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Would you like to be able to cope better with difficulties, unwelcome change and heart-ache? To stay the course and not give up?
If so, you need mental strength!
Mental strength is really good stuff. It helps people persist in achieving a long-term excellence, as opposed to those who start off well, but loose enthusiasm and give up. It’s also the best predictor of success in school, the military and corporate sales, rather than intelligence or even luck.
Mental strength is built through consistently following seven habits:
1. Keep focused on your goals
Mentally strong people have goals for what they want to achieve or change in their lives. They keep these important goals uppermost in their minds during difficult times, which give them the direction and energy they need to persevere.
Actions to take: Firstly, identify your life goals. Then break each one down into what you want to achieve and by when. For example, if you have a goal of financial independence, you could break the goal down into an amount in your retirement funding, your unit trust savings and cash in savings by ages 50, 55 and 60 (more here).
2. Take small steps — right now
Mentally strong people take small steps every day towards achieving their goals. In really difficult circumstances, their focus narrows down to achieving something concrete in a very short time period. They also understand that the future is unlikely to unfold exactly as they plan and so they anticipate obstacles and prepare alternatives.
Actions to take: Take small steps right now to move towards your goals. Use “if-then” (if this happens, then I will …) plans to anticipate obstacles and setbacks . For example, if one of your life goals is to have a loving relationship with your partner, a small step you might plan is to have a quiet meal together at a restaurant. In anticipating potential obstacles, you might know that you are often over-stressed from work when you get home. In which case you may plan: If I am over-stressed when I get back from work tonight, I will ask my partner for a few minutes timeout to decompress before we get together (more here).
3. Let go of unhappiness in your past
Mentally strong people let go of past unhappy events, understanding that no matter how much they would like, they can’t change the past. They accept that life isn’t fair and everyone makes mistakes. So they don’t allow their thoughts to become bogged down and going over and over an unhappy event in the past
Action to take: Accept what has happened in the past. Let go and move on (more here). Tell yourself things like: “I can’t change the past but I can change the future”.
4. Manage your negative thoughts and feelings
Mentally strong people take steps to cope with strongly negative thoughts and feelings that they experience. They prevent difficulties at work or home from diminishing the happiness they experience in the other areas of their lives.
Action to take: During or after a strongly negative event, acknowledge that you are experiencing uncomfortable emotions and thoughts. Feel the impact of the emotions in your body — typically it’s in the area of your neck, back and tummy. Calm yourself by taking deep breaths and focusing on your breathing. Relax your muscles, let the emotions go and move on (more here). Focus on living in the moment, striving to be as present as you are able.
5. Change your thinking
Mentally strong people understand that even though you experience your thoughts as completely true, they are not necessarily so and fortunately can be changed if they don’t serve you well. In general they interpret what is going on in their lives as optimistically as possible. When things go wrong, they are don’t overly blame themselves, view the event as not occurring often and only having a temporary impact.
Action to take: Try to be realistically optimistic (more here). When your thoughts get stuck in a negative ruminative cycle, restructure your thinking by asking yourself the three magic questions (more here):
· How can I accept this?
· What can I learn from it?
· Is there an opportunity?
6. Talk kindly to yourself
Mentally strong people understand the importance of their attitude and self-talk. They understand that what they tell themselves about what is happening in their lives creates their experience of their day-to-day existence and ultimately the story of their lives. They quieten any negative mental chatter with positive self-talk.
Action to take: Talk kindly to yourself, as though they were mentoring or advising your best friend. Find something humorous in what has happened and laugh gently at yourself. Praise yourself for what you’ve achieved and encourage yourself to stay the course and not give up. You can do this by saying things to yourself like: “You have got through more difficult circumstances, so you can do this”(more here).
7. Get and give help
Mentally strong people maintain good support systems. They reach out early in difficult times to ask for and give support.
Action to take: Don’t isolate yourself when times are difficult. This is particularly important for people that are naturally inclined to withdraw into themselves to cope with being over-stressed. Keep your network and support base strong, and reach out regularly to connect with other people. Talk to your loved ones, friends and work colleagues about your challenges and how they can support you to be strong (more here).
These seven habits enable mentally strong people persevere and stay the course in the most difficult of times. Would they help you too?
NEW! Mental Strength Training!
Mental Strength training helps people keep task-focused and persistent. Mental Strength training teaches the process and tools to remain composed under pressure and less vulnerable to emotional slumps at work and at home (read more here).
Building Resilience Workshop
Team members and specialists learn how to bounce back from difficult organisation and life events, such as significant change, setbacks and hardship. The outcome is they are able to resist stressful experiences impacting on their job productivity and stay calm and healthy (read more here).
Resilient Leadership Workshop
Leaders learn how to keep stress positive. They assess their Team Members strategy-fitness and learn three resilience coaching techniques. The outcome is the leaders are better able to deliver organisational strategy and coach their team members when their resilience lags (read more here).
Duckworth, A. L., Peterson, C., Matthews, M. D., & Kelly, D. R. (2007). Grit: Perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(6), 1087-1101.
Oettingen, G. (2014). Rethinking positive thinking: inside the new science of motivation. New York, NY: Penguin Random House
Image Old Tree Roots licensed under Creative Commons