How to build Mental Toughness to withstand Life’s Challenges

Life is not easy for anyone. This is why you need grit and mental toughness. When looking at the big picture of life, you can see how often we are confronted with unexpected challenges. one escapes. No one.

You may not like where you are in life right now. The good news is you can change it. It won't be easy and it may take time, but you can do it.

In the words of Marie Forleo, "Everything is Figuroutable." Other people have done it in their lives...why not you?

The key to change is you setting your sail to go in a different direction. That you  control with your thinking and a change in attitude. And a different direction means a different destination.

It is important to be mentally prepared for the road ahead. Denial cannot be an option. It is so important to not kid yourself. Objectivity matters.

You have to know and accept the facts as they come to you. Then you allow yourself to make the move and take the actions to change your life.

So, expect adversity. That is how you keep negative events from throwing you off your game. In many cases, you can see things coming and can prepare for them. It is like people in Mississippi preparing for a hurricane. Boarding up their houses and stores, and, if necessary, leaving the city.

So, the question you have to ask yourself is, “What am I going to do about it?” I'm talking about after the storm has hit and even with preparation, things have fallen apart in the devastation. 

Here’s your required answer:  "I will pick myself up and get back into the game." This must be done every time. Don’t quit. Keep picking yourself up to return to  battle. Over and over again.

That is part of being mental tough. We will discuss techniques to accomplish this in a moment. For now...

What You Focus On Matters

Mentally tough people keep their eyes on what they want for their future. Yes, they see the devastation. But they do not dwell there. At some point, they start to rebuild.

Also, what do people who are not mentally tough do? What do they focus on?

The answer? They weak on the unexpected challenge that is causing them pain. The devastation. And then, they quit. They give up.

The lesson here? What you focus on mattersSo start becoming aware of what you focus on in times of challenge. And remember, life is a mental game.

Here is my definition of mental toughness:

Mental toughness is a state of mind in which a person who is confronted by a negative, even harmful situation, does not panic and does not run. Instead he or she stands firm, takes action, and fights their way to a better place.

Most people are not born with mental toughness. It is something they have learned on their own or been taught. David Goggins is a good example of someone who learned it all on his own. David is considered by many as the toughest man on the planet. You may not become as mentally touch as David Goggins, but you can reach a level that amazes you and everyone you know.

Also, think about your self-talk. What are you telling yourself in times of challenge? Are you telling yourself you just can’t take any more (negative-talk)? Or are you focusing your self-talk on a positive belief system? Perhaps with a mantra that helps you continue to move in the right direction.

Obviously, you need to develop self-discipline. Attached to self-discipline is self-talk. They go together. Usually you will develop one at the same time you develop the other.

There are times you have to decide, no matter what, you’re just going to tough it out. No matter what. It is not the present that matters. It's reaching a better future that matters. So instead of quitting, you callus your mind (Like David Goggins did his whole life). The good news is the more often you do it, the stronger you become.

How A Marine Demonstrates Grit, Mental Toughness And Commitment

A good example of how far mental toughness can be exhibited was provided by Marine Micah Herndon at the Boston Marathon. He was running the race to honor fallen comrades.

His body started to give out towards the end of the race and he actually had to crawl across the finish line. Simply amazing. How many people do you know who would have been tough enough to continue? Most people this exhausted would have quit. But this marine was committed and commitment changes everything.

So what can we learn from Michah? If you want to be mentally tough, you have to know your values and what you are fighting for. And we’re not talking about just any values, but values that are very important to you. Honoring his fallen comrades was everything to Micha during this race. It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you have strong enough reasons. Strong reasons to succeed allow you to do more than you think is possible..

You also need some techniques to help you through tough times. Micah mention two techniques he used. One was Micah said their names out loud as he was running, reminding himself of how much he valued his friends. Micah also added small plates with the names of his comrades to his running shoes.

So the questions for all of us are one: What are our strongest values and what are we doing to honor those values? And two, what techniques will we use to help us achieve our goals?

Thank you Marine Micah Herndon for your example. And for your service.

How To Build Mental Toughness?

So begin with small challenges that in the past you would have procrastinated with. Force yourself to do them anyway ( if you need to, use The 5 Second Rule to get started). Starting with small obstacles and working up progressively to bigger obstacles, will make mental toughness easier to accomplish.

As an example: I am in the process of losing weight. In the past I was in the habit of stopping at a QT filling station and getting doughnuts and a cold Dunkin Doughnuts coffee. I needed gas so I knew what was coming at me in terms of breaking my diet. I decided no. It is time to apply mental toughness. I stated the definition to myself a couple of times and visualized myself only getting gas.

So, the definition of mental toughness is "Mental toughness is a state of mind in which a person who finds themselves confronted by a negative, even harmful situation, does not panic and does not turn tail and run. Instead they stand firm, they take action and they fight." So I decided I would not panic, I would not turn tail and run, and I would stand firm, not going in to get the doughnuts and coffee. I decided to callus my mind.

And, it worked. As i was driving away I thought to myself, I actually thought to myself, "I have just callused my mind," and in so doing, I had a good bump up in my self-esteem. And it occurred to me that I had what I had just done could go into my cookie jar as a reminder I do not have to be a slave to my habits. I'm stronger than that.

What I just described may not sound like much. And, in a way, that's true. But consider the fact I am a sweetaholic. The habit had been established and was pretty strong. It really wasn't as easy as it may have sounded. But combined with the other times I stood mental tough, it all adds up. Small changes, over time, can make a big difference.

It is your clear vision of what you want for your life that will get you through the pain and challenges you are dealing with.  I have a clear vision of losing weight and what it will mean to me when I achieve my goal. So, for you, get clear on your values and the goals you want in your life. You can use the Mental Toughness definition, the What If technique, and the strategy of Visualization. (10/3/20 update - I have lost 29 pounds.)

Also, know that you will have to go outside your comfort zone to grow. It is here you will discover your potential. Every good thing is upstream and you must paddle to get to it. Sometimes you have to paddle like crazy to reach your desires even if you don’t want to. Two techniques for that are The 5 Second Rule and Callusing Your Mind.

Your willingness to stick with a goal during hard times is a good  measure of how much you really desire your dream. If you find your willingness lacking without much effort, it wasn’t a real dream. It was merely something you wished for. Wishing is not enough.

Mental toughness requires the power of self-discipline. You have to be able to shift your mental focus, at times, from the pain you are feeling to your desire for the goal or for the target. That is mental dexterity. And once you do that, you have to allow the power of self-discipline to take over. Those two qualities, combined at the right time, leads to consistency.

Failure Is An Opportunity To Learn. That Is The Attitude You Have To Take
When Developing Mental Toughness.

Let's say the obstacle you just fought was more than you were able to handle. That situation is a chance, an opportunity to learn what doesn’t work. That’s important. You will learn far more from failures than from successes. You're no different from all successful athletes and business people who have had their moments of failure.

You can now come up with a different plan of attack. Your failure was temporary. Treat it that way. Let Henry Ford’s quote guide the way. He said, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently .”

Failure is never fatal. Every top athlete has failed many times. Consider what Michael Jordan said when explaining how he succeeded. I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed." Michael knew that Failure is really an opportunity. And yes, mental toughness in sports is easy to see. But mental toughness is needed everywhere someone wants to achieve something.

Mental toughness can be trained. Do the hard work and you will reap the rewards.

The video below is a man who many consider the toughest man on the planet. His credentials are amazing. In this video David Goggins talks about  being limitless. And to do that he says requires suffering. But it can be worth it to get to the other side. I must warn you that David cusses a lot. I mean a lot. If that bothers not watch the video.

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