Mental toughness is an admirable quality, and yet it is so often misunderstood.
We tend to think that the mentally tough don’t struggle with setbacks and challenges, or at least don’t struggle in the way we do.
Yet challenges, and the struggle they incite, is exactly what makes people mentally tough. When life throws us a curveball and our world changes suddenly, mental toughness is not about quickly overcoming the obstacles we face. It is about staying in the fight, grappling with the challenges, coping with the uncertainty of possibly not prevailing — but fighting on anyway.
So if mental toughness is about facing setbacks, how do we get better at that?
Here are three ways:
Look for the hidden opportunities in setbacks
Setbacks can often feel like there is nothing positive to be gained. However, setbacks, like any adversity we face, presents a set of circumstances that demands our skills. And this is the opportunity that setbacks offer: to learn new skills, and refine existing ones. When you can learn to reframe setbacks in this way and look not to what is difficult, but what must be learned, you take a powerful step toward thinking more optimistically.
Use Paradoxical Thinking
Paradoxical thinking is about seeing everything in life as a paradox – with both good and bad qualities. While in love there is joy, there is also loss, and while with success, there is also struggle. Using paradoxical thinking not only helps us see life in a more balanced way, but find creative solutions that we would have otherwise overlooked. Thinking paradoxically helps us see things from multiple perspectives – a critical part of thinking optimistically.
Facing challenges gets a whole lot easier when you know what your strengths are and how they can be used. By asking what your strengths are, and how you use them, you not only boost your confidence immediately (speaking about strengths as oppose to weaknesses has a lasting positive effect on mood), but you begin to see that these strengths can be used effectively to face the many challenges life brings.
Photo by Tyler J. Bolken