To me, mental strength means that despite circumstances, you can balance your emotions, manage your thoughts and behave in a positive way.
Developing mental strength is about finding the courage to live according to your heart-felt values and being bold enough to create your personal definition of success.
Developing mental strength involves more than just willpower; it requires hard work and commitment. It’s about building and maintaining healthy habits and choosing to devote time and energy to self-improvement.
Although it’s easier to feel mentally strong when life seems simple — often, true mental strength shows itself in the midst of tragedy. Choosing to develop skills that will increase your mental strength is the best way to prepare for the inevitable obstacles life will through up.
There are many courses, exercises and trainers that can help you develop mental strength. Here are some basics that have helped me.
Understand Your Core Beliefs
We’ve all developed core beliefs about ourselves, our lives and the world in general. Core beliefs develop over time and depend upon our past experiences of decisions taken, knocks received, mistakes and failures endured and of course successes that have been celebrated. Whether you’re fully aware of your core beliefs or not, they do influence your thoughts, your behaviour and emotions in everything you do.
Sometimes our core beliefs are inaccurate and unproductive. For example, if you believe that you’ll never succeed in life, you are less likely to apply for new jobs — and inadvertently, you may not present yourself well on job interviews. There are times you may feel stupid, we all do, but if you believe you’re stupid or believe you always do stupid things, that’s very different.
So be careful, your core beliefs will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Identify and evaluate your core beliefs. Look for beliefs that are black and white, and then find exceptions to the rule. Very few things in life are “always” or “never” true. Modifying core beliefs first requires awareness and then purposeful intention with hard work, but it will affect your entire course of life. Ask yourself the question that philosophers have asked for thousands of years, “Who am I?” Dig deep to discover the heart-felt, gut wrenching feelings and values that make you who you are.
Use Your Mental Energy Wisely
Wasting brain power pondering things you can’t control quickly drains mental energy. The more you think about negative problems that you can’t solve, the less energy you’ll have leftover for productive, creative endeavours. For example, sitting and worrying about the economy isn’t helpful. If a major crash is heading your way, worrying about it won’t prevent it. It ‘s far better for you to make a conscious effort to prepare for it.
Focus solely on what is within your control and save your mental energy for productive tasks, such as developing others or solving problems. Be aware when your thoughts aren’t productive, make a conscious effort to shift your mental energy to more constructive
topics. The more you practice using mental energy wisely, the more it will become a valuable habit.
Kick Out Negative Thoughts
Although most of us don’t spend time thinking about our thoughts, being aware of your thinking habits proves useful in building resilience. Exaggerated, negative thoughts, such as, “I can’t ever do anything right,” restrict you from reaching your full potential. Catch your negative thoughts before they spiral out of control and unduly influence your behaviour.
Recognise your overly negative thoughts and replace with thoughts that are more productive. Productive thoughts don’t need to be hugely positive, but should be realistic. A more balanced thought may be, “I do have some weaknesses, but I also have plenty of strengths.” Changing your thoughts requires self-awareness, but the process is fundamental in helping you become your best self.
Make Yourself Uncomfortable
Being mentally strong doesn’t mean you are devoid of emotion. In fact, mental strength requires you to become intensely aware of your emotions so you can choose the best way to respond. Mental strength is about accepting and working with your feelings without being controlled by them. Mental strength also involves an understanding of when it makes sense to behave in opposition to your emotions. For example, if you experience panic or nervousness that prevents you from trying new things or accepting new opportunities, try stepping out of your comfort zone if you want to continue to challenge yourself. Tolerating uncomfortable emotions takes practice, but it becomes easier as your confidence grows and it’s all part of the game, embrace it and enjoy it.
Practice behaving like the person you’d like to become. Instead of saying, “I wish I could be more adventurous,” choose to behave in a more adventurous manner, whether you feel like it or not. Some discomfort is often, if not always necessary for greater gain, and dealing with that discomfort will help make your vision a reality, one small step at a time.
Assess Your Daily Progress
The busy world of today’s living doesn’t lend itself to making much time available for quiet reflection. Create time to reflect upon your progress and how your mental strength is developing. At the end of each day, ask yourself what you’ve learned about your thoughts, emotions and behaviour. At the end of each day consider what you hope to improve upon or accomplish tomorrow.
Developing mental strength is continuous work in progress. There is always room for improvement, and at times this will seem more difficult than at other times. Reflecting upon your progress will reinforce your ability to reach your definition of success while living and behaving according to your values.
“It’s not what happens to us in our lives, it’s how we respond that shapes our lives”.