No matter a person’s job or role in life, the value of mental toughness is enormous. Leading, coaching, parenting, teaming, being a student, being an athlete, training, competing, selling, customer service, driving your car, interacting with people at work/home/community… all life situations are made better when you are mentally tough.
Given its importance, let’s clarify what mental toughness looks like. It is the ability to do eight things:
- Pay careful attention to what matters and block out distractions (focus)
Focused energy will achieve what unfocused energy cannot achieve. If you are mentally distracted, your performance will be diminished. Mentally tough people focus like a laser and give their attention to what deserves their attention.
- Do what needs to be done even if you don’t feel like it (commitment)
One of the great tests of mental toughness is the choice you make when how you feel doesn’t align with what you need to do. If you are truly committed, you will do the tedious, boring, uncomfortable things necessary for achieving your goals.
- Give relentless effort for as long as necessary to achieve your goals (perseverance)
Actions that lead to success are easy to do once or twice. Sustainable success, however, is the result of the cumulative impact of focused action repeated daily over time. Whatever you call it — tenacity, determination, grit, perseverance — it is essential for achievement.
- Create positive energy in response to negative situations (discipline)
Success requires energy, and high levels of success require high levels of sustained energy. Keep in mind that energy isn’t always a feeling; often it is a choice. If you want to be successful in anything in life, you must develop the ability to create positive, productive energy… especially in response to negative situations.
- Remain calm under pressure (confidence)
For most people, high pressure situations trigger anxiety and stress. However, those who are mentally tough are calm and confident under pressure for two main reasons: They are prepared, and they see the situation not as a threat, but as a challenge and opportunity.
- Respond to adversity and recover quickly from setbacks and disappointments (resilience)
Adversity is part of everyone’s journey through life. When adversity strikes, resilient people acknowledge the challenge they are facing — as well as the emotions they are experiencing — and then quickly shift their focus to taking productive action. They don’t get caught up in complaining or feeling sorry for themselves; rather, they embrace the reality of the situation and seek solutions.
- Defeat fear (courage)
Fear is debilitating because it stops you from doing what is necessary to be successful. The antidote, of course, is courage. However, understand that courage doesn’t eliminate fear; rather, courage minimizes the influence of fear. Is there something you are afraid to do? Tap into your courage and do it anyway. Great things await you on the other side of fear.
- Recognize and respond to the needs of others (empathy)
Mental toughness is not just about you and how you pursue your goals. It is also about how you interact with others. Mentally tough people invest the time to listen and understand. They pay attention to emotional signals. They support and contribute. They care. They are exceptional teammates.
These eight attributes of mental toughness are difference makers. However, mental toughness is not something you are born with. You must do the work to build it into your life, and it is an investment that will pay enormous dividends.