Let’s talk about mental toughness, what is it… why it’s important… and of course how to develop it.
What Is Mental Toughness?
The ability to persevere in spite of obstacles and difficulties standing in your way.
It’s the will to keep going when you don’t want to.
It’s the inner drive that pushes you to do the “impossible”.
It’s the emotional resilience that makes you get up after being knocked down over and over, and get back into the fight.
And of course to never, ever let up.
In one of my all-time favorite books, ‘Mentally Tough’, the authors describe mental toughness this way…
“To be mentally tough means having the ability to control your emotional state in order to be focused, relaxed and confident in the workplace. It means you don’t get bogged down by stress, anger, fatigue, petty problems or your workload. It means accomplishing your goals, unlocking boundless physical and mental energy, and discovering an enterprising, creative, and vital you.”
Sounds good to me! Question is, how do you do it?
How do you stay at the top of your game, when the going gets tough, and you don’t feel like pushing anymore?
You see, average people, don’t worry about this kind of stuff. They just sheepishly show up when they’re told to show up… do what they are told to do… and mentally punch out way before the clock strikes 5.
They don’t think about “business” late at night, or on the weekends. The take themselves out of the way of any resistance, therefore… not much mental toughness is needed for their meager existence.
Ok, I’m not criticizing or judging anyone. If that’s how someone wants to live their life, great. More power to them.
But you and I (ya’ know, the people who actually want to get much more out of life), we do stress about things “on and off the job.” In fact, if you’re an entrepreneur, there’s no “off” for you. It’s like Mark Cuban said… “the sport of business is 24/7/365” and I agree.
Anyhoo… you need to be mentally tough to do that.
8 Ways To Develop Mental Toughness
1. Understand Your Energy and Emotional State
Dr. Jim Loehr, the author of ‘Mentally Tough’ and ‘The Power of Full Engagement’ talks about 4 internal energy and emotional states. You’re always in one of them.
You feel good, lots of energy, no tension, inspired and motivated to go for it.
This is your peak performance state. You know when you’re in this state, and you feel like you’re ten feet tall.
You’re not overly energetic, but you feel relaxed. You may be “out of gas”, but calm.
You’re energetic, but also angry, fearful, full of tension, anxiety and frustration. But you do have the energy to fight. Not your ideal performance state, and all the negative emotions could drain your batteries quickly.
You don’t have much energy and you’re also feeling annoyed, irritated and burned out. This is the worst performance state because you have no motivation, no drive, no desire and no energy to do anything.
It’s important to understand what state you’re in, so that you’re not forcing yourself to be at your best, when you’re feeling down and low for example. It just won’t work.
The goal is to stay on the positive side, and perform when you’re full of energy, while resting and recuperating when you’re not. Doing deep breathing exercises with some visualization or meditation helps create more energy in your life.
It’s true that the only 2 things in life you can control are your Attitude and Activity.
How you look at the situation will determine how you feel and respond to it.
When “bad” things happen, how you label them and whether you choose to focus on them will play a big role in your energetic state.
Where attention goes the energy flows… and if you choose to focus on the negative side of the situation, no matter what it is, there’s no way you’ll shift how you feel.
Ok, so something bad happened. I get it. Had it happen more times than I want to remember. Personal stuff. Financial stuff. Business stuff. It happens to us ALL.
But dwelling and focusing on it, and feeling sorry for yourself, will not do you any good. Trust me. I tried. When you lose tens of thousands of dollars, and it’s not your fault, thinking about it and blaming someone else will not fix it, and it will NOT make you feel better. It’ll keep you stuck in that negative state, paralyzed and unable to act.
When you lose 95% of your really nice income that feeds a family of 5, because your advertising channel shuts you down for good (yep, been there), talking about it and blaming others will not help you. And neither is driving your fist through the wall, even if you feel like doing it.
What will help is to learn from what happened, and do whatever you need to do to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
You always have a choice HOW you respond.
3. Manage Your Expectations
This is a biggie, and it took me a loooong time to really understand this.
Because we’re told to shoot for the moon, and go for it, and dream big. Well, that’s nice. And you certainly should think big and have huge goals. BUT… when you expect too much, you’re in for a rude awakening.
Case in point…
I launched a new business some time ago, in a very different market than I’ve ever operated in. I had really high expectations. In my overly optimistic and enthusiastic state of mind, when I started to advertise, I didn’t account for the refund numbers. I was too optimistic about the refunds. They were about 3 times more than I expected. And that cost me a ton of money and a lot of grief.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with refunds, and in that market, that was the norm. But, because of my expectations, I felt like the wind was knocked right out of me when they hit. And it took me months to overcome the feeling of defeat, and start all over. But I did. Cleaning the slate clean, without any big expectations, and things started to improve very rapidly.
So… not saying to expect to lose. You should expect to win, but you need to manage your expectations. If you expect to hit a home run every single time, you’ll just be one frustrated puppy.
4. Find Your Source Of Motivation
You gotta know what drives you and how to get yourself motivated.
Look, I don’t care whether it’s cars, boats, bags of money, or feeding the hungry. Every single one of has different things that motivate us to take action. Your job is to figure out what it is and get moving.
Making your list of “WHYs” is a great start. Got goals? Great, why are they important to you? What is your why?
Figuring that out is the key to unlocking the door to inner motivation. Which by the way is the ONLY kind of motivation that exists. It’s all internal. Nobody else can motivate you, but you.
5. Habits and Rituals
Developing success habits will help you create the mental toughness you need. It’s a way of saying to yourself – “I’m going to do this, because I said so.” And you develop massive credibility with yourself. Because your word is as good as gold.
It’s how you develop rock solid confidence too.
6. Eat Right and Exercise
A number of years ago, my wife and I were at the Grand Wailea in Maui.
A super upscale resort with all the amenities you could possibly imagine.
We’ve actually been there a couple times. This was an all-expense paid trip I got as a reward for being a top producer back in my financial services days.
So I’m walking through the pool area with a friend of mine who was also there, and he says to me…
“Vitaly, have you seen anybody that’s overweight? I mean everybody is so fit, I don’t see a single out of shape person.” He was right. There wasn’t one. And I asked him… “Do you know why?”
It’s because these people have money. Or maybe they have money because they’re in shape. Now I know there are people who have money who are fat. And there are many people who are in great shape but are broke. That’s not what I’m talking about here.
As a general rule, you’ll notice people who are affluent, take care of themselves. They need to in order to be on top of their game.
You can’t be a top performer with lots of energy if your health is suffering.
And the best way to stay in shape is…
Move your body to get the blood flowing, your heart pumping, and your lungs breathing. It’s the key to life.
You also need to get rid of sugar. Stop eating processed junk. And train yourself to eat healthy, real food. Fruits. Vegetables. Essential fats. Low carb food. Drink LOTS of water. And did I already mention – NO SUGAR?
7. Take Time Out
I’ve got an A type personality. For years it’s been GO, GO, GO. But as I got a little older, and started to feel a little different than I did in my early 20’s, I realized how crucial it is to just take time off and relax.
Meditate. Visualize. Relax.
Do anything that will get you to actually take your mind off of your “job”. I write a lot. And I found that taking walks around the neighborhood does wonders for my creativity. Just taking a brisk walk for 15 minutes, and breathing fresh air really gets the juices flowing.
This is a major key in my opinion to developing that mental stamina as well.
8. Take Action
Get into the most important habit of taking action.
Most people are not action oriented. They only do when they feel like it. But those who have the mental strength to persevere DO IT regardless of how they feel. They have a habit of taking action on a regular basis. Because until you do, ain’t nothing going to get done.
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