Published on 17th May 2015
Look at your old school photograph and invariably it is not the most talented of your classmates that have achieved career and life success but those that have been the most determined, resilient and confident. They have possessed the mental toughness to respond positively to life’s setbacks and have likely succeeded against the odds by creating opportunity from adversity.
Returning to now, you can build a more successful life and career by developing your own mental toughness. You can do this by aspiring to be more mentally tough or learning to do what mentally tough people do when dealing with stress pressure and challenge. Either approach works and the latter usually leads to the former by creating a mentally tough habit.
These three techniques below all benefit the four C’s personality traits that comprise the mental toughness definition created by Professor Peter Clough and assessment guru, AQR’s Managing Director, Doug Strycharczyk, namely:
The three simple and effective ways to grow your mental toughness are:
- Hardwire Your Positivity
- Set Yourself Goals
- and Make It Happen.
HARDWIRE YOUR POSITIVITY
This is the most difficult of the three techniques because it involves you being able to hardwire your mindset to become a mentally tougher person or at least to begin with adopting the mindset of a mentally person. which is to be inherently positive.
You can hardwire your positivity in three ways:
- You Have Control
Firstly you have control over your own destiny, how you feel and how you respond to a variety of situations. Mentally tough people have a strong sense of control and you must develop this … or at least ‘fake it till you make it’. It is the cornerstone to everything else that follows. The alternative mindset is that your life is determined by luck and you are like a leaf in the wind, having no effect on the way your life and career will play out.
- Create A Positive Mindset
This is glass half full – or preferably overflowing – rather than glass half empty. Condition yourself to think, talk and act positively as though the best outcome will happen and then invariably it will. Mentally tough people talk themselves through their day and navigate the challenges and opportunities with a positive approach.
- Deal with It
It is a world full of uncertainties challenges and obstacles and to succeed you have to work through them and work around them.
You have to take the rough with the smooth, expect the unexpected and deal with it.
Life is never going to go all your own way and it is your ability to accept this uncertainty and then deal positively with adversity and not quitting when you feel like it that will define you and your success.
It might not just be adversity – you may just feel becalmed or stuck in a rut and not be able to work out how to get yourself out of it. You can go with the flow or you can kickstart yourself to get moving again around the issue.
Equally, you need to stay in control and maintain your poise and humility when, occasionally, lots of good things happen at once; when there are too many opportunities and successes. By all means smell the roses, but don’t get too distracted or diverted away from achieving your ultimate goal.
SET YOURSELF GOALS
“If you don’t know where you are going you won’t get there” is a cliché for good reason.
Mentally tough people have a strong sense of where they are going because they build a roadmap to success by setting relevant goals and milestones. They aim to be the best they can be and they visualise achieving those goals to make them come alive.
- Goals and Milestones
Goals are part of the everyday language of successful people, because setting goals gives direction and purpose as well as the energy to achieve objectives and approach new challenges. Ideally you want to set a long term goal or number of long term goals and attach to each a series of milestones that signal the progress points that must be reached to achieve success.
- Be The Best You Can Be
If you can focus your goals and related milestones on being the best you can be in any given circumstance, then achieving these milestones along the way will give you clarity and confidence that in turn reinforces your resilience and commitment.
- Visualise Your Achievement
Visualisation gives you a clear choice. You can imagine success or you can imagine failure and each can be experienced in your own mind. By mentally rehearsing activities and conversations you can understand what needs to be done to achieve success. Talk yourself through your desired positive outcome like a TV commentator and by playing this video clip of the future in your mind, over and over, you reduce your chances of failure because you are much more confident of success.
Most people visualise – mentally tough people just visualise better and more often.
MAKE IT HAPPEN
You know in your head and your heart that you can do it. You have set yourself a roadmap of relevant goals and milestones to get there. Now all you need to do is make it happen. Obviously energy and talent are important but above all else you need to be focused, fearless and flexible
- Be Focused
Sir Winston Churchill, Britain’s wartime leader, was a master of metal toughness and especially when it came to focus and not being diverted from achieving his goals. A famous quote of his was “You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks”, meaning be focused and stay focused.
This has as much application to your big goals as it does to the short term day-to-day goals of becoming distracted. It is as relevant to completing your school homework and doing the household chores as it is to writing a workplace report. Achieving the goals you have set gives you momentum and gets you to where you want to go.
- Be Fearless
Often you can become frozen with the fear of what can go wrong rather than energised by what can go right. This panic and fear creates anxiety which inhibits you physiologically when you most need to be calm and in control. Often its potentially stressful situations like public speaking for example that make you feel short of breath and panic stricken.
To counter this, on top of your visualisation and self-talk, you need to develop a routine of learning to relax through mediation and to control your breathing.
In short, you need to set yourself a goal to learn to become fearless about everyday situations.
- Be Flexible
It’s one thing being focused and fearless but you also need to be flexible enough to be open to reflecting and learning from your experiences, be they positive or negative. Setbacks and failures are an important part of the process of you being successful and if you don’t learn how to fail and deal with it you won’t know either how to learn, how to be successful and enjoy it. Also by being open and graciously receptive to constructive feedback from others you will most likely receive valuable advice you can use to your future advantage.