For some reason...talk of mental toughness is usually a bit dramatic...like it's a quality reserved for those who gain great recognition like Olympic champions, Navy Seals or winning Super Bowl quarterbacks. I feel there's a tendency to believe that mental toughness is a quality reserved for special people. The truth is...mental toughness can be cultivated by anyone.
Having the mental toughness comes down to three things:
- No thought.
Yes...easier said than done. But this is really all there is.
Our thoughts can weigh us down. They are like baggage. If you want to be mentally tough...or have a good "head" for challenges...it only makes sense that you need to give yourself less to mental stuff to deal with. It helps to lighten your load.
Firstly...avoid thinking...or saying...something is difficult or far or tough or doable or not doable. You can't stop these thoughts. They'll keep coming. But you can avoid latching onto them. A friend of mind had a mantra regarding Crossfit. It went like this: "It's just so hard." He repeated it over and over. It wasn't long before he was mentally fried and quit the sport. Even though he had an exceptionally strong will, he was adding so much to his mental load that he simply could not continue.
Positive thoughts or visualizations can he helpful...and they are great when they work. But you don't want to dwell on them too much. If things don't go as you visualized them, the contradiction can come as quite a mental blow.
Mental toughness is very much about getting the mind to let go. It's about bending...softening...the way a tree endures heavy winds.
Since mental toughness is really about Persisting...or acting...in the face of great odds...it only makes sense the best place to focus is on action...doing the next step. Rather than letting your mind tell you how hard everything is...give your mind the job of concentrating completely on the next doable action.
If you are at the 27th mile of a 100 race...for example...it might not be such a good tactic to focus on the 73 miles you have to go. It might be better to concentrate on getting to mile 28. Tell yourself...you'll see how things are when you get there. You might want to make your mantra... "I'll see when I get there."
Whatever the challenge, break the task into pieces. Use "micro-goals." If the next step seems too daunting, break it down even further. Concentrate on action. Keep doing what you can. Don't worry about things until it's time to worry. Keep going until you decide not to keep going. But don't let the mental weight of the task beat you. Don't let your mind beat you. Let your body tell you when it's enough.
This is mental toughness. Mental toughness is not big talk or bravado or making a show. It's continuing to act because your mind is not stopping you.
If you practice this...you will get better at it.