Mental toughness is about your habits, not just your motivation.

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So often we berate ourselves for our perceived lack of motivation. “Why don’t I ever have the motivation to go to the gym?”, “Why can’t I be motivated to get stuck into that project?”, “Why haven’t I got any motivation to start the day?”

But….Motivation is fickle. Willpower comes and goes.

We often want to gain more motivation. We also constantly question the motivation of our team and when hiring and leading a team we are typically attracted to those with high motivation to succeed. But is motivation really enough to build our mental toughness and achieve our goals?

Building mental toughness isn’t just about getting an incredible dose of inspiration, confidence or courage. It’s about building the daily habits that allow you to stick to a schedule and overcome challenges and distractions over and over and over again.

Mentally tough people don’t have to be more courageous, more talented, or more intelligent, they just have to be more consistent. Mentally tough people develop systems that help them focus on the important stuff regardless of how many obstacles life puts in front of them. It’s their habits that form the foundation of their mental beliefs and ultimately set them apart.

Our desire or willingness to undertake or do something is often directly linked with how excited we feel about the end goal. When you are oozing with enthusiasm, taking the first step becomes easy and we feel “pumped”. However what happens when the desire is not there? What happens when we have to step outside of our comfort zone and do something we are not sure we have the skills to do? In these circumstances, relying on motivation alone can mean we may never start that big goal at all. One significant reason for this is that motivation is based on emotion, and emotions can be unpredictable, and may not remain constant.

Now let me be clear, I’m not saying that motivation is a bad thing, far from it. There is nothing like the thrill of a high level of motivation to get you excited and heighten your desire for what it is you want to achieve. However motivation is like a cheetah. Great take off and high speed but a cheetah can’t run a marathon.

What helps you sustain your constant movement forward to build your mental toughness is your habits and discipline to succeed. 

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit,” said Aristotle.

Consider one key step that can allow you to build your habits every day. - Focus on small behaviours, not life–changing transformations.

We often set these huge life changing goals for ourselves. “I want to lose 20 kgs”, “I want to call 50 new customers this month”, “I want to write all day today”, and “I want to be more confident”. But these statements are frequently self-sabotaging and we too often set ourselves up for failure when we are unable to achieve the lofty heights we aspire to. Instead, start small.

It is often the smallest of habits that are entrenched in our daily routine. Think of brushing your teeth or putting your seat belt on. These actions are small, yet we do them automatically. They are tiny actions that become consistent patterns. If we want to change our outcomes, the best way is often to engage in small regular things we can do often that our brains can learn really quickly and automatically repeat over and over again.

I often hear leaders discuss setting BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) with their team. They provide inspirational speeches about the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and then ask the team to “go out and succeed”, but they never give the team the opportunity to develop the small habits that can lead to that successful outcome.

Ask yourself… “what are the small, daily behaviours I can engage in that I can repeat until success is achieved?”.

What if losing weight did not mean you followed the intricate steps of the next big fad diet, but simply building in the routine to walk for 15 minutes every lunch hour (keeping your sneakers under your desk at work), drinking 8 glasses of water a day, brushing your teeth after 7pm to prevent you from eating anything else after dinner and preventing snacking.

So what habits could you start to build your mental toughness every day? How could you focus on your commitment for goal achievement, raise your confidence, manage your emotions, get comfortable in your own skin and manage challenges and change more successfully. What small habits could you build into your routine to overcome any motivational hurdles?

Want to know more about the science of developing mental toughness and developing the habits which will lead to more sustained success? Contact Bakjac Consulting to ask about coaching and training to build you or your team’s habits toward increased wellbeing.

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 or