Unlike Resilience (which is a state of mind), Mental Toughness is a personality trait. It therefore takes more dedicated effort to not only survive and bounce back from adversity, but thrive amongst change, challenges and build self-confidence. So people often ask me “Where can start I start to build my Mental Toughness?”
This great post from Paul Lyons, CEO of Mental Toughness Partners, gives some insight as to where to commence the “hard road”.
When talking with groups about developing mental toughness I can sometimes see some individuals become visibly disheartened when I tell them the road to mental toughness is a hard road and not as easy as flicking a switch.
But I think I may have got it wrong here. It is easy.
It is easier than you think to start the process to becoming mentally tougher.
Like being astride a motorbike and ready to go you just need to flick a few switches. On a motorbike these switches include turning on the fuel supply, pulling out the choke, turning on the ignition and shifting into first gear. You are then moving off with some momentum and on your way to your chosen destination.
In developing mental toughness there are 3 switches to turn on to get you into first gear and moving on the road to mental toughness.
Switch One - the Choice switch
You choose your state. If you want to be mentally tough and possess the control, discipline, drive and confidence that it demands and rewards, then you need to make a conscious cold blooded and calculated choice. There’s a lot behind this choice before you get anywhere near the road to mental toughness.
This choice comes from your Control or wanting Control. Control is the first of the 4C’s within the MTQ48 framework of mental toughness. Like most people you want to feel comfortable in your own skin and have more control over your destiny. You will almost certainly want control over your emotions, which often get in the way of you being who you want to be.
Being mentally tough improves your performance because you make more things happen and you feel more positive and less stressed. However, this choice comes from your vision of being who you want to be as a person together with clarity over the goals you need to set and make happen to achieve that vision. You can have a big vision but you then need to split that vision into many smaller digestible and achievable goals, like towns and villages on the route in your motorbike ride to your faraway destination.
Turn on the ignition of your motorbike and you hear the growl of the engine ready to go.
Turn on the choice switch and what you want to hear is the even louder growl of RESOLVE – your resolve and determination to let nothing get in the way of you becoming mentally tougher.
Switch Two - Make a Start
Your second switch is like your motorbike gear – you just have to get started. Today.
With your resolve in place get started by focusing on completing 3 things today. Start with small and achievable goals. They may be as light as reading a mental toughness post, walking 400m and turning off your smart phone an hour before bedtime. They are your goals that get you to achieve your vision.
Then similarly tomorrow focus on 3 more things that get you a little bit closer to where you want to be.
Achieving this momentum is all-important. If every day you achieve 3 goals then that's over 20 in a week, nearly 100 in a month and over 250 in a quarter. By the end of month 3 you are making significant progress and although they will be much bigger and harder goals each day you will find them easier than those you achieve on day one.
Don't worry about perception – just get started on the ‘doing’.
Switch Three - Positive Inner Voice
Your third switch is your inner voice. Our default inner voice is negative and unless you make it a conscious voice it will always be running in the background subconsciously limiting your progress.
So turn on your inner voice and use positive phrases to talk to yourself with a reason to win and achieve. This may sound weird and strange but it’s legitimate and it works. Talk to yourself about your daily goals and how and why you are going to achieve them. Give yourself encouragement and support as you go and no way out.
Don't take No for an answer.
After a while you’ll find that your inner voice becomes subconscious again but that it is wholeheartedly positive. It will be cheering when you make your motorbike ride to mental toughness.
In summary whilst the road to mental toughness can be hard, starting your journey is as easy flicking 1-2-3 switches:
- Choice with the growl of resolve
- Getting started – achieve 3 small goals a day
- Inner voice –positive supportive and conscious.
Mental Toughness is a muscle and like all muscles need constant exercise, stimulation and use to get stronger. If you stay mentally strong each day you’ll become tougher and tougher.