Mental Toughness Part 1
We are leaving the series on forming better habits and entering a new series on developing mental toughness. This is a topic that has intrigued me for a long time. It seems like such an important trait to develop, especially in light of recent events with COVID-19 flipping most of our lives on their heads. However, developing a system for teaching someone how to develop mental toughness has been elusive in the past.
What is Mental Toughness?
The first difficulty is defining what I mean by mental toughness. Commonly, what is meant as grit or perseverance is misconstrued as mental toughness. Someone looks at a person who climbed Mt. Everest through really harsh weather conditions and might say, “Wow, that person has so much mental toughness.” Or, we look at someone who completes a great physical challenge and say, “I don’t know how that person had the motivation to keep pushing, they must be so mentally tough.”
However, for our purposes, this isn’t what I mean by mental toughness. For me, those events that I just described demonstrate a lot of physical toughness. Yes, there may be some mental toughness involved, but not necessarily. I define mental toughness as being consistently in control of our thoughts and emotions regardless of the circumstances. Being unflappable from a calm demeanor regardless of how hard or easy life seems. That is the kind of mental toughness I hope to help you develop through this next series.
To start developing mental toughness, you have to develop self-awareness. You have to develop the ability to see yourself, and your thoughts, from a third party prospective. It isn’t enough to be feeling angry. You need to be able to analyze that anger and figure out what is causing it.
Once you develop self-awareness, you can start to analyze your thoughts and emotions. You will learn what triggers your impulses. Additionally, you will learn where you are mentally weak. Once you know where you are weak, you know where to focus your efforts to become stronger.
An easy way to develop some self-awareness is to imagine someone you admire seeing your thought at a particular time. You might think to yourself, “How would I feel right now if my mother was here with me?” You may also imagine this person questioning your emotions in a certain situation like, “Why are you worrying about this? What do you hope to accomplish through worrying about it.”
In future posts, I will talk about more practical exercises you can take to develop mental toughness. For now, start looking at yourself. Pull out a journal and write down how something makes you feel. If a traffic jam today makes you angry, write about it and try to figure out why. You may start to realize that things that seem like a big deal aren’t really a big deal. Congratulations, you are developing mental toughness already.