On Mental Toughness: Actionable Advice To Become Mentally Strong
Regardless of whether your goal is to hit below parallel on a 3x bodyweight squat or to build a 7 figure eCommerce store you're going to need mental toughness to do so.
When we're breaking down skillsets and traits required to hit goals this is all too often forgotten.
You can't take an online course and instantly expect to forge mental toughness.
Regardless of how much money you have sitting in your savings account you can't buy mental toughness.
How can you forge mental toughness and smash those goals? Below are my key takeaways from HBR's 'On Mental Toughness' book, containing 10 definitive articles on mental toughness from Havard Business Review.
#1 - Learn To Love Pressure
Mental toughness is forged in stressful situations, you're not going to build will and character in happy-go-lucky situations.
You must willingly place yourself in stressful situations in which you're under pressure, exposure therapy is key.
You can shoot as many hoops as you like when you've got the basketball court to yourself, but when you've got 2 defenders on you with a few seconds left on the shot clock you're in a world of pressure you've never felt before.
The athletes that excel in these situations are the ones that've replicated high pressure situations like these in training each and every day.
Continual exposure to high pressure situations and scenarios will increase both your skill in the moment as well as your ability to remain cool.
Failing to put yourself in such situations be it in on the court, the obstacle course race or in the board room will result in you wilting the first time the pressure is turned up.
Repetition and replication are key here to building the mental toughness to thrive.
#2 - Focus On Your Circle Of Control
"Make the best use of what is in our power, and treat the rest in accordance with its nature"
All we can control are our thoughts and our actions, we can’t control the weather or the actions of others.
Time spend worrying and attempting to influence things outside of our control is a waste of your time and energy.
Time and energy are finite and must be spend wisely on what we can control.
If you’re building a business focus on acquiring customers instead of the tax changes coming at the end of the financial year that’re outside of your control.
If you’re transforming your focus focus on how hard you’re training and dieting instead of focusing on your genetics, as they are outside of your control.
The victories and shortcomings of others are unimportant.
Be inner-focused and self-directed.
#3 - Fixate On The Long Term
In the day to day we all encounter ups and downs.
Do not spend excessive amounts of time obsessing over short term wins or losses.
Olympians encounter many ups and downs in their training and competing, but regardless of what happens they've got their eyes fixated on the long term.
On those Olympic Games, whether they're 1, 2 or 3 years away.
A minor injury, a first place trophy in a local event... these things hold little weight when focus is on the long term.
Remember, you must focus on what you can control each and every day, put in the work and focus on that long term goal.
Excessive investment along the way will do more harm than good.
#4 - Iron Sharpens Iron - Find Another Hard Worker!
Olympians often train with the best of the best from other countries - why? Because they're truly able to push each other to their limits - not only increasing their ability in their chosen discipline, but also building mental toughness in the process!
You can do the same when it comes to the gym...
Engage in some friendly competition with a fellow gym-goer or friend.
This can be anything you want, e.g. who can reach a certain body fat percentage first, who has the lowest body fat percentage on April 1st, who will win the race to being able to bench press 315lbs for 5 reps.
I’m a competitive person by nature so knowing there’s someone else gunning for the same end result as me while there can only be one winner gets me fired up and willing to put in those extra hard yards every single workout.
This rivalry can also have a bet or wager attached to it as today I’m sure you won’t disagree that money is one of the best motivators of common folk.
Get a friend or find someone at your gym that is at least as dedicated to their training as you are, if not more.
A gym/accountability buddy expects you to show up at the gym at your arranged times to hit the weights together – so you can no longer dismiss or blow off your workouts without letting your partner down (don’t do that.).
Not only is this great motivation, but you’ll also be able to push each others past your limits via assisted repetitions, the mental boost from having a spotter above the bar while bench pressing etc.
A word of warning – a gym partner can also be VERY detrimental to your training if they’re a slacker.
Gossiping, cutting workouts short and delaying workouts are a few of the traits I’ve discovered with the not-so-dedicated gym partners I’ve had.
#5- Do It Every Day
You don't get better at something by not doing it.
Daily repetition builds skill, self-discipline, confidence and mental toughness.
It doesn't matter if you're a sprinter or a saxaphone player - hone your craft daily.
The days you don't feel like putting in the work are the days you must push yourself to do just that.
Mental toughness is built upon value based decision-making, not by going on how you feel. That's how amateurs operate.
#6 - Ensure What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger (Post Traumatic Growth)
In life we all exerience loss.
Loss of employment.
Loss of a loved one.
Loss of physical ability.
This is a given.
Your reaction to such unfortunate events is up to you.
Adopt Nietzsche's mentality of gaining strength from such events.
Spiralling into helplessness after losing your job is a decision.
Building up your skills and knocking on every damn door in town with the best version of your resume possible is also a decision.
That's post-traumatic growth.