There are a lot of ways to get stronger. Adding more resistance, adversity, or stress is one way, learning how to adapt to the challenge is another, and adopting dialectical thinking (see blog post 9/23/14) is another. Yet for all of these ways to get stronger, without removing the obstacles in our own approach to adversity, we will see little gain. So if you want to get stronger mentally, here are five things to stop doing right now.
Stop Off Loading Responsibility. Mentally strong people know what is their responsibility and what is not. What they take responsibility for is their behavior, thoughts and feelings. They have long since let go of the idea that anyone is going to make things better for them. While they know that sometimes things happen that are out of their control, they know that they — and only they — are solely responsible for how they respond to these things. You will never see them pointing a finger, blaming anyone else for “messing up their day,” “making them feel bad” or “making them angry.” Instead they simply take responsibility and accept their responses as their own, aware that these are choices they are making — and if they don’t like them it’s no one’s fault but theirs.
Stop Taking Things Personally. Those who get through setbacks and come out stronger know that these things are not personal. Whatever those around them do, they recognize is a reflection of that person’s character, and only that. Mentally tough people do not believe that anyone “has it out for them,” or “that the world is against them.” Instead, they recognize that what happens to them is the result of other people’s actions, thoughts, and feelings — which they are not responsible for. So they spend no time wondering why others do the things they do, and a lot of time thinking about what they will do about it.
Stop Forecasting. Mentally strong people — as tough as they are — know that there is one thing they cannot do. They cannot predict the future. And they don’t waste any time thinking about, anticipating, or foretelling the future. Because they know the action is right here, right now, and the future is not now. But they also know that when their mind is in the future, it’s not in the now, and they are likely to miss critical details and make mistakes — simply because they were distracted by what could happen as instead of focusing on what is happening.
Let Go Of Illusions. While we all love to dream, mentally tough people know dreams are not reality. The chances are, it will not “all just work out.” More than likely, tough people will tell you, there will be good and bad. Thinking life is “all good”, they know, is just a fantasy that promotes denial. And denying what might not be going so well is a sure way to keep it going that way.
Stop Holding On To The Past. For many of us, holding on the past would allow us to avoid loss. Yet mentally tough people know that wishing things “could just go back to the ways they were,” is a wish, and not reality. They know the past — as great as it might have been — is gone. And they also know you can’t drive a car, and you can’t go through life, looking backwards. So they accept the losses, and instead of wishing they could go back in time, think about what they need to do in the present. Because focusing on the wonderful things happening yesterday is a sure way to miss the opportunities that might be right in front of you.
Becoming mentally tough is a hard earned battle — and one that is not won overnight. And while sometimes we have to learn how to fine tune our approach and leverage the adversity, sometimes we also have to learn how to get out of our own way.
More information about how to become mentally tough can be found in my new book, LEVERAGE: The Science of Turning Setbacks into Springboards.