Mental Toughness in Challenging Times

Mental Toughness is the ability to stay resilient, confident and focused in every situation. It is a learned skill, based on the proposition that we are not defined by what happens to us. We are defined by how we react to it.

Henry Ward Beecher wrote: “Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody else expects of you. Never excuse yourself. Never pity yourself. Be a hard master to yourself-and be lenient to everybody else.”

“Falling down is a part of life,” notes author José N. Harris, “Getting back up is living.”

Our ability to be resilient and keep our eyes on the prize is like any muscle. It can’t get stronger without resistance. Our culture of instant gratification has promoted oversimplified solutions, chemical interventions at the slightest sign of stress, and a search for the easy path to accomplishment.

For the elite in every field, the opposite is true. Mental Toughness is a steadfast pursuit. This biblical quote from James 1 resonates. “..the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” We may never achieve perfection, and it’s human nature to concentrate on what we lack instead of what we have. The mindset is the key. Create a picture of the person you hope to become. Act now, as would that person. You will move toward becoming.

Mental Toughness

The problems we face are complex. They can’t be distilled into sound-bytes. Their solutions require thought, tenacious pursuit and compromise along the way. And every successful journey begins with the fundamentals. Break down the problem. Consult the wisest and most experienced for advice. Leverage the learnings of others to craft your game plan. And adjust when the world throws you curveballs.

Kathryn Orford, who studies high performance, says, “Sometimes our biggest nightmare turns out to be our biggest gift. And it all comes down to our attitude. Life will throw us curve balls and disappointments, even heartbreak. But ultimately we can choose if we’re going to be bitter or better for the experience.”

Numbing the pain doesn’t make it go away. Turning that uncomfortable knot in your stomach into motivational fuel is what separates consistent forward progress from stagnant stasis. As the late Jim Rohn advised, “Don’t wish it were easier. Wish you were better.”

And do the work to become better. Getting to where you want to be requires effort. Most people won’t do the work. Mental Toughness is doing more than is required. It ultimately leads to the thrill of the “extra mile”. Vision is revealed when you run ahead of the pack. And the people you meet there can become valuable fellow travelers. The best friends are those who challenge you to be better than you are.

We will remember 2020 as the year that tested us. Challenging times reveal our opportunity to grow. Paradigms are being smashed. Conventional wisdom might no longer be valid. Sucking it up and dealing with our unpleasant current reality is the only way forward. Faith in our ability to learn from struggle is the incentive to keep going.