15 Ways To Boost Your Mental Toughness to Navigate Change

We have all heard the old expression (actually very old, Heraclitus, 500BC) “The only constant is change”.

We are preconditioned to perceive threat and anything that is different, ambiguous or unclear immediately pushes us into a state of uncertainly and complexity. Interestingly, this is actually the only place where we experience growth.

It is interesting that approximately 70% of all change management endeavours fail within organisations, often because a lot of attention is focused on the what (what do we need to do to plan for and manage change?), but often what is ignored or downplayed is the how (how do we personally navigate transition?). It is clear that organisations often do not consider the “how” and the fact that all individuals will manage change and challenges in a very different way. So how do we as organisations and as individuals work through a successful transition and recognise that developing our Mental Toughness and embracing change and “getting comfortable with being uncomfortable” is the greatest opportunity for growth.

What is Mental Toughness?

Mental Toughness has been defined as the quality which determines in large part how people effectively deal with challenge, stressors and pressure, irrespective of the prevailing circumstances (Clough and Strycharczyk 2012). In the 4Cs model of Mental Toughness 4 pillars are identified:

·        Challenge – seeing challenge as an opportunity and “getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.

·        Confidence – having high levels of self-belief and confidence in interpersonal interactions

·        Commitment – goal setting and being able to stick to tasks

·        Control – self esteem, being comfortable in your own skin and managing emotions.

You Can Develop Mental Toughness to Manage Change

 1)Reflect and ask yourself questions.

At some point in our lives, we have all had to deal with change and challenges. Using this previous experience is often a good start. Ask yourself, “How have I successfully managed change in the past?” “How could I apply my previous experience and skill base in the new situation?” “What resources do I use previously that assisted me?”

 2) Check your Mindset.

Check whether you are “above the line” when it comes to your attitude and behaviour regarding the challenge. Ask yourself are you considering options, being accountable for your own behaviour and considering possible solutions? Or, are you “below the line” where blame, excuses, frustration and negativity reside? Is your focus on what you can do, or what you can’t do?

3) Manage your wellbeing.

Are you making “self-care” a priority? Are you taking care of your physical self (getting enough sleep and exercise and eating the right foods), your mental self (mindfulness, relaxation) and your emotional self (relationships, laughter, mini-breaks away).

4)Tap into your strengths

 All too often when faced with a difficult challenge, our thoughts turn to all the things we are not good at. Instead, recognise your strengths and work out a strategy to tap into these to assist you manage the difficulty in your path. “Do what you’re good at”.

5) Recognise what you can and can’t control

Think about undertaking a simple exercise. Draw two circles, one within the other. In the outer circle, write down all the things which you have no control over, or you cannot change. Now in the inner circle, write down all the things that are within your control, or you do have the control to influence. Now consider…. Where are you spending most of your time when worrying and thinking….. in the inner circle or the outer circle? Which would be more productive?

6) Turn yourself from a Worrier to a Warrior

Recognise that worry tends to consume our every waking moment. Only allow yourself 10 minutes of worry time once or twice a day at a specific time every day. If your thoughts are interrupted by worry, tell yourself to put the worry down until your allotted time.

7) Manage your emotions

Often when it comes to managing adversity, challenges and change, we are confronted with unwanted or unpleasant emotions. The first step is to recognise and identify the emotion, build your emotional literacy, know your triggers and identify the driving thought. (check out my blog for more information on emotional management).

8) Reframe your thoughts

We all say things to self which can undermine our positive intent. Consider these steps:

a) Identify the negative word in your self statement. Eg, This is too “hard

b) Think about the opposite (positive) word. Eg, “Easy”

c) Now frame this positive or opposite word into a question using how, who, what, when or where – eg “How could I make it EASY?”

9)Don’t take the change personally

Often, change or challenges happen to us rather than us making a choice to engage in the change that’s occurred. Mentally Tough individuals don’t waste time feeling sorry for themselves. They look at the actions they can take to reassume control of the wheel. Reflect, assess and then take the first step. Don’t wait for someone else to tell you which way to go. Drive your own path.

10)Understand that the past is a nice place to visit but not a great place to stay.

Reflect on the progress you are making. Sometimes you take two steps forward and one step back, but acknowledge you are still moving in the right direction. Try not to look back over your shoulder too often, after all you’re not going that way anymore.

11)Tolerate the discomfort of the present for the results of the future.

Recognise that you are going to experience discomfort. But remember, “What makes you comfortable can ruin you!” “What makes you uncomfortable is the only thing that will allow you to GROW.

12) Anything worthwhile takes hard work

One of my most hated expressions is “all good things come to those who wait”. I don’t believe that at all. Good things come to those who just work damn hard at it. You need to recognise that any change is going to take effort. You need to put in everything you’ve got for the long haul. Develop your staying power, but don’t forget to celebrate your successes along the way.

13). Accept that your biggest fear doesn’t exist.

One of our biggest fears is “fear of failure”. But what we often fail to recognise is that failure is just a first attempt in learning, a chance to learn how not to do something and an opportunity to gain insight.  If you only ever fear failure, then you’ll struggle to create something new as you take the same route you’ve always taken. The ‘safe’ option is not always the path where we find growth.

14) Visualise the outcome

When we are going through change, many of us feel that “the light at the end of the tunnel has temporarily been extinguished”. So consider what it is that you want to achieve. What will it look like when you have achieved your goal? Turn your own light on at the end of that tunnel and start walking toward it with specific SMART action steps.

15) Celebrate your success 

No matter how small the step, reward yourself for starting the journey. AND, when you get to that final destination, pull out the streamers and balloons – you deserve it!

Michelle Bakjac is an experienced Organisational Consultant, Coach, Speaker and Facilitator. As Director of Bakjac Consulting, she is a credentialed Coach with the International Coach Federation (ICF) and a member of Mental Toughness Partners and an MTQ48 accredited Mental Toughness practitioner.  Michelle assists individuals and organisations to develop their Mental Toughness to improve performance, behaviour and wellbeing.  You can find her at www.bakjacconsulting.com or michelle@bakjacconsulting.com