At the heart of achieving your life’s aspirations lies an essential element often referred to as “grit” or mental toughness. We’re often told it’s the key to success, the secret to resilience, and, above all, the path to a happy life.
So, when life tosses its curveballs your way – and trust me, it will – do you crumble like a house of cards, or do you stand your ground?
Picture this: Life is an unending series of trials and tribulations, an intricate tapestry of hurdles. Now, take a moment to reflect on your own journey.
Everything you’ve achieved thus far isn’t because you tiptoed through fields of daisies. It’s because you faced down demons and danced with dragons, emerging stronger each time.
That’s the magic of mental toughness. It’s your anchor in the storm and keeps you calm when the world seems to unravel around you.
As the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once wisely mused:
“That which does not kill you makes you stronger.”
And he was onto something. Each battle, every scrape with adversity, molds you into a more resilient, unshakable version of yourself.
Nietzsche believes that your level of mental toughness rises each time you face a difficult situation.
So, you might wonder, why the fuss about mental toughness?
Mental toughness is essential for anyone who wishes to live a happy and successful life. It’s what sets the average Joes from the trailblazers who make history.
Why is mental toughness so important for overcoming seemingly insurmountable challenges? Grit isn’t about never stumbling; it’s about always getting back up, no matter how hard life sucker-punches you.
Every setback, every hardship, is a golden opportunity. When faced with a setback, mental toughness is what gives you the strength to overcome it.
Are you aware that every time you face hardship, you have the opportunity to gain a better understanding of your capabilities and limitations? It provides you the ability to persevere and the strength to overcome obstacles.
Mental toughness enables you to see that adversity is an inevitable 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.”
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.
And it was during this stint that she stumbled upon a groundbreaking discovery. It wasn’t IQ that separated the high-fliers from the strugglers; it was their grit.
So, what’s grit? Well, it’s not about digging your heels in and grinding away. It’s a mix of passion, tenacity, and unwavering commitment to a long-term goal. It’s about seeing the bigger picture when everyone else is fixated on quick wins.
Now, here’s the kicker: many folks call it quits right when they’re on the brink of a breakthrough. They tap out, never realizing they were inches away from hitting the jackpot.
But when you’ve got mental toughness coursing through your veins, you don’t throw in the towel; you roll up your sleeves and dig deeper.
Failure isn’t your nemesis; it’s your coach. You dissect what went wrong, learn from it, and march forward.
So, what’s the secret to overcoming life’s hurdles? How do you weather the storms and come out stronger?
Well, it’s all about mental toughness, and the best part? It’s a skill you can cultivate, a muscle you can flex. With a little practice, you can get really good 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. It is a combination of five personality traits, and we’ve got an acronym to remember them – STEEL:
Now, you might be wondering how these traits can turn you into a mental toughness maestro. Well, let’s examine each of these traits and show you how they can transform your game.
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.
“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.
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.
So, here’s your daily mantra: Whatever your dreams are, whatever you’re gunning for, it’s going to take guts, determination, and a heaping dose of mental toughness.
It’s like that old saying we all know too well:
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
You see, for most folks, when life starts tossing curveballs, they throw in the towel, opting for the path of least resistance. They jump ship, looking for an easier gig.
But not for you, the mental toughness warrior. Oh no, you stand your ground, roll up your sleeves, and craft a way forward when the road gets rough.
Becoming mentally tough isn’t a stroke of luck; It’s a choice. You’ve got to put in the reps and hone your craft.
Think of it like building muscle at the gym. You don’t just snap your fingers and wake up with bulging biceps, do you?
No. You hit the weights day in and day out.
Mental toughness is no different. Work it, cultivate it, and it’ll flourish. But let it gather dust, and like that neglected gym membership, it’ll wither away.
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?
Regardless of your dreams, there’s one indispensable ingredient you simply cannot do without: mental toughness.
Let’s wrap this up with a heartwarming story that truly captures what mental toughness is all about – the story of a young girl named Alexandra Scott.
Just shy of her first birthday, Alexandra received a heart-wrenching diagnosis: neuroblastoma. Shortly after she turned four, Alexandra 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.”
Hence, with the determination only a child’s heart can muster, she launched her lemonade stand. That simple stand managed to raise $2,000 for childhood cancer research.
But Alexandra’s story didn’t stop there.
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.
In August 2004, at the tender age of eight, she passed away. 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.
[To make a donation to Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, go to alexslemonade.org]
Like this article? Then you might want to read this: