We have all encountered situations in which we back away from a difficult conversation or a problematic course of action. Perhaps we are frustrated for continually making the same mistakes or we are unable to take ownership for making those mistakes. We are confronted by a challenge and we take the easy way out by avoiding the six seconds of courage required to do what we know to be the right course of action.
This is caused by a mental block or obstacle.
We can keep this status quo and not step outside our comfort zone or we can resolve to challenge and change our behaviour. Adopting a framework successfully used by others can help effect this change.
One such framework which is simple to use, evidence based and scientifically sound is the MTQ-Plus mental toughness psychometric measure and framework.
Here are a few tips on how to stop wishing and start becoming mentally stronger:
1. Acknowledge and identify the mental obstacle(s) you wish to overcome
You may be clear about your challenge(s) and understand the circumstances when they arise, however if you lack clarity the MTQ-Plus psychometric measure is a really useful diagnostic tool for revealing how you think and respond to specific situations.
It will help you reflect and identify the mental obstacle(s) you wish to overcome and this clarity, plus your own resolve, is the foundation to developing a mentally tough mindset.
2. Identify the outcomes you wish to be different
In choosing to be mentally tougher you need to identify the outcomes you wish to be different. This may be standing up for what you believe in and maintaining your position when challenged or it could be having the humility and self-awareness to learn from your faults. Whatever the desired outcome, knowing and visualising it helps develop your resolve to be mentally tough enough to see things through, no matter how hard it is.
3. Become very clear about who you are and your sense of identity
One of the features of a mentally strong person, according to Professor Peter Clough joint author of the MTQ framework, is that they are “comfortable in their own skin”. Such a person will find it far easier not to waiver from their true identity and chosen course in life because they are certain and comfortable with who they are and the choices they make.
They will make friends with people who share similar interests and views and will be very sure that certain things will happen because of the choices they have made. They are open to different ideas and opinions and they know when to stand firm and when to flex. They possess an internal drive to be the best they can be which will show through in their sense of adventure, adaptability and confidence.
Therefore finding and then living within this sense of identity is crucial for your success. It takes considerable self-awareness and reflection to understand who you are, what you will and won’t stand for and why. How this then fits with your bigger purpose and plan, gives you the courage to stand up for what you know to be the right course of action.
It’s your psychological armour that protects you from the challenges of the outside world.
4. Have a clear plan
Alongside feeling comfortable with your sense of identity having a clear mid-term plan also helps provide you with a sense of direction. Having clarity about where you are going gives you the confidence you need to ‘get on with it’ to achieve your goals. The plan helps reinforce in your own mind why this course of action is important and why you need to be mentally strong to see it through.
5. Just do it
Getting started, gathering momentum and making progress every day, however slight that initially may feel, will get you closer to achieving your plan. In the beginning you may experience vocal and visible resistance but just keep on going. Everything is difficult until it becomes easy. Over time this progress builds your mental strength because you can feel and see your progress and you are less afraid to stand up for what you believe in.
6. Be ready for anything
In addition to this resilience and resolve, mentally strong people also have the positive frame of mind to be ready for anything that may happen and manage their response accordingly. They see it as an adventure to be experienced rather than a difficult problem sent to derail them.
This is where your high level mental strength and toughness kicks in. You might have the best plans to proceed in a certain direction but anything and everything can, and sometimes does, happen. By learning to expect the unexpected and being comfortable with being uncomfortable in a situation that might at first feel alien, you start to explore situations beyond your natural comfort zone.
You begin to see the possibilities that you didn’t see before and consider ways to change your situation for the better. You see and ultimately seize opportunities where you can best use your talents to change the situation in your favour.
You learn to accept that mistakes will happen and setbacks will occur but that these are part of the road to success not a barrier. You learn from your experience and work on being the best you can.
Over time you feel strong enough to cope with almost anything.
7. Be more positive
Because of the human inbuilt negativity bias it is natural to listen to your alternative inner voice and believe that you can’t do something rather than you can.
Obviously you need to be capable to achieve a certain proficiency in what you do and be able to competently complete projects and tasks. However it is weighing up whether you need to be best practice (10/10) in everything you do or whether ‘fit for purpose’ (7/10) will suffice. Often covering more ground is more important than achieving a perfect outcome. Having the confidence to attempt more tasks, even if you don’t have the cast iron certainty that you will be right or perfect, will put you in more situations where you can seize the biggest opportunities.
Being more positive often comes from positive self-talk – overriding your negative inner voice with positive reaffirmation – allowing yourself the opportunity to feel good about what you do and what you can achieve.
These seven tips all contain approaches that individually and certainly collectively, will help you feel mentally stronger and able to tackle those ‘big’ moments and situations more confidently and courageously. They all belong to the MTQ mental toughness framework which is easy to understand and access. It’s a journey well worth pursuing.