Quit Is A 4-Letter Word: 5 Ways To Improve Mental Toughness
Imagine trying to hike up a mountain with a hole blown in your foot.
How about showing up for a conference and master mind session after losing a loved one?
Or continuing to put in the hard work day after day in your business without making profits in the first year. Refusing to throw in the towel and never going back to a 9 to 5.
Think about throwing yourself into daily videos on YouTube every day when you have paralyzing shyness.
Or writing a book when you had a learning disability.
Or becoming a social media king while struggling with the challenges of autism.
I don't have to imagine these things, because I had the pleasure of meeting these people over the past week.
I heard and saw both their struggles and successes.
Are these people just exceptional? Unique individuals with superhuman strength and abilities?
While they each ARE exceptional with amazing skills and talents, the ability to overcome their obstacles isn't unique or unattainable.
What each of these individuals has is mental toughness.
What exactly is mental toughness?
Mental toughness is having the ability to cope despite the many demands, obstacles, and failures that occur in your life. It is the ability to remain consistent, determined, focused, confident, and in control when under pressure or duress.
I had the opportunity to speak with Mental Performance Coach and Speaker, Lauren Johnson. Lauren is the former Mental Conditioning Coordinator for the New York Yankees. She explained mental toughness as "showing up as the best version of yourself regardless of the situation."
That sounded great for a professional athlete, but I wanted to know how it applied to entrepreneurs or amateur athletes. What could we learn about mental toughness skills to improve our own performance?
Lauren offered a simple answer: "Let your struggles form your strengths." Then she offered these tips for improving our mental toughness:
1. Let your words and emotions be a bonfire, not a wildfire.
Bonfires burn hot, but they are still controlled. Wildfires burn out of control and destroy everything in their path. Our words and emotions behave the same way. She asked me to pick a word to describe myself and then list the positives and negatives affiliated with that word. I chose "rebellious." If I focus on the positives of that word, I become "unafraid", "determined", and "persistent." But if you focus on the negatives, suddenly you are "disorganized", "undisciplined", and "uncooperative". See how it can quickly become destructive to your own mental psyche? She encourages you to focus on the positive aspects, and develop a mantra to fall back on when you find yourself facing a struggle. Mine is "I don't quit."
This is part of a Winner's Mindset. It's the attitude of a person that they will win or at least perform consistently at their maximum level. Their belief in themselves is solid and unwavering.
2. Lean into discomfort
You could be experiencing pain, mental and physical stress, or other physical discomforts. You perform to the best of your abilities regardless of the situation.
Or it could mean handling stress and pressure during a task without doubt, fear, or anxiety. Or at least performing with being deterred by any of those factors. Leaning into discomfort means using stressful situations and environments to focus and perform better.
3. Own your 3-foot wall
What does this even mean? Lauren explains that it's a lot like the rock climber who has a panic attack partway up the cliff. They freeze and can't go either direction. In these situations, you think about the factors you can control and stop focusing on the ones you can't control. You look at the resources within your "3-foot wall" and use them to set little goals to get you where you need to be. In the case of the rock climber, it's finding the next foothold or hand grip and setting goals such as getting to the next plant above you. In the case of business, say Copywriting, it's writing one sentence at a time...maybe even just one word at a time...until you finish a paragraph. Then you finish the whole page or you break through your block. List the things you CAN control and only focus on those items as you hit small goals to get to your ultimate destination.
4. Create your contingency plan
For whatever situation you find yourself in, whether endurance racing, or launching a small business, you need to prepare. Think about everything that could go wrong along the way and create a plan for how to tackle those obstacles. That way if they DO happen, your brain is already prepared. When your brain already has a plan, there's less chance for panic, which means less chance for failure or disaster.
5. Failing well
If you do happen to have a setback you can find the value and lesson in each failure and turn it into a positive. You take what you learn from the experience and apply it to your next challenge to rise to the next level. Every successful entrepreneur or elite athlete has had failures. The difference is they didn't allow those failures to be their finish line.
The bottom line is you don't have to be born to greatness to become great. Many times you'll see those with mediocre talents surpass those who are incredibly gifted. More often than not, the secret to their success is mental toughness. So if you want to succeed, try these tips and DO NOT QUIT!
Sheral~founder of C3 Specialties
*special thanks to Lauren Johnson for her insight and expertise.