“To increase your effectiveness, make your emotions subordinate to your commitments”
Brian Koslow (Author, Self Made: Generate Your Wealth Like a Millionaire)
“He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still.”
Lao Tzu (Author, Tao Te Ching)
“A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”
Ernest Hemingway (Author, The Old Man and the Sea)
It was the finals and the crowd was huge.
My wrestling match just finished and my friend’s was about to start.
He was in trouble.
The guy he was about to wrestle was a high school All-American with over 100 wins.
In fact, no one had scored a point on him in over a year.
The same guy went on to be a NCAA Division 1 All-American in college too.
Everyone knew my friend was going to lose.
Even our coaches knew he was going to lose.
A few minutes before the match, one coach walked over to give him a pep talk.
“Keep your elbows down and do your best not to get pinned.”
It wasn’t much of a pep talk.
It was more like a verbal instruction manual on how to lose.
I walked over to my friend just before he walked onto the mat.
I didn’t know what to say so I mumbled, “Hey man, are you ready?”
He paused, turned, and looked at me.
I’ll never forget what he said.
“Man, how shocked would everyone here be if I won right now?”
Clearly he was delusional.
But I slapped him on the shoulder and said good luck anyway.
The match started and was tied 0-0 at the end of the first period.
This was surprising but not unusual.
But then something shocking happened…
My friend scored a point.
Now everyone was paying attention.
The entire crowd pivoted towards my friend’s match.
By the end of the third and final period, the match was tied again.
Now it was overtime.
But the All-American my friend was wrestling was exhausted.
He took an injury timeout.
Then another injury timeout.
The crowd booed and complained.
Finally the match started again.
Now they were in double overtime.
The All-American took another injury timeout and then finished the match, winning by one point.
The All-American won but he lost the respect of the wrestling community.
My friend lost but everyone who followed wrestling knew his name the next day.
What Is Mental Toughness?
Mental toughness is a combination of discipline and confidence.
Vince Lombardi, who led the Green Bay Packers to five league championships and two Super Bowl wins, described mental toughness as “a perfectly disciplined state of mind that refuses to give in.”
Studies reviewed in the Journal of Personality and Individual Differences define mental toughness based on an established psychological concept known as the “hardy personality,” or hardiness.
Hardiness consists of three things: control, the ability to feel and act as if you are in control of positive and negative life events; commitment, the tendency to involve rather than distance yourself in what you’re doing; and challenge, the ability to understand and cope with change.
If you want to increase your mental toughness, the first question you need to ask yourself is: are you in control of your life, committed to it, and up for the challenges that come with it?
The next step is to identify the factors that influence this control, commitment, and willingness to face challenges.
Studies reported in the Journal of Applied Sports Psychology show that the following five factors influence mental toughness more than anything else:
- Having an unshakable self-belief in your ability to achieve your goals.
- Bouncing back from setbacks as a result of increased determination.
- Having an unshakable self-belief that you possess unique qualities and abilities that make you better than your opponents.
- Having an insatiable desire and internalized motives to succeed.
- Remaining fully focused on the task at hand in the face of distractions.
In other words, these factors include self-belief, resilience, more self-belief, drive, and focus.
5 Keys To Increasing Mental Toughness
The only person who can increase your mental toughness is you.
If you’re waiting for someone to come along and make you more confident and more mentally disciplined, you’re going to be waiting a long time.
There’s not a mentor in the world who can train you to be more mentally tough without you first deciding to be more mentally tough.
Two of the top five factors that influence mental toughness involve self-belief.
Self-belief must come from within (hence the “self” in self-belief).
The only way to increase your self-belief is to put yourself in difficult situations.
By taking on challenges and learning to thrive in the face of adversity, you will become more confident.
As you become more confident, you will become more resilient, focused, and driven.
You will start to see that you can often control your environment and always control your attention and your attitude.
In short, you’ll start to see things in a different way.
You’ll start to see challenges as opportunities and obstacles as stepping stones.
Here are 5 keys to increasingly develop your mental toughness and self-belief…
1. The biggest opportunity to fail is the biggest opportunity to win.
Too many people are hardwired to shy away from failure.
They feel a sense of intimidation and immediately retreat by talking themselves out of what they really want.
Or, they sabotage their efforts.
Whether you feel a twinge of intimidation at the thought of chasing a job promotion, starting a personal project, or a diving into a more satisfying relationship, these feelings can freeze you in your tracks.
But intimidation is not the problem.
Your perspective of intimidation is the problem. Your perspective of failure is the problem.
The only way to overcome your fear of failure is to start seeing opportunities to fail as opportunities to succeed.
A chance to fail is simply a sign you’re headed in the right direction.
If you can fail big, you can also win big.
Without the possibility to fall flat on your face, there’s no possibility to take your life to the next level.
Start looking for opportunities to fail in your life. Ask yourself, “Where is there a chance to really blow it big?”
Use your feelings of intimidation as a sign that the challenge—the thing that’s intimidating you—is worth pursuing.
2. There are people who kind of want to win and people who really want to win.
Everyone kind of wants to win.
We’ve all taken on a project or gone up against a competitor where we wanted to be seen as trying hard without really trying hard.
As a result, we lost. We came up short or failed completely.
But we justified losing to ourselves by saying at least we tried. Or, we told ourselves that it was okay to lose because we didn’t give 100%.
Trying doesn’t matter.
Kind of wanting to achieve a goal, kind of wanting to be successful, kind of wanting to improve means nothing.
When you kind of want something, you only want it until things get a little uncomfortable.
As soon as one obstacle pops up, you quit. You throw in the towel.
You quit because you don’t really want it. You just want to be seen wanting it.
It’s impossible to be mentally tough when you care more about how you look than you care about actually achieving your goals.
The only way to get what you really want in life is to really want it.
You have to be willing to stake everything on your goal.
You have to be 100% committed to achieving it or you might as well quit now.
Don’t be confused—chasing goals half-heartedly will not save you from the pain of failure.
Instead, it will draw out the pain of failure like a blade.
Holding back will make everything you do painful.
Stop kind of wanting things in life.
Take responsibility for either wanting something 100%, or not wanting it at all.
3. The fastest way to win is with focused effort.
The world is distracted.
This means your opponents and obstacles are distracted too.
They are busy chasing a dozen goals at once or defending against a dozen attacks at once.
By focusing your efforts, you can quickly break through any of these roadblocks.
The key is to stop spreading yourself thin.
Stop diffusing your mental energy in a thousand different directions.
Instead, concentrate your forces.
Gather your attention and direct it at one thing at a time.
This is harder than it sounds.
First, you must get rid of all the little things in your life that are sucking up your attention and emotional energy.
Refuse to waste your time and energy on trivial pursuits.
Save your resources for the one thing you want most right now and when you go after it, go after it in full.
Attack with your entire army, not with one or two soldiers.
4. The fastest way to come back from failure is by remembering past comebacks.
If you never quit, you never fail.
Mentally tough people are resilient. They bounce back from failure quickly, not slowly.
Resiliency is your ability to rebound from failure, mistakes, and other negative events.
Studies reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology show that psychologically resilient people experience positive emotions even in the midst of stressful events.
Instead of succumbing to negative emotions, they use positive thoughts to get back to a positive emotional state.
You can achieve a positive state in the midst of hardship by recalling a time when you faced adversity in the past and were able to overcome it.
Start seeing negative emotions as action signals.
Instead of fighting these emotions, let yourself feel them. Let yourself absorb and process them.
Next, get curious, get confident, make a decision, and take action.
Ask yourself, “How am I feeling right now?” and “Why am I feeling this way?”
Once you answer these questions, take a moment to recall a time from your past when you felt similar negative emotions.
How did you overcome your negative emotions then?
Use this past success to propel you forward.
You made it through a similar tough time before, which means you will make it through this tough time now.
Do this over and over again until nothing gets you down at all.
5. When you’re about to give up, the other side is about to give up.
Wanting to give up makes you strong, not weak.
Feeling like you might fail is not a sign you’re going to fail, it’s a sign you’ve chosen a worthy pursuit.
Having doubts is not the problem. Thinking you’re not supposed to have doubts is the problem.
Too many people falsely assume that feeling tired, stressed, and unsure of themselves is a sign they’re headed in the wrong direction.
These people have fallen into the trap of believing that pursuing their passions should be easy.
Nothing is further from the truth.
No matter what goal you choose to take on, it’s going to be accompanied by hardships.
Many of these hardships will be internal.
You’ll doubt yourself. You’ll question your path. You’ll want to quit.
This is normal for everyone, including the people standing against you.
If you’re having doubts, they’re having doubts. If you’re about to quit, your obstacles are about to quit.
The victor will be the one who rises above his or her temporary feelings and focuses instead on their opponent’s pain.
Don’t feel guilty for doubting yourself or your path from time to time.
Don’t feel bad for wanting to quit.Instead, lean into these feelings. They’re merely a sign you’re about to have a breakthrough.
Never wanting to quit is not a sign of strength, it’s a sign that your goals are too small.
You have direct control over your levels of mental toughness. You can choose to be more confident and disciplined at any time. The key is staying committed to your own life and deciding that you will determine the direction of your future, not anyone else. By maintaining a strong perspective and seeing opportunities to fail and chances to win big, you can continue to develop and increase your mental toughness. By working hard and smart, not just hard, and you will be the victor. Focus, resilience and drive will help you overcome the obstacles you face. Remember, whenever you feel like giving up, the other side is about to give up too.
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