Mental toughness, we are told, predicts our success in sport, education, and the workplace. It will help us cope with adverse situations, perform under pressure, face setbacks and emerge with confidence.
And if you are looking to become more mentally tough, there is no shortage of blogs, books, and articles – and plenty of coaches ready to teach you how.
But is mental toughness just about learning more; adding more information on top of what we already know? Is it about committing to do 100 push-ups every day, run until we puke, or do exactly as some mental toughness guru tells us?
I don’t think we can swallow anything whole and I don’t think mental toughness is something that we can simply shove down our throats. I think before we can become anything more than what we already are, we have to know where we are starting from.
I think mental toughness starts with asking the right questions. With that said, here are three questions to ask yourself.
What Is Your Attitude Toward Adversity? Do you find yourself thinking that things are harder than they should be? Does it seem like other people don’t have it as hard as you? Do you feel like you are always getting the short end of the stick? The truth is, we all have to face adversity, and while it may seem like things are easier for other people, thinking that you shouldn’t have to struggle so much has no influence over has much adversity you will face in the future. What it does have influence over is how you deal with adversity in the present. You have a choice. You can either see adversity as unnecessary torture, or, you can see it as an unavoidable opportunity. That is, you cannot escape adversity, so you might as well find a use for it. Because in every difficult situation is an opportunity. The reason something is difficult is because we have more to learn. Without strife, there is no growth. There is only complacency. And while that may sound like a relief, it is also a fantasy that doesn’t exist. Mental toughness looks at adversity like a vitamin. It doesn’t taste good. But you don’t take a vitamin because it tastes good. You take it because it is good for you, and you know you need it. Adversity is no different. It’s worth repeating: without adversity there is no growth. The limiting factor is your attitude toward adversity.
What Is Your Attitude Toward Yourself? Do you have the power to change yourself or are your reactions a reflection of your circumstances? Do you reach your goals because you put in continuous effort and don’t quit until you get there, or is it due to luck? Do other people hold the key to your success (if you know the right people, have the right connections, or are born into the right family), or do you? What you think about your ability to exert control over your life, your decisions, and your outcome is where your locus of control lies. When you believe that control over your life exists inside of you, you have what is known as an internal locus of control. And when you believe that control exists outside of you, you have what is known as an external locus of control. In short, you either direct your own life, or your life becomes directed by your circumstances. Becoming mentally tough begins with separating yourself from the things that happen to you and choosing your own response to them. It doesn’t mean things will be easier. They won’t. What it does mean, however, is that you will have the power to choose how you respond to them. Instead of feeling like you didn’t reach your goals because someone, or something, stood in your way, you will understand – on a core level – that it is you, and only you, who decides whether or not you reach your goals.
Whose Path Are You On? When was the last time you stopped to consider your life? Do you want the life you are living? Is it something you chose, or did it simply evolve, as if by happenstance? Did you let go of things that were important to you to satisfy someone else? Did you follow your dreams, or were they lost somewhere along the way? This is your life. It is your only life. And whether or not you choose to live it – to follow your dreams, to actively pursue your goals, to experience everything you want to – is entirely up to you. It may feel like you can’t. But that may just be your fears talking. It may feel like it’s too late. But that may just be your compensation for your regret. You can, and it is never too late. Because in the end, you won’t have a choice anymore. Now you do. At any point, you can decide, that today is the day you say, “No More”. Today is the day you no longer acquiesce. Today is the day no you longer passively pass through life. Today is the day you take the first step on your path, toward your dreams, your goals, your vison. Being mentally tough isn’t about always reaching your goals. It is about always reaching toward them. You may not reach them. And you may. But you must always keep pursuing them.