Mental Toughness – Test Your Mettle
Three ways to improve mental toughness – not easy, but worth it!
What tips your wagon?
The only bad workout
Don’t exceed the feed limit
The golden nugget of failure
Whether we’re talking about sports, work, or life in general, a fundamental pillar required for successful navigation is mental toughness. Come with me to explore three ways to fortify your mettle.
For today’s discussion, allow me to coalesce mental toughness, mental stability, and mental adaptability into the phrase ‘mental toughness.’ Knowing each phrase deserves its own individual consideration, I invoke Occam’s Razor for my message today. Mental toughness is the idea of pushing through setbacks, and remaining positive. It prepares us to be mentally ready for whatever challenges come our way. It requires both emotional and physical training. To become mentally tough, you must be all-in, 100%!
Improving mental toughness, as the name implies, is demanding. But that’s the point. Just because something isn’t easy doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile. I will ask you to pursue three challenges for 30 days to help you increase your mental toughness. Keep reading.
What tips your wagon?
The measure of a person’s true grit is how much it takes to anger them. How much does it take to tip your wagon over, to fly off the handle, to blow a gasket? Do you know your limits? Can you tamp down those impulses? Using the following exercise not only improves your mental toughness but can also assess your self-awareness and your stability.
Take a self-inventory of topics that make you uncomfortable. What subjects do you avoid in group settings? Be honest. Is it politics, religion, the environment, vaccinations? We’ve endured a din of topics, taken to the extreme, for months on end. It’s probably not hard to come up with something that makes your blood boil.
Mental Toughness Challenge #1: During the next 30 days, find a person who has a robust opposing viewpoint. Find a quiet place and give them your undivided attention. Your goal for this interaction is to learn as much as possible about ‘why’ they feel the way they do about the topic. This is not a time to convert them to your way of thinking. Even though you may need to bite your lip or sit on your hands, listen quietly and politely. Try to imagine yourself as an unbiased observer.
As you conclude this encounter, thank them for helping you understand their position more thoroughly – and mean it. You now have a new insight into a contrasting view. The purpose of calmly and thoughtfully engaging stark opposition without allowing your wagon to tip is to execute mental toughness.
Coach’s sidebar: If you can’t get through the conversation without objecting, correcting, interjecting, or attacking, then keep trying. This might be your Achilles’ heel. Find others with varying opinions. Realize the intent of the exercise is: (1) to learn and (2) to remain unruffled.
We are bombarded by examples of people going off the deep end over seemingly innocuous things in our current reality. While I can’t make sense of much of what I’m seeing around me in society, I admit I share a degree of fear and anxiety about our world. Few of us have remained unscathed by the catastrophic pandemic and political backdrops. Yet, there are ways to navigate by better understanding our fellow humans and simultaneously rallying our mental toughness.
To create healthy co-existence is to become excellent listeners. Socially skilled individuals are sensitive, allowing others to express their opinions freely. This superpower can bring a higher self-awareness to the speaker and the listener. Our every thought is based on an amalgamation of our life experiences. Consider that our very DNA has evolved over millennia to wire us with fervent curiosity. We interweave our every encounter into the make-up of who we are. It stands to reason that by opening ourselves to different thought processes, we gain necessary insights that sharpen our ability for decision-making. This is the basis for neural-cultivating.
The only bad workout
As of this blog posts, we are well into January – the time when most resolutions start to be forsaken. Workout routines are still arduous and not yet habitual in these early resolution days. Sometimes those overly ambitious goals quickly fade. The relationship between exercise and personal well-being is well established. We call it motivation, resilience, and commitment. Are you committed to your fitness?
Mental toughness Challenge #2: The only bad workout is no workout. You don’t need a complicated routine. Choose one exercise or part of your body that you know needs work. Maybe you decide that doing five pushups every day is your goal. (Maybe it’s 50 or 200 based on your level and plan.) Meet yourself at a challenging yet achievable place – doable yet difficult. Do this one thing regularly.
Pick one thing and stick with it. If you can continue for 30 days, you will gain inner confidence that will permeate your life. The gratification from a fitness routine will evolve into many good habits.
Meaningful exercise involves adopting a powerful sense of focus. Here are some tips for maintaining your workout routine. Please print out a calendar and keep it where you exercise. Check off every day you complete your challenge.
That little checkmark gives you a sense of accomplishment. Your inner voice will say, “I set goals, and I complete them.” You will develop a winning attitude over time. This is an integral part of mental toughness.
Also, by selecting to do just one thing, it will be harder to abandon the exercise or make an excuse. And doing this one thing will translate into other additions to your workout as well. A body in motion will remain in motion. Also, a beneficial outcome is the lower likelihood of injury that will result from strengthening a weakness. A chain breaks at its weakest link. Keep your fitness links strong.
Don’t exceed the feed limit.
What went wrong with that New Year’s diet resolution? Were you giving up simple carbs or maybe just ice cream? Were you cutting back on alcohol or just beer? The goal was there, but perhaps the intention wasn’t ingrained. Or maybe you didn’t even try.
It’s time for a reality check: You cannot out-exercise a bad diet. If you resolved to lose weight, forget about doing it through exercise alone. That is not a sustainable solution. The food you eat is as important as the exercise you do – maybe even more so. It’s time to stop exceeding the feed limit. It’s about the best foods in the right quantities.
Mental toughness Challenge #3: Instead of a sweeping lifestyle change for those with many bad eating habits, let’s start with one thing and do that one thing successfully. Determine your worst food habit. Terminate that one item or category for 30 days. We’re not attempting a total nutritional overhaul with this first food challenge. Remove one lousy food habit. Make it happen. It will be hard. If it’s not, then choose another crap food to eliminate.
There are many healthy and tasty foods that you can substitute for crap foods. Trade up. Read labels. Write down your weight loss and congratulate yourself every day that goes by without that one unhealthy food. As with an exercise habit, healthy eating habits will evolve.
Changing your eating habits will lead to long-term lifestyle improvement. We all intuitively know this. Acting on it requires the essential element of mental toughness. Don’t continue down a specific life-shortening path. Try to tackle one food habit for one month. You may be surprised what you can live without. And I do mean live – longer and in better health.
The golden nugget of failure
In addition to emotional, physical, and nutritional toughness tests, this last crucial tip is the glue that holds the other three together. Failure is defined as ceasing to pursue your goals. This means that we do not label ‘failure’ if you admit a slip-up and resume your quest. You may not be successful – yet. As soon as you roll up your sleeves and restart, you move into the ‘still trying’ category. Get back up and continue your efforts.
Failing is quitting, and failing means to stop trying permanently. Those who get back up and keep going will change their world – and sometimes unknowingly, positively impact those around them. Don’t allow yourself to utter the word fail. Please remove it from your vocabulary. Instead, it’s ‘Not yet!’
At the end of the 30-day challenge, look over your tally sheet. How did you do? How many checkmarks do you see? If you are still trying and pushing, you are still in the game. Move on to the next 30 days with renewed vigor. Allow the golden nugget of failure (‘not yet’) to help you along your path toward mental toughness.
These simple yet challenging mental toughness tests include both physical and mental activities. All three challenges are intertwined and equally necessary. Mental toughness tests demand discomfort. These tests help us accept our strengths and weaknesses. When we learn to accurately self-evaluate and self-validate, we are no longer dependent on praise from others nor devastated by rejection. We become more stable and adaptive.
I congratulate you in advance. Think carefully about the next 30 days. Dare yourself and go after it! I promise that mental toughness challenges will serve you well over an entire lifetime.
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