Building mental toughness is an endeavor well worth your time: people who have “grit” are generally more capable of overcoming adversity, sticking with a tough problem until they find a solution to it, being courageous, and coping with and moving beyond failure in order to achieve their true goals.
Indeed, mental toughness has been identified by many psychological researchers as one of the “other” factors of success which can take a person far beyond the expected level where their standard intelligence can take them.
So: wondering how you can “flex” the mental toughness muscle and make it stronger? We’ve got 5 actionable ways.
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5 Ways to Build Your Mental Toughness
Yes, you can build your brain while building your body! Participating in challenging physical exertion—think HIIT, weightlifting, and endurance training—gives you real-time opportunities to practice “mind over matter.” After all, it’s usually your brain that wants to quit before your body does…so see if you can use your workouts as mini mental toughness training sessions and really push yourself (just be sure to know your safe limits).
2) Play around with extreme temperatures.
Everyone from Navy SEALs to your tough-as-nails neighbor has used temperature exposure to toughen up their mindsets (the physical benefits of cold and heat can be discussed another time). Consider the following mental toughening exercises involving temperature:
– Cold showers
– Ice baths
– Dry sauna
Disclaimer: be smart. Talk to your doctor before experimenting with temperature training.
3) Learn how to use discomfort as a tool.
The first two strategies (tough exercise and extreme temperatures) point to this in terms of physical discomfort, but the idea of “getting comfortable with being uncomfortable” is so important that we’ll expand on it here as it relates to emotional discomfort.
Anytime you feel a “negative” emotion (jealousy, anger, tension, anxiety, fear, boredom, etc.), try to use this as a cue to switch your thought process. Emotions are tools, after all, and they have a lot to teach us if we pay attention.
Feel discomfort—click on light bulb—start asking yourself questions:
– Why am I feeling this way?
– What does this emotion say about me?
– What do I need to pay attention to right now?
– What am I assuming about this situation or person?
– Where is the solution?
The point is, nobody got tougher by ignoring or repressing their negative thinking. Instead, learn how to use your negativity and discomfort as reminders to get present, reset, and re-evaluate your situation so that you can be more productive and focused.
4) Identify (and own) your true values.
It’s too easy to spend your whole life doing things simply because you think you “should” or “ought to.” Yes, we all have certain obligations and may need to compromise and make sacrifices from time to time in order to function in the world.
But the more you can learn to recognize what you truly want to do, have, and be in life, the more you’ll stand up for yourself and the less you’ll tolerate abusive and/or unfair treatment.
How do you do this? Start by asking yourself:
– What do I love to talk about, think about, learn about?
– What do I love to fill my space with, spend my money on, and use my energy and time on?
Then, do more of that.
5) Finish things.
Having the discipline to complete tasks, even (especially) the challenging ones, is a powerful and productive way to build confidence and tenacity. Whether you’re working on a difficult project at the office, training for your first marathon, learning a new language, creating a piece of literature or art, or doing anything else that requires a lot of mental, physical, and emotional effort, stick with it. The doing is just as important as the done and help you become more resilient.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with quitting per se, especially if the activity or mission you’ve initiated isn’t actually important to you deep down. But by taking the time to identify what truly matters to you (see point 4), you’ll be more likely to start something that is genuinely meaningful, no matter how challenging it may be…
…which makes victory all that much sweeter anyway.
Got any other favorite ways to “toughen up, buttercup”? Let us know about them by sharing in the comments below!