Since the new year just began a little over two weeks ago, there is no better time to develop new habits, right? If so, the following sentence could hold the motivation to change your year (maybe even your life), if you let it:
You either control your mind or it controls you.
It might sound like an overstatement to say this, but I believe that the previous sentence holds the secret to life. Yes, seriously. As always, the biggest and most important battle that we’ll ever fight on this earth is the battle between our two ears.
Consistently control your mind and you’ll win. Allow undisciplined thoughts to control your behaviors and actions, and you’ll lose. Repeatedly.
Simple, right? So, why do so many people come up on the losing end so often?
It all comes down to one critical factor: Mental Toughness.
The guy who stays cool under pressure? He has it. The woman who can stay locked-in on a goal despite the drama that’s going on around her? She has it too.
This is a critical skill to develop because every (and I mean, every) wildly successful person who I have had the pleasure of interacting with personally or professionally has a healthy amount of it.
Below are the five most common traits that I’ve personally noticed in those people. Do you have these five traits working for you in your life?
Let’s find out.
1. They Are Quick to Own
If you’re reading this article and your life isn’t ideal, why is that the case?
Is it your parents fault? Your significant other’s fault? Your boss’s fault? Your kids’ fault? Someone else’s fault?
The list of people to blame could go on and on, but here’s the real deal:
Your list is meaningless if your name isn’t on it.
People who lack mental toughness are quick to blame others, and even worse, they willingly and frequently choose to play the victim role in their lives. All of their problems are due to outside forces (the economy, the government, their boss, their spouse, etc.) that they have absolutely no control over.
Mentally tough people, on the other hand, are quick to take full ownership of their lives.
Since they look at their life successes and life failures as being completely within their control, they get to keep their full power to improve/change their circumstances at any time.
Blaming others has the opposite effect. It strips us of our power and gives it all to the people and events who are “keeping us down.”
The choice is a simple one: You are either quick to blame or you are quick to own.
And in case you’re wondering, it’s impossible to do both.
2. They Are in Control of Their Emotions
Mentally tough people have bad days just like everyone else.
They get cut off in traffic. They get bad service at the restaurant. They have to wait in long lines. They have to deal with lazy and unmotivated coworkers.
The main difference is that they don’t allow those events to reduce them into emotional infants.
In my experience, a lack of mental toughness usually goes hand-in-hand with a lack of emotional control.
Even worse, people who lack mental toughness and emotional control usually take out their daily frustrations, disappointments and anger on the people who deserve it the least (i.e., their kids, their significant others, their friends and other loved ones.)
Yes, there’s a very real cost to lacking mental toughness. And when it comes to the inability to control your emotions, here’s the painful truth:
Every person I know who lacks emotional control is a person who consistently hurts other people.
Whether it’s intentional or unintentional, the result is still the same.
Being mentally tough, and creating a more positive world for all of us, means making a real effort to stay in control of our emotions.
Or as my mom taught me, we can’t let our moods determine our manners.
3. They Don’t Let Fear Stop Them
I talk a lot about fear on this blog. Mainly because it is the #1 enemy in the way of living our most positive lives possible.
It’s easy to forget this, but everyone is scared. Yes, everyone.
Seriously, think of the most mentally tough person who you know. Got him/her in your mind? Trust me, there is something that scares the living hell out of that person.
We’re all scared (myself, definitely included), so when you think that you’re “more scared” than the rest of us, you’re not. The difference is that you might not have the mental toughness to act in spite of that fear.
Yes, it takes mental toughness to stare down your fears, but here’s the good news:
As soon as you feel the fear and choose to do what scares you anyway (for example: speaking in front of an audience, starting a business, having a long-overdue conversation with a loved one, asking for a raise from your boss, leaving your emotionally-abusive spouse, etc.), you have instantly become mentally tougher than you were before.
If nothing else, marinate in this quote for a quick and powerful wake-up call:
Why tiptoe through life, only to arrive safely at death? If you’re going to be afraid to live, what’s the point?” -Unknown
No one said that this mental toughness stuff was easy, but it’s far easier than living a small life that is being controlled by your fears and insecurities.
Like the quote said above, what’s the point in that?
4. They Keep Showing Up
Mentally tough people don’t commit when they feel like it. They commit. Period.
They don’t workout only when they feel like it–they workout. They don’t write their book only when the spark of inspiration strikes–they write the book. They don’t save money only when something that they want isn’t on sale–they save money. Most of all, they don’t do what’s necessary to improve their lives only when it’s easy and convenient.
Mentally tough people fully commit until the goal is reached, whether it’s hard or not.
The power of 100% commitment cannot be understated. Unfortunately, people who lack mental toughness rarely will experience what it means to be 100% committed to any meaningful goal.
They will take their ball and go home as soon as they get some negative feedback from a hater. Once things get too hard, they’ll make excuses about why it can’t be done. Worst of all, their lack of mental toughness is actually strengthening the habit to “quit when the going gets tough.”
Mentally tough people are different. They keep showing up no matter what.
That’s what commitment is all about.
It doesn’t matter if their manuscript has just been rejected for the 27th consecutive time, if they finished a grueling year-long recovery from an injury only to get re-injured shortly after getting back on the field, or if they are struggling to give up smoking.
Each and every day, mentally tough people commit to keep showing up and to work relentlessly toward their goal when weaker people would have quit.
If you want to be mentally tougher, here’s the only way to do it:
Keep showing up.
5. They Choose Positivity
As I’ve said before, choosing a life of positivity is hard freakin’ work, and it’s not for the faint of heart.
It’s definitely not for the mentally weak either.
No matter who you are, life will knock you down–count on it.
The real question is what happens after you get knocked down?
Do you chronically complain and wallow in negativity, or do you have the mental toughness to defiantly say, “this will not break me. I will get up” even when you’re on the ground in intense emotional pain?
Do you look at a world that’s broken in many ways and use it as evidence that we’re all hopelessly screwed, or do you say, “I have the ability to make this world a better place, right now,” and then take action to do it?
In both scenarios, there’s one option that’s painfully easy and one that requires some serious mental toughness.
Many will take the easy road, but I’m asking you to do something different. Something harder.
Make the tough choice.
The world needs your toughness–and more importantly, your positivity–more than ever.
Do you consider yourself to be “mentally tough?” Was there anything on this list that particularly resonated with you? Was there anything that you think that I missed? Jump into the comments below and make your voice heard!