If I needed to name one single characteristic which makes or breaks people’s success, it would be mental strength.
As a personal growth coach, I work with many people who have big goals and visions, but along the way, most of them make the same mistakes:
- They hope for an overnight success and get discouraged too quickly.
- They don’t spend time with themselves and don’t practice self-care.
- They are too dependent on others’ opinions.
In short: Whether we reach our goals and design a life we truly love or not often depends on our mental strength, which is usually defined as the following:
Mental strength is the ability of an individual to effectively deal with challenges, pressure, and stressors to present their best performance regardless of the circumstances.
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Our mental toughness is represented by several characteristics such as our inner drive, emotional control, and our openness for change.
And while mental strength can be trained and improved, it’s actually one of the things we all were born with. We just lose it over time.
Did you ever watch a toddler learning to walk?
Small children are incredibly persistent and ambitious.
They don’t stop running or playing because they got hurt or fell down once or twice. They keep going, no matter what.
I have a 4-year old sister, and before her, I had nothing to do with children.
In fact, I never had a baby in my arms until she was born.
Yet, over the past four years, she was my greatest teacher in life.
She taught me how persistent a human being could be. How much passion you can have for the smallest things in life and how you can get anything in life if you persevere long enough.
Now, life for a toddler is different than for a grown-up, I agree with that.
But I believe we’re all born with an enormous potential to become and get anything we want.
Not at all once, as Oprah states, but step by step, you can get anything you desire.
And while I hope my sister will never lose her confidence and ambition, I believe there’s a lot we can do, even if we lose our mental strength from time to time.
Timeless strategies and life lessons can help us to gain more mental clarity and toughness, even in our darkest times.
They let go of self-criticism
Communication is important, right?
How we talk to others impacts whether we build strong, resistant relationships or not.
But did you ever think about how you talk to yourself?
We are talking to ourselves all day long. Every day. For our entire lives.
A tiny voice in our head is commenting on everything we do throughout our days.
And the odds are big you let this little voice be way too harsh on you.
Whenever someone else criticizes us, we get discouraged quickly, but we are so used to belittling ourselves all the time.
“You have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.”
— Louise L. Hay
Mentally strong people take care of their inner critics.
Instead of playing their greatness down, they practice honest self-reflection and develop positive self-talk.
You need to be your own cheerleader.
No single person on this entire planet can influence your life and wellbeing the way you can do.
Stop playing yourself down and start accepting all the greatness you bring to this world each day.
You didn’t come this far only to come this far.
Just reflect for a moment: How many difficulties did you overcome during the past five years?
Quite a lot, huh?
So why wouldn’t you be able to master any challenge that is yet to come?
“Self-criticism, like self-administered brain surgery, is perhaps not a good idea.”
— Joyce Carol Oates
They embrace challenges
Mentally strong people don’t shy away from obstacles.
Instead, they set high goals and even identify challenges so that they can grow through overcoming them.
Living a fulfilled life, at its core, means growing into a better person every day.
If we don’t change, we don’t grow. And if we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.
Challenges and new obstacles make us grow into better versions of ourselves.
It’s not always comfortable, I know.
Accepting change is not easy.
Yet, dealing with change is the only way to be entirely happy.
Because things will always change.
Unexpected difficulties will always arise.
We can’t control what happens. But we can indeed decide how we react to specific changes.
As Fred Devito once said:
“If it doesn’t challenge you it doesn’t change you.”
And I bet you want to change. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this post right now.
Being mentally strong means accepting risks but also opportunities.
You can’t expect positive change without embracing the negative ones.
Instead, develop a growth mindset, embrace challenges, and remind yourself of a beautiful quote by Martin Luther King Jr:
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
They focus on the present moment
While our modern world is full of distractions and most people are either living in the past or worrying about the future, mentally strong people are masters of focusing on the present moment.
They don’t dwell on the past but instead accept their failures and keep going.
While they continuously give their best to achieve even greater results in the future, they don’t get too caught up on what might happen.
Being present is one of the ultimate keys to mental strength.
Only if we focus on the here and now can we create moments and experiences that are truly desirable.
“In today’s rush, we all think too much — seek too much — want too much — and forget about the joy of just being.”
— Eckhart Tolle
Mental strength and high performance don’t mean performing and being productive all the time.
On the contrary, the most successful high performers are those who can also let go of the tension and focus on the present moment instead of worrying about the future or wandering in the past.
They don’t give up after a failure (or two)
As Winston Churchill once stated:
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It’s the courage to continue that counts.”
Mentally strong people don’t shrink back from failing.
They know that failure is not the opposite of success but a significant part of it.
For the past five years, I analyzed some of the most successful people of our time and beyond.
I read their books, analyzed their biographies, watched documentaries, and videos I found across the web.
And the only component all of these people, no matter if entrepreneur, artist or athlete, had in common was the fact that they kept going despite challenges and several failures.
Did you, for example, know that Bill Gates’ first software company failed when he was just seventeen years old?
Or that Henry Ford’s first company went bankrupt?
Or that Starbucks founder, Howard Schultz, was turned down by more than 200 investors until he could afford to build his company?
Or that twelve publishing houses rejected J.K. Rowlings’ first book?
All these people kept going for years before seeing the first significant results and succeeding.
They didn’t expect immediate gratification.
Instead, they had big visions, incredible perseverance, and the will to keep going and waiting for the results, even when life became tough.
They don’t fear time alone
In today’s noisy world, we often surround ourselves with others to suppress our own thoughts and feelings.
Most people are so used to being in a company all the time that they feel uncomfortable once they need to be alone.
The truth, however, is that your time alone is your most crucial time.
Here’s what Oprah says about her me-time:
“Alone time is when I distance myself from the voices of the world so I can hear my own.”
You don’t need to be around others all the time.
Instead, take some time off and allow yourself to unwind, listen to your inside, and to take care of yourself.
Spending time alone will help you clear your mind, be more creative, reset your priorities, and slow down.
On top of that, alone time is your only chance to do proper self-reflection and gain clarity for your next steps in life.
However, you don’t need to be alone for days or hours.
Even a few minutes of alone time per day can help you unwind and be more present throughout your days.
They take care of their physical health
Lailah Gifty Akita once said:
“Make time daily to nurture your physical, mental and emotional health.”
And I honestly couldn’t agree more with her.
Even though mental health and physical wellbeing are tightly connected, many people neglect one of them.
Due to extensive research, we nowadays know that our bodies and minds work together and that physical fitness also improves our mental strength.
Mentally strong people take care of their sleep schedules, their nutrition, and the amount of exercise they practice.
The stronger your body, the sharper your mind.
Sacrificing your health for more mental performance might probably work in the short term, but over time, it will surely backfire, and your productivity will drop.
High performers take as much care of their bodies as of their mental state and invest time, money, and energy into becoming healthier individuals mentally and physically.
They don’t expect everyone to like them
You were not born for everyone to like you.
And once you are truly comfortable with who you are, other’s opinions don’t matter anymore.
You can’t please everyone anyway, so why bother about it?
Ed Sheeran once shared the following:
“I can’t tell you the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone.”
Now, I honestly believe that’s one of the most powerful quotes on why people fail in life.
Most of us grow up following our parents’ and society’s expectations, and once we face resistance regarding our own ideas, we shrink back.
But that’s not what life is all about.
Life is about living it to the fullest. About enjoying every moment you have and following your wildest dreams despite fears and criticism.
Now, I don’t say you shouldn’t give a fuck about anyone’s opinion.
I believe getting feedback is essential to making progress in life.
But in the end, it’s your life.
And there’s probably only one way to avoid criticism and rejection:
“There is only one way to avoid criticism: Do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”
That doesn’t sound like a life worth living, right?
Instead of worrying about others’ opinions too much, focus on creating a vision that is fully aligned with your inner world and drives you to give your best every day.
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