Mental toughness, or “grit,” as it’s often known, is a crucial ingredient in achieving your life’s goals.
When you are in the face of adversity or a stressful situation, are you able to keep your cool?Are you quick to pick yourself up and adapt to the situation when life throws you a curveball?
Or do you feel entirely overwhelmed, with little faith in your capacity to handle the situation?
Life will constantly give you trials and put challenges in your path. That’s just how life works.
Think about all that you have achieved in life so far. Your achievements are not the result of a life free of hurdles and challenges. It was your ability to persevere and overcome obstacles in your life that led you to your success.
Your power to persevere and conquer obstacles in your life is due to your mental toughness. It is what enables you to remain calm and grounded during tough times.
The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said:
“That which does not kill you makes you stronger.”
Nietzsche believes that your level of mental toughness rises each time you face a difficult situation.
Mental toughness is essential for anyone who wishes to live a happy and successful life. This ability is what distinguishes ordinary people from extraordinary ones.
Why is mental toughness an essential ingredient for conquering insurmountable obstacles?
First, let’s start by defining what mental toughness is…
How does mental toughness work? When you are faced with a setback, your mental toughness gives you the strength to make a comeback.
It allows you to persevere and gives you the strength to rally from adversity. And you will emerge stronger than you were before. You’re aware that each time you experience defeat, it’s an opportunity to learn more about your abilities and limitations.
And you will embrace adversity as a necessary part of your life’s journey to success.
According to University of Hull psychologist Dr. Peter Clough, a major researcher on mental toughness:
“Mental Toughness describes the capacity of an individual to deal effectively with stressors, pressures and challenges, and perform to the best of their ability, irrespective of the circumstances in which they find themselves.”
Mental toughness is essential for attaining any lofty goal or conquering great obstacles. I am certain that you will agree with me on this. For something spectacular to happen in your life, you must first step out of your comfort zone.
Dr. Clough has developed the world’s first psychometric measure of Mental Toughness. With this instrument, he affirmed that anyone can build mental toughness.
So, are you ready for a dose of mental toughness?
According to research, IQ and talent only play a small role in predicting success. The New York Times bestselling book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, highlighted what made a difference.
The author, Angela Duckworth, explains why talent isn’t a guarantee of success. Before she was a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, she taught 7th grade math.
During her stint as a math teacher, she became interested in mental toughness, also known as “grit.” Duckworth learned that what distinguished successful students from those who struggled was not intelligence.
She looked into one’s ability to achieve their goals. Duckworth examined how mental toughness, persistence, and passion played a part. And her conclusion was that grit is the true predictor of success.
Grit is the ability to persevere and be enthusiastic about achieving long-term goals. It is the combination of passion, tenacity, and the ability to stick to a purpose over time.
Many people throw in the towel just when a possible breakthrough is about to occur. As a result, they never get to reach their full potential, despite the fact that they are so close…
When you have mental toughness, you will persevere and not give up. And you won’t wallow in failure. Instead, you will learn what went wrong, learn from it, and move on.
What makes all the difference when it comes to overcoming obstacles? How do you persevere and survive tough times? Many studies point to mental toughness.
The good news is that mental toughness is a skill that you can pick up. And with practice, you can get better at it.
What separates professional athletes from regular ones? A recent whitepaper by Caliper’s Research Study made a clear distinction.
They discovered that non-physical aspects of a player’s game play a significant role. And these “intangibles” contributes to the professional athletes’ success. These are attributes like instinct, court awareness, work ethic, coachability, and leadership.
But the single most contributing factor to success, is mental toughness. That is the biggest intangible factor. The research also indicates that mental toughness is not one single trait.
It is a combination of five personality traits. (To help you remember the 5 personality traits, just think of the acronym STEEL):
Let’s examine how these traits can help you harness your mental toughness.
Nothing displays mental toughness more than the ability to remain steadfast under stress.
The year was 1993. It was game 6 of the World Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and Toronto Blue Jays. The sold-out crowd were on the edge of their seats.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, the Phillies were leading 6-5. Then, the Blue Jays decided to assign Joe Carter to bat. The crowd held their breath.
Because Carter was not the most skilled batter on the team.
With the eyes of the world fixated on him, and the game on the line, Carter took a swing. And hit a game-winning home run to help Toronto clinch their second consecutive championship.
Carter’s nerves of steel while under intense pressure proved one thing:
Talent alone cannot replace the ability to thrive under pressure.
Thoroughness is often a trait of the successful. Paying attention to details might not be a prerequisite for success, but it is pretty close.
Stanford economics professor Nicholas Bloom has studied over 12,0000 companies to see what makes some of them better than others. According to him, successful CEOs are thorough and ensure that nothing gets overlooked.
Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was known for his meticulous attention to detail and his preference for quality over quantity. In his own words:
“Quality is much better than quantity. One home run is much better than two doubles.”
A mentally tough person strives for perfection in whatever they do. Attention to detail is a lot of hard work, and it is often not fun. But it is a trait associated with mental toughness.
This is a measure of your ability to deal with failure, criticism, and rejection. If you score high on Ego-Strength/Resiliency scale, failure and setbacks will have very little negative impact on you.
Strength/Resiliency means that you will have difficulties rebounding from failure, rejection, and disappointment. And you tend to have a tough time regaining self-confidence.
The Los Angeles Laker legend and Basketball Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant is the epitome of Ego-Strength/Resiliency. During workouts, he pushed himself to his limits so that he could build mental resilience to physical pain.
In a game against the New Orleans Pelicans, Kobe injured his right shoulder on a dunk in the 3rd quarter. However, in the last five minutes he checked back into the game, and began shooting left-handed.
Kobe often played through injuries and displayed the mental toughness that put him in a class of his own.
This trait requires you to be able to sustain a high level of activity over extended periods. This is one thing that I often struggled with because it is tough to maintain a high level of energy.
Just like life itself, you will experience ups and downs in your energy levels. You just need to work at it to sustain it at a high level for long periods of time.
The most rewarding aspects of life often require a significant amount of effort and persistence. No matter what situation you are in, take responsibility for your work and accomplish it to the best of your ability.
Mental toughness means that you rely on your self-discipline and the skills you’ve acquired over time to stay on track.
The ability to stay calm under pressure is the hallmark of mental toughness. As the saying goes, “cool heads prevail.”
Being level-headed is a learned trait. It takes practice. To get mentally tough means you must manage your emotions.
And, in whatever stressful scenario you find yourself in, you must maintain your composure. One effective way to keep a level head is to use mindfulness to focus your attention.
Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present and aware of where you are and what you are doing. The essence of mindfulness is not being overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around you.
Existing thoughts and experiences could evoke a powerful emotional response in you. Mindfulness allows you to adjust your focus. It enables those thoughts to exist without judging or assigning negativity to them.
While these five traits are legitimate, they are by no means a be-all and end-all guide to mental toughness. You need to exercise your discretion and determine for yourself which ones work for you.
The best strategy is to try out each trait and discover which ones resonate with you. Choose one that makes you feel at ease to work on.
Focus on it until you are certain that you feel that you are embodying the trait. Then move on to the next one.
Mental toughness is not just a skill you pick up. It has to be an embodiment of your inner self.
Remind yourself daily that whatever you want to achieve, you will need guts, determination, and mental toughness.
I am sure you have heard this popular saying:
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
For most people, when things get rough and tough, they will probably just give up. They will take the easy route and work on something else instead.
Those who are mentally tough are not deterred by it. They will stick to their guns and figure out a way to make it work.
Becoming mentally tough is a decision.
When you invest enough practice time on this, your capacity to remain calm in the face of adversity will increase. You will be so adept at mental toughness that you can control your thoughts and manage your emotions.
Just like building physical strength, you have the power to grow mental strength. But you must be dedicated and work hard to acquire it.
Developing mental toughness is similar to gaining muscle mass. It withers if you stop working on it.
Do you aspire to be a better athlete, a more patient parent, or a successful entrepreneur? Or you just want to be a better version of yourself? No matter what your goals are, mental toughness is the necessary ingredient to help you achieve them.
Mental toughness is one of the most common characteristics of successful people. It is imperative to develop mental toughness in order to live your best life.
To wrap up, I want to tell you about Alex Scott. Just before her first birthday, Alex received a diagnosis for neuroblastoma.
Shortly after she turned four, Alex told her mother:
“When I get out of the hospital, I want to have a lemonade stand.”
And so, she started her lemonade stall later that year. She wanted to use it to raise money for her doctors to “help other kids, like they helped me.”
Her lemonade stall managed to raise two thousand dollars for childhood cancer research. Since then, Alex continued to hold her yearly lemonade stall.
Her story touched the hearts of people from all over the world. In no time, lemonade stalls sprouted all across the world, with proceeds going to Alex and her cause.
Collectively, she had raised over $1 million to help find a cure for the disease that later claimed her life.
Alex Scott passed away in August of 2004 at the age of eight. But her legacy lived on. To date, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation has raised more than $100 million for childhood cancer research.
She had proven that it does not matter how old you are or how swift and strong you are. All it takes is grit, perseverance and mental toughness. And a lot of heart.
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