Where does mental toughness come from? I'll let Mr. Rollins start me off here with a quote I love about the Iron Mind...
“People have become separated from their bodies. They are no longer whole. I see them move from their offices to their cars and on to their suburban homes.
They stress out constantly, they lose sleep, they eat badly. And they behave badly. Their egos run wild; they become motivated by that which will eventually give them a massive stroke. They need the Iron Mind.”Henry Rollins
What is Mental Toughness?
Mental toughness is a measure of individual resilience and confidence that may predict success in sport, education and the workplace.
Researchers Jones, Hanton, and Connaughton used interviews with athletes, coaches and sports psychologists to come up with this definition of mental toughness:
Mental toughness is "Having the natural or developed psychological edge that enables you to: generally, cope better than your opponents with the many demands (competition, training, lifestyle) that sport places on a performer; specifically, be more consistent and better than your opponents in remaining determined, focused, confident, and in control under pressure." (1)
Some key words stand out in these definitions:
- Psychological Edge
Habit #1 Test Your Metal
A huge part of developing mental toughness is repeatedly proving to yourself that you can overcome difficulties and personal struggles. This is what Henry Rollins was referring to when he said people need "the iron mind."
The only way to get the iron mind is to push yourself physically beyond what you were previously capable of. Growth is hard and painful. The mind resists and begs you to stop. This is your chance to prove to yourself that you can overcome pain and difficulty.
Listen to Henry.. Get the iron mind. Test yourself physically, and overcome!
Habit #2 Choose How You Interpret Stress
Mentally tough people do not just react to stress. They choose how they interpret stress and how they will choose to deal with it.
They realize that the stress itself has no real power. All of the power lies within us to make a choice on how we're going to deal with external stressors.
In moments where we're feeling stress coming from all angles, we have to realize what kind of person we want to be. If my kids are driving me crazy and I'm tired and have all kinds of things going on, I have to remember that I am a great dad, and the way I react to these situations is what is going to make me great.
In the words of a Navy Seal Commander on Sealfit.com (an awesome site): "How you interpret and handle external stressors determines if you’ll overcome your woes.
Habit #3 Monitor and Adjust Your Self-Talk
Have you ever taken the time to monitor what you tell yourself in difficult situations? If your self talk is negative, studies say your performance will suffer in all areas of life.
How to Improve Self Talk for a Boost in Mental Toughness
According to an article in Psychology Today, there are 4 steps you can take:
- Notice what you're already telling yourself. Pay attention to it.
- Ignore unhelpful self-talk
- Pick a "power phrase." Something that makes you feel motivated
- Pick a phrase or reminder word to help you stay focused.
Check out the book "Negative Self Talk and How to Change it." It's $3.99 and you can read it in 60 minutes, well worth the money and time.
Our mind can be our greatest enemy or our most valuable asset. Monitoring and adjusting your self talk can be a huge step in increasing mental toughness.
Habit #4 Visualize
Taking just a few minutes each day to visualize can have a big impact on how we react and perform.
Studies have shown that the mind doesn't really know the difference between strong visualizations and actual activity.
Athletes use visualization all the time. Research has shown that visualizing shooting and making free throws can actually improve shooting.
For a great book on the power of visualization, check out: "Creative Visualization" by Shakti Gawain.
You can use this same technique on any area of your life. If you want to react to certain stressors better, visualize yourself reacting the way you want to. This can quickly result in you actually gaining control over how you react, versus being controlled by outside stress.
Habit #5 Be Disciplined. Delay Gratification
"The moment the alarm goes off is the first test; it sets the tone for the rest of the day. when the alarm goes off, do you get up out of bed, or do you lie there in comfort and fall back to sleep? If you have the discipline to get out of bed, you win - you pass the test."Jocko Willink
"Discipline Equals Freedom" is a life-changing book by Jocko Willink, former Navy Seal Commander. Highly recommend.
You really want that double mocha frappucino every morning.. but you have a weight loss goal. Maybe you really want to get promoted at work, but it's easier every day to not go the extra mile and earn it.
As Tony Robbins says.. "In life, we get what we are, not what we want." You have to BE, not want. If something is important enough that you dream of it, then you have to be willing to forego temporary satisfaction in the name of achieving, and becoming something much greater.
Habit #6 Control Your Emotions
To have mental toughness, you have to be able to control your emotions. If the slightest bit of stress causes you to unravel emotionally, you're allowing yourself to be controlled instead of being in control.
Mentally tough people remain in control. They tell themselves that nothing is going to stop them, and they mean it. When something is making you feel like you're going to lose control of your emotions, use your self talk and focus on who you are. Like I said before, it will become a habit just like anything else repeated over and over.
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YOU are in control. This is your life, your mind. You get to choose who you are and what you're going to accomplish. Being mentally tough is a choice. If you want it, you've got a great start with this article. The only question is.. what will you do now?
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(1) Jones, G.; Hanton, S.; Connaughton, D. (2007). "A framework of mental toughness in the world's best performers". Sport Psychologist. 21 (2): 243–264. doi:10.1123/tsp.21.2.243. hdl:10369/501.
(2) Antonis Hatzigeorgiadis, Nikos Zourbanos, Evangelos Galanis, and
Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences, University of Thessaly, Trikala, Greece
Polly Cambell: Psychology Today. Positive self talk can help you win the race--or the day