How mentally tough are you?
Do you get back up each time you experience a setback?
Or, do you think of throwing in the towel?
The thing is, everything in life that’s worth something is hard.
It’s hard to succeed in your career.
It’s hard to find the love of your life.
It’s hard to maintain a strong relationship with your partner.
But that doesn’t mean you should give up. Because the rewards outweigh the struggle.
So if you’re looking for ways to improve your mental strength, you’ve come to the right place. Below is a list of things you can do to improve resilience.
If you use them consistently, you’ll be surprised as how much improvement you’ll make in a short period of time.
What is Mental Strength?
Mental strength or mental toughness is your ability to manage your emotions and think rationally under stressful or challenging circumstances.
In doing so, you’re able to continue performing at a high level even under pressure. It also allows you to make good decisions as your judgement isn’t clouded by your emotions.
When you have mental strength, you’re said to have resilience or grit.
To me, these three words mean just about the same thing.
What’s more important is, mental strength, resilience or grit is essential if you want to be successful.
In fact, in her book, “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance”, renowned psychologist Angela Duckworth found that grit has a better correlation to success than IQ.
In it, she says, “It was this combination of passion and perseverance that made high achievers special.”
She then continued, “In a word, they had grit.”
In short, it’s your mental strength and the ability to act on that resilience that ultimately determines whether you become successful.
And if you think about it, it makes sense…
That’s because you’ll likely fail many times before reaching your goals. No matter how well you plan ahead, something’s bound to come up to cause you to fail.
Only if you keep picking yourself up. And, fixing your mistakes…
Will you get to where you want to ultimately be or become.
This leads us to the big question.
Why Do Some People Bounce Back and Others Give Up?
That’s because mental strength, more often than not, is a developed trait.
To a degree, you may be born with it.
I can say this because I’ve seen some kids naturally keep standing back up after they fall. In contrast, I’ve also seen kids who’d stay down and start crying.
The good news is, this isn’t the biggest motivating factor for having mental strength.
Instead, it’s how you nurture that resilience.
The reason being that grit is learned and developed. Often, over a long period of time.
As such, ANYONE can learn to become mentally strong.
That’s why kids that were constantly motivated by their parents keep bouncing back up after their mistakes or failures.
One great example of this is Spanx founder, billionaire Sara Blakely.
From a very young age, her dad encouraged her and her siblings to fail. That’s because failing meant that they were challenging themselves.
In fact, each week, he’d ask her, “What have you tried to fail at this week?”
If she said nothing, he’s be disappointed.
This exercise helped Blakely reframe the meaning of failure. Failure meant not trying.
In short, it was better to try and fail than to have never tried at all.
Here are some other factors that will help you improve mental strength.
- Taking action.Planning or wanting to do something isn’t enough. You need to go out and do it.
- Confidence in yourself. You need to believe in yourself and your skills. And, if you currently don’t have those skills, find a way to develop or learn them.
- Ability to solve problems.Obstacles and mistakes are inevitable. As such, in addition to bouncing right back up, you need to find a solution to what’s holding you back. Otherwise, you’ll be doing the same thing over and over again. That’s not going to help you change the outcome.
- Support and communication. There will be some things you just can’t do or can’t do alone. That’s where help from others come in. When you have people to support you, it’s easier to face tough challenges.
- Manage emotions and impulses. Fear is probably the biggest one here. Being afraid to fail or be embarrassed. To keep going, you need to manage these emotions.
Ways to Improve Mental Strength
Now that you know the broad strokes, it’s time to get into actual strategies that will help you build mental strength.
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
Getting out of your comfort zone is the most important thing you need to do to improve mental strength.
It is when you’re challenged or put into unfamiliar situations when you learn the most.
But, there’s another part of this equation. That is getting used to discomfort.
In addition to getting out of your comfort zone, you need to learn to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations.
This allows you to stay calm under pressure or perform your best even in a new environment.
Expose Yourself to Situations Gradually
One way to practice getting used to discomfort is to gradually expose yourself to it.
This type of controlled exposure, as opposed to jumping all in at once, is often more effective. The reason being that it gives you a chance to slowly adapt to your fears.
By starting slowly and gradually working your way up, you’ll be able to face the challenges in due time.
Be Flexible & Adapt to Change
Change is inevitable. It happens in everything.
And, accepting change and seeing it as an opportunity to grow instead of a threat lets you perform well.
On the other hand, not accepting change can make you avoid things. In doing so, you can end up being left behind.
This is why kids laugh at their parents or grandparents who don’t know how to use the computer or social media.
Don’t Care What Others Think
Caring what others think makes you conscious. It can make you do things you otherwise wouldn’t and vice versa.
In the same way, it’s hard to work at your best when you feel that someone’s looking over your shoulder.
That said, the truth is, very seldom do people care about you.
They’re too busy caring about themselves.
By not caring what others think, you’ll be able to stay true to yourself and do what’s best for you.
Develop a Positive Mindset
Are you an optimist or a pessimist?
As it turns out having a positive or negative mindset can affect how resilient you are.
Just take a second to think about it.
If you have a positive mindset, you’re likely to keep going even after you’ve failed 3 or 4 times. That’s because you believe you can do it. Or, your goal is still doable despite your early failures.
But, having negative thoughts can sway you from continuing one. Instead, it may tempt you to believe that you’re not good enough or you can’t achieve that goal.
Bottom line, try to develop a more positive mindset. And, when negative thoughts creep in, replace them with productive ones instead.
Focus Doing One Thing at a Time
Stop multitasking. While doing more than one thing at a time makes you seem more productive, it’s actually the opposite.
Here, being busy doesn’t always mean being productive.
Your brain doesn’t work well when it has to juggle more than one thing at a time. That’s because it has to “reset” itself to each task every time it switches between them.
As a result, you actually waste more time due to switching between tasks.
Spend More Time Doing Things That Make You Happy
Part of taking care of yourself is doing what pleases you. This means choosing “you” and the things you like to do over things you’re supposed to do.
By making time for your passions, you’re giving yourself a break to have fun or pamper yourself. In the process, it’ helps prevent you from feeling overwhelmed or burning out faster.
Learn the Skills You Need
Above, you saw that having confidence is an important factor for building mental strength. One way to do that is to learn new skills.
This gives you the ability to solve problems or do things when the time comes. It also helps eliminates the fear and discomfort of not knowing what to do because you’ve acquired the skill.
Learn from Past Experiences
Analyzing your past experiences helps you understand yourself better. That is,
- Which situations make you uncomfortable?
- What did you feel like when you were in those situations?
- When are you most susceptible to stress?
- What were your reactions to certain circumstances?
Similarly, how did you react, or what happened after:
- How did you overcome these situations?
- What are the best strategies that have worked for you in the past
- Who has been supportive of you?
Taking time to analyze and learn from your past allows you to pinpoint areas that need improvement and what strategies to take to improve your mental strength.
Feeling good about yourself and who you are are important in being more resilient.
In addition, it also means being in control of your life.
Together, they allow you to have emotional stability. Just as importantly, you’re not bothered by insecurities that will affect your judgment and what you do or don’t do.
Stop Worrying About Things You Can’t Control
Worrying can be exhausting. You probably already know this because everybody worries about something.
But, while it’s human nature to do so, it really isn’t productive to worry, especially about things you have no control over.
The only thing that happens is you feeling drained afterwards. Even worse, it keeps you from doing anything else.
Instead, focus on things you can control. This allows you to use your mental energy productively.
Being mentally strong means being able to control your mind from wandering endlessly.
That’s where mindfulness comes in.
Being mindful means focusing on the present. This is true whether you’re brushing your teeth, eating or driving to work.
Doing so allows you to practice focus.
Self-confidence is in part related to your skill acquisition. When you know you can complete a certain task or know how to do it, you feel confident.
The opposite is likewise true.
But it’s not only about that.
Confidence also means believing in your ability to do things you don’t know and in yourself that you’ll be able to find a solution even after a few failures.
Meditation is very closely related to mindfulness. That’s why the two words are often used together.
But, meditating involves more effort. Here, you consciously focus on something while blocking out all distractions around you.
This allows you to clear your mind and ignore things that aren’t important at the moment.
Doing so lets you relax, feel calm and reduce stress. This helps you become more resilient as you’ll be able to focus on challenges while managing your fear and uncertainty.
Build a Support System
Having people you can rely on for support boosts your resilience. This is especially true during the challenging times.
In some cases, they’ll be there just for moral support. But, other times, they may be able to help you themselves. Or, know someone who can assist you with that you’re dealing with.
This goes a long way in making you feel secure and more confidence. Both of which also strengthen resilience.
Don’t be Afraid or Ashamed to Ask for Help
Just as importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Being ashamed to ask others for help may make you seem strong on the outside. But…
It does not help you in any way, except feed your ego or pride.
Having people who care about you doesn’t count for much if you don’t let them help you.
Besides, what’s the worst thing that can happen when you ask others for help? They turn you down. Nothing more.
Set Realistic Goals
Setting goals is more than just telling yourself that this is the goal I want to achieve. It requires:
- Setting realistic goals
- Taking action to achieve those goals
- Executing your plan
If you skip one or more of these elements, you put yourself at risk of failing. While that’s okay, if you’re not mentally equipped to handle failure you may end up quitting because of improper goal setting.
That would be a waste.
Accept That Setbacks are a Part of Success & Prepare for Them
Even if you have all the components above, you’ll still want to be ready to experience setbacks.
This can be from your own mistakes, something you didn’t plan for or something that came out of the blue.
Part of being resilient if accepting that setbacks happen. And, to take them in stride.
Preparing for them mentally allows you to brush them aside and learn from your mistakes.
Then, move forward.
No matter how much you plan, you’ll still fail along the way.
It’s not fun. Nobody likes it. And, it can make you hesitate to try again.
That’s why it’s important to learn to fail and practice failing. This makes you realize that failure isn’t the end of the world. Instead, it’s just another step you need to overcome to get to where you want to go.
But, Never Give Up
In addition to getting used to failing, also get used to getting back up after each failure.
Like Sara Blakely, this will help you redefine what failure means to you. And, it doing so, allow you stop being afraid of failing.
When you never give up, you’re bound to find success sooner or later.
Ignorance is not bliss.
At least not if you want to succeed.
In contrast, being self-aware allows you to understand yourself inside out.
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- What gets you emotional?
- How much stress can you take?
- What are your fears?
- And many more.
Altogether, they’ll help you realize what ou need to grow.
The problem with self-awareness is that we often see see ourselves in a certain way. Unfortunately, that’s often not the best way to know yourself.
Instead, it’s a good idea to ask others’ to describe you as well.
Take your own and others’ feedback of you to get to know yourself better. From there, build on your strengths and shore up your weaknesses.
Don’t See Problems as Unsolvable or Insurmountable
This is one of the biggest stumbling blocks when it comes to mindset.
Seeing things is insurmountable is a negative outlook that makes you want to give up.
If you think that way, you’ll acquire a defeatist attitude. That is, you’ll give up even before you’ve given it a try.
This is the exact opposite of the success mentality that Sara Blakely’s father instilled in her.
Be Grateful for What You Have
Appreciate what you have and stop wasting your time thinking about what you don’t have.
Being grateful allows you to see all the positive things you have instead of being jealous of what other people are showing off on social media.
All the planning, self-awareness and learning won’t sum up to anything if you don’t do anything about them.
This is why taking action is the most important thing above all else in this list.
You need to take action to:
- Learn a new skill
- Get out of your comfort zone
- Solve problems
- And so on.
More importantly, it’s staying committed to doing things. This makes you more reliable and consistent.
In doing so, you aren’t affected by mistakes, setbacks or failure. Instead, you figure out what’s wrong and take action.
Set Aside Time to Reflect on What You’ve Done
Besides taking action, it’s important to reflect on what you’ve done. This ensures that you’re not mindlessly doing something for the sake of doing something.
Also, it ensures you’re not doing the same thing over and over gain.
Most importantly, it allows you to monitor your progress. This way, you know your going forward, not backward or in circles.
Use Positive Self-Affirmations
Self-affirmations make look funny and weird. After all, you probably laugh at them when people in the movies do them, right?
But, they work.
Repeating something positive about yourself and your abilities makes you more confident. For some reason, your brains believes in this “fake it till you make it” attitude.
So use it!
Don’t Suppress Your Emotions
Often, it’s easy to think that suppressing your emotions makes you a stronger person. While that may make it seem true on the outside, bottling them up can make you more susceptible to them in the long-run.
Keeping your emotions inside is like harboring ill-feelings. They’ll unconsciously come out sooner or later.
The worst part about it is, they’ll become obvious in your actions. And, you don’t know when they’ll start spilling over.
So, instead of suppressing your emotions, embrace them and learn to manage them to your advantage.
Train Your Mind
One aspect of resilience is having a sharp mind.
This allows you to think quickly, solve problems and be decisive.
One way you can do this is to train your mind. You can do crossword puzzles, Sudoku, jigsaw puzzles, brain teasers or even plan video games.
These are fun ways to work your mind and keep it sharp. Best of all, you can choose which you like to do which reduces the chance of it becoming boring.
Practice Memorizing Things
Another way to exercise your mind is to memorize things.
This is important especially as you get older. You probably know this from your grandparents who tend to forget things more often than they used to.
Practicing your memory allows you to remember things more easily. This lets you think of things or make connections between two seemingly unrelated things to solve problems.
Learn to Say “No”
Saying no is unpopular. That’s why most of us don’t like turning people down.
But, saying “yes” to everyone and everything means you probably won’t have time to yourself and what’s important for you.
This not only causes fatigue but also puts you at risk of getting overwhelmed or even burning out.
Manage Your Stress Levels
Stress makes you more irritable and be quick to anger. It also causes you to be more emotional. All of which affect your decision making and staying calm under pressure.
That said, not all stress is bad.
Stress instills some fear and lets you know what you’re about to do is important. That’s why you feel the jitters.
In doing so, it helps you be more alert and focused.
The key is to manage it so that it doesn’t tire you out or affect your performance.
Get 7-8 Hours of Sleep Nightly
Sleep is crucial for your brain.
For one, it clears out the toxins in your brain that build up during the day. This allows you to wake up with a clear mind.
More importantly, this “housekeeping” activity helps prevent mental degenerative diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
In addition to getting rest, during sleep your body releases many chemicals including human growth hormone (HGH). Together, these chemicals help regulate your emotions and mood as well as improve thinking and memory.
Your brain runs on food.
That’s because your brain uses up 20% of your body’s total energy. This is the reason why you often feel fatigued when you’re down or worrying about something.
… Even when you haven’t done one second of physical activity.
That’s why food is very important.
Food is what provides your body with energy. So, if you don’t get enough calories, your body and mind will be short on energy.
In addition, junk in equals junk out.
That means, if you eat junk food, your brain will also be running on low quality energy.
Much like fueling your car with the wrong type of gas, you’ll eventually slow down it’s ability.
Physical exercise may not seem like it’s directly related to your mind. But, it actually is.
That’s why you’ve probably noticed that working out when you’re angry or worrying about something helps clear your mind.
It gives your mind a break, allowing it to focus on something other than your problems or what’s bothering you.
In addition, when you exercise, your brain releases a host of chemical including endorphins which make you feel better.
Just as importantly, exercise has been shown to help you relax, lower stress, improve memory and thinking. All the while improving your mood and energy as well.
Mental strength is essential for success. The best part about it is that it can be learned.
All you need is to be committed to it. And, deliberately practice it.
The list above offers many different strategies to improve mental strength. See which ones you can apply into your life that offer the best results.
How do you make yourself more resilient? Let me know in the comments below.