We recently read an excellent article called, “Powerful Habits of Mentally Strong People,” by Dr. Travis Bradberry. In it, he identifies 10 common things that mentally strong people do on a regular basis saying, “the difference [for mentally strong people] is that they understand that life’s challenging moments offer valuable lessons.”
Here are some observations and recommended behavioral practices around some of the key thoughts Bradberry writes about in his article.
- “You have to fight when you feel defeated.”
Focus on the positive. Identify the immediate things you can do to keep your forward momentum toward achieving the goal. Goals are only ever achieved one step at a time, with one foot in front of the other.
- “You have to delay gratification.”
Recognize that it takes time to create change and achieve success. Rome wasn’t built in a day. By identifying and celebrating our small wins along the journey to our goals, we can satisfy our modern-day urges for instant gratification.
- “You have to make mistakes, look like an idiot, and try again—without even flinching.”
Mistakes provide us with excellent information about processes that are best when approached differently. Openly sharing mistakes helps you process and analyze where pitfalls occurred. It also helps others learn from your school-of-hard-knocks. Showcasing mistakes is powerful impetus for innovation and coming up with new ideas to solve problems.
- “You have to keep your emotions in check.”
Practice the 80/20 rule. Emotions are simply part of life. Give yourself a brief period (20% or less) to process your feelings, then move on quickly (80% or more). Shift your attitude back to focusing on the next steps you need to take to achieve the goal.
- “You have to make the calls you’re afraid to make.”
Fear is often camouflaged as an opportunity to learn and stretch our comfort zones. As noted in #4, recognize your fear as an emotion. Then quickly visualize yourself successfully making the tough call and having the satisfaction of being on the other side celebrating a win!
- “You have to trust your gut.”
Pay attention to your internal signals, especially when things seem to keep bubbling up. If something doesn’t feel right, then stop and explore more of what’s below the surface. Moments of exploration have great potential to guide you in the right direction.
- You have to lead when no one else follows.”
Being in the lead can feel like a lonely place, especially when the whole team is not on board with the direction for which you’ve set sail. Keep communication lines open, especially with others who may initially be resistant. Share your vision, practice patience, and acknowledge their fears (#5) as a platform for their growth. Trust your gut with the belief they will eventually come around to your thinking.
- “You have to focus on the details even when it makes your mind numb.”
Details matter when it comes to breathing life into your vision and goals. A best practice is to take in as much as you can then step away to let data settle into your thoughts. Summarizing the details by writing or processing aloud with a colleague enables you to paint a clearer picture of how all the moving parts create your vision.
- “You have to be kind to people who are rude to you.”
Negativity can be contagious. Turn the situation on its head by practicing kindness, understanding, and compassion. Be kind no matter the situation. Practice restraint if you notice an impulse coming on. Don’t back down, engage your active listening, take some deep breaths, and let the other person blow off steam. Your modeling composure in the situation is a fantastic learning for them.
- “You have to be accountable for your actions, no matter what.”
Self-accountability is all about taking responsibility for every action you make and the impact your choices have on others and on results. Bradberry suggests that it is not about “your image or ego.” Rather, it’s about owning the struggles and challenges that go hand-in-hand with making tough calls, paving new trails, and achieving lofty goals. Recognize that your decisions will put strain on others. Keep your eyes peeled for that strain and openly be accountable as the conduit. But don’t ever stop there. Instead, refocus attention on the vision and the progress that’s been accomplished so that you and others see the forward momentum that you are achieving together.
Being mentally tough allows you keep your focus on important matters, which means you avoid getting caught up in the weeds. So, be tough with yourself, courageous and kind, and don’t be waylaid by distractions. Learn from your experiences to help you move forward. Finally, remember to share your learnings so that you encourage mentally strong behaviors in your team as well.