for taking hold of it! So, where are you? Be humble. Do your characters lack depth? Is your story opening weak? Do you have grammar issues or don’t know how to critique yourself? What impression does your story or illustrations convey? Do you tend to hold back on the gold nuggets people really need to see? What have I done that really stands out?
Those self-assessing questions help you form an accurate perspective of your own strengths and weaknesses. Now that you know where you are strong and weak, you can develop those skills and abilities. Through acts of humility by assessing yourself and seeking feedback, resource, and knowledge, you can apply tactics and techniques that ultimately bring you a great deal of success.
5. Practice Not Quitting
This may seem a lot easier said than done. And it is. You might find that as you incorporate the first 4 techniques into your life to develop more mental toughness, you’ll find quitting to be one of your weakest areas. Most people are quitters and all people have quit. There is a difference. Quitters are people who, time and time again, end a pursuit due to adversity. People who quit are those who decide to quit, whether in a pivot to change their goals and objectives or after coming to a realization that the original goal is not important enough to them.
It’s OK if you quit because that means you’ve exchanged one pursuit for another. It’s not OK if you are a quitter. As discussed in strategy #2 above, practice makes permanent. What’s that mean? It means to follow through on big things you must learn to follow through on little things. Commitments are BIG things. Promises are BIG things. Waking up at a specific time is a little thing. Exercising longer is a little thing. Reaching a target fitness goal is a little thing. Being a good spouse, parent, or friend is a BIG thing.
If you want to win at BIG things, BIG goals, BIG successes, you must stoke the fire of success in the little things. For 1 week (that’s only 7 little days), set a goal of waking up at a specific time each day. exercising for a certain amount of time or 5 of those days, and reading something for a certain amount of time for 6 of those days. If you DO IT, after 1 week you will achieve an incredible level of personal success.
What do you think you do next? You increase the stakes. Increase the goal. Increase the challenge. I know you can achieve your goals and dreams.
Pay attention to the details. Make small tough decisions. Don’t blame anyone. Humility begets success. Practice not quitting. You’ve got this…