It surprises me how many people ask me how I manage to keep mentally sane by running as much as I do. I think my main surprise comes from the fact I just don’t understand it; I love being out, by myself, thinking deeply and pushing my body while breathing fresh air. That said, there comes a time toward the latter stages of a marathon race or a tough ultra marathon where your body is screaming at you to stop, or slow down, or collapse into a pile on the floor, and the only thing which keeps you pushing onward is your mind and how you use it.
This is mental toughness. Being able to use your mind in the face of some adversity. It does not have to be physical adversity such as running an ultra marathon, it can be in the face of emotional, psychological issues that present themselves in your personal or professional life.
One of the key characteristics of people who are successful in their career and in their life is that they are mentally tough. This also often means they are in control of their career and life and are sufficiently persistent and committed to fulfill their goals. They have the confidence and self-belief to achieve the impossible as well as the possible.
There is so much research and so much to write about regarding the notion of having mental strength and I’ll write about other aspects of it soon too. However, today, I wanted to talk about the way goal focus can advance mental strength.
Mental toughness is the ability to rebound from setbacks and disappointments, and it is often referred to as resilience. This characteristic equates to being mentally flexible, having a strong self-belief, persevering through challenges, and responding to situations with calmness, focus, and presence of mind. The research of prominent psychologist Dr. James Loehr shows that mental toughness is a learned skill developed through experiences, deliberateness of purpose, and awareness.
Mental toughness begins with self-awareness. By being aware of our present moment experience, we can develop our mental toughness. Regularly checking in with ourselves to note our ongoing experience and anchoring ourselves to the present helps lead us to discover new capabilities, skills and talents within ourselves. We can use these new discoveries to achieve our most important goals and priorities.
Mental toughness is fast becoming the competitive edge for many of today’s professionals, as well as athletes and as a life skill and mind-set that helps you win in many varying aspects of life. Here are some insightful, goal-focused ways to develop your mental toughness:
- Create a goal-directed life with a sense of purpose:
You start to do this by asking yourself, “What do I want?” and “How will I know I’ve achieved/got that?” State your answers in the positive and clarify your answer. Imagine that outcome as vividly as possible in your mind’s eye, feel it and imagine truly being there, getting a sense for how it will be. Also set milestones that indicate your progress and you’ll have a well-formed outcome. As journalist Lester Louis Brown said, “Shoot for the moon; even if you miss it you will land among the stars.”
Mentally tough people feel in control and are in control of their life, their circumstances and their emotions (in a healthy, appropriate way). They have a clear sense of who they are and are comfortable with that. They have a dream and a vision and they constantly ensure they live their life in alignment with this vision and are on a personal mission to make that dream come true.
The vision then turns life into a worthwhile mission that is filled with a sense of purpose.
- Believe you can achieve it:
Believing in yourself gets you closer to what you want. David J. Schwartz, PhD, author of “The Magic of Thinking Big” writes, “The size of your success is determined by the size of your belief.”
Deep down, you know what you’re able and unable to do. When you believe in yourself, others are unable to pressure you into doing anything you don’t want to do. On the other hand, no one can hold you back from doing something you know you can do.
When a vision with purpose has belief invested in it, the mental toughness begins to be more solidly forged.
- Set high expectations for yourself:
Set your expectations high. They will be the limit to which you rise… And when those expectations are set high, you begin to do the little things required to reach those goals. Doing little things well is a necessary step toward doing big things with excellence.
“The problem most people have is not one of setting goals too high and missing, but making them too small and hitting them.” — Les Brown
A higher expectation gravitates to an improved self-esteem, higher self-worth, and turns desires into action.
Conversely, low expectations seek out compromise and poor self-image and tell your mind to function at a low capacity.
Evidence would suggest that setting goals that are too unrealistic or that have too much challenge to them may make you feel stressed or anxious about it. Even if you ground your goals in reality with a healthy level of challenge, you can have high expectations regarding how you go about it and high expectations about how you perceive yourself throughout.
- Prepare yourself to achieve your goal:
You plan and take action.
You do this by first deciding to grow your self-awareness in the first place. Self-awareness leads to your personal development emotionally, spiritually, and mentally of becoming what you want to be, want to have, and want to do.
Mental toughness requires the ability to manage yourself for the long term without yielding to short-term pressures. There will always be highs and lows. But understanding that each challenge or setback is just part of the longer journey helps you keep perspective, learn from your failures, and push on.
Equipped with your vision fuelled purpose, laced with belief and expectation, you then plan your journey forwards. Plan each step and consider having contingency plans in place too. Then you take action and engage in your plan. Taking that action should not require too much of a wrench if you have done the previous 3 steps thoroughly – those elements should be driving you, motivating you and inspiring you.
- Stay focused and never lose sight of your ultimate goal:
Within your plan, you then compartmentalise your grand dream into realistic plans and targets, you then prioritise effectively and with an intense focus to make it happen.
Mentally tough people have an appropriate sense of urgency in wanting to get things achieved now and not to procrastinate or let things slide. Try to keep a clear line of sight between your goal and your expected outcome. This means, you believe in your goal, you are committed to it, and you know what to do to achieve it. Always move towards accomplishing something.
Take the action, however small the step may be. The classic notion of eating the elephant one bite at a time.
- Be a lifelong learner:
You use the experience and the drive forward as a beautiful learning experience. You become your own project and discover as much as possible along the way. This in and of itself is great reward for all that you do.
Also though, you learn something new about your craft, or your field, or your sport, or your working role daily and intentionally practice it. Practice the new skill and apply the new knowledge until it becomes part of you. See all results as learning experiences, not failure. Abstain from being among the idle thinkers who think the skills they have now will be the same ones they will need when they achieve their goal. Mental toughness takes an open mind that is willing to continue learning and that will yield to new knowledge and experience.
Then also consider taking on challenges. Challenges that will stretch you and will be ultimately rewarding. The more you are stretched, the more resilient you will become.
- Practice Self-Denial:
Learn to be comfortable with denying yourself certain things in life from time to time. This is classic behaviour of many ancient schools of philosophy. This might mean taking short fasts from food. Alternatively, challenge yourself to stand at your desk for an hour at a time. Or, force yourself to put your mobile device down while watching a film at home. Experience hunger, craving, or being unsatisfied in some way on a regular basis.
It’ll certainly ensure you are more appreciative of what you have when you have it, but it will build your mental strength incredibly.
The idea here is not to eliminate your emotions. The idea is to feel and understand your emotions and then react properly. It is delaying self-gratification for something in the future, achieving a goal or accomplishing a task. The known sure fire order is: Stay alert, keep calm, think clearly, and act decisively. In other words have self-control, be disciplined, and stay on course.
No matter what method you choose to develop your mental toughness, you will be transformed in ways you never expected – like the athlete who uses suffering to create higher levels of mental and physical fitness.
Go get mentally tough with goal focus, you’ll be pleased you did.
If you’d like to learn more or if this has resonated with you in some way, then visit these pages:
1. Has lack of focus held you back and is it still doing so now? Do you need more mental toughness?
Coaching with Adam Eason Or Hypnotherapy with Adam Eason
2. Would you like a satisfying and meaningful career as a hypnotherapist helping others develop mental toughness?
Adam Eason’s Anglo European training college.
3. Are you a hypnotherapist for whom lack of focus is negatively effecting the success of your business? Do you need more mental toughness to fulfil your career ambitions?
Hypnotherapist Mentoring with Adam Eason.
Likewise, if you’d like to learn more about self-hypnosis, understand the evidence based principles of it from a scientific perspective and learn how to apply it to many areas of your life while having fun and in a safe environment and have the opportunity to test everything you learn, then come and join me for my one day seminar which does all that and more, have a read here: The Science of Self-Hypnosis Seminar.