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Is Mental Toughness a skill you're born with or something you can learn?

Updated: Dec 21, 2022

In your lifetime, you tend to recognize individuals who stand out with poise and

confidence in themselves, because they have a strong personality. However, all this poise and confidence could possibly be a skill mastered from within. You see, many people develop mental toughness because of their hardships or harsh environment that forces them to ADJUST in order to thrive or survive. This type of conditioning is almost subconscious because they have no other choice but to adapt. However, mental toughness by choice is developed like any other skill.

When an individual focuses on being in the moment and tunes out any outside energy or distractions, it creates a "bubble" around that individual ehich allows for clearer thought patterns and a higher level of awareness. Due to this awareness the individual is in a flow state, and can make smarter decisions spontaneously. As well, when an individual can tap into their higher self, they can tune out pain, fatigue, failure, and complete any task at hand to their best ability. Much of your physical conditioning teaches you that you can overcome much more pain or endurance than you ever realized. This consistent pushing of your physical body will overtime create a mental toughness for physical fatigue.

However, an individual who can tune out anxiety, fear, or pressure... Have the ability to focus on the present moment, and have complete trust and faith in themselves. They can embrace the opportunities in front of them, and seize any goals they are desiring. Many of you focus too much on what if...? or if not...? Instead of I will... I can... I am... Switching the focus from a failure result based mindset, to focusing on a confident present moment mindset, is a true Mentally Tough mindset. No matter if you fail or do not get the desired outcome, if you focus on being fully invested in the moment, than you will achieve the best results that you were ready to receive. Once you consistently maintain hard work through practice and growth, over time the results will slowly increase and you will reach higher than you ever expected.

Remember... Michael Jordan was cut from his JV high school team, but his tenacity, drive and mindset to control what he can control to master his skills, pushed him in the direction to work harder and overcome failure more maturely. This propelled him into MASSIVE success as we all know now... Another great example is Peter Sagan, one of the biggest heroes in road cycling today. He was once doubted about his abilities by his own team managers and fans after having some tough failures and lack of 1st place finishes throughout his first 5 years as a professional. Yet, his dedication to the process and consistency towards his craft, passion, and mental fortitude, eventually propelled him into his most successful seasons where he attained back to back to back Rainbow jerseys as the World Champion in road cycling. Nothing great comes easy, and failure is one of the best ways for you to truly improve. The most successful people have failed more than most have even attempted. So, Embrace it, and see the opportunity to grow instead of giving up.

So here are 11 tips to develop this important skill:

1) Define what mental toughness means to you

Select 1-2 mental toughness characteristics that you want to improve. I.E (emotional stability, letting go of failure, trying new things and breaking out of your comfort zone) and consistently work on those aspects. The more you work at these, the better you will become, and the easier they will be to manage. Knowing your "why" is crucial for maintaining drive and determination towards achieving your goals. When something is more specific to you, it reminds you in those times of harsh conditions from adversity or pressure, of why you're really capable of succeeding. You need to believe in yourself before anyone else will. Create a strong definition of what mental toughness means for you, and remind yourself daily with that statement. If you need to write it down and put it on your wall... whatever is going to keep you resilient and on-track. The journey is brought and tough. And you will need all the motivation and inspiration you can get to stay consistent and moving forward.

2) Keep track of your progress and evaluate your weekly or daily progress

Without tracking your progress, it's nearly impossible to see if you're moving in the right direction or plateauing. Take the time to document your progress, and be completely honest if you are needing adjustments or a pat on the back. Imagine going to the gym and never writing your workouts down. It would be pretty hard to know what aspects to improve, increase or decrease. Journaling is one of the most important pieces to efficient progressive growth. Quantitative information is crucial for keeping yourself aligned with your bigger goals, and if you can't see the little ones, it can become very easy to get unmotivated or side tracked cause you may not be thinking any results are happening. But, realistically you're making those small strides in the right direction, and keeping track of your tangibles is key to staying aligned and on your most productive path.

3) Patience

Understand this is a process, have patience, nothing comes overnight. Like physical toughness, it takes time to develop your body to the level at which you desire. And the same goes for your mind. Take time and keep working hard every day, fall in love with the process... Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither will your body or mind that will be what you are desiring right now. Have respect for the grind, and know that everything great you must appreciate. And you do this by consistently working hard on yourself everyday. A tree that bears fruit, takes years before it's ready to be reaped. However, the time it took to set the roots, grow its trunk, and branch out into such a vast beautiful tree. It takes time for anything beautiful to blossom. But, once it's reached a certain degree, it will bear fruit abundantly every season. See yourself as a tree setting its roots and creating a very strong foundation. Once you've grown over the years from hard work and resilience, you will begin to branch out and eventually reap the rewards of persistence and determination to grow. Then you will have abundance in all avenues of your life because you chose to take the time to work on yourself and enjoy the process. If you rush the first steps, you may never be able to reap the fruit of your labours. Take your time and love the journey...

4) Have clear goals and work on them daily

Create Macro goals and Micro goals. This keeps you on track much better, and boosts your psyche knowing you are seeing forward progress and results. Start with daily goals, then weekly, monthly, and so forth. Remember Rome wasn't built in a day, so lay each brick as perfect as you can, one at a time, and one day you'll have an amazing road. Even one that others can trod down. Goals keep you aligned with your dreams and desires. If you have no goals, how do you know where to get started or strive towards. You need those tasks that will set you up for success, and help you achieve anything you want to believe. Keep the bigger goals as vast as possible, but keep your daily goals as realistic as possible. Use your heart to make those passionate big decisions, but use your logic to steer the way. When the mind tries to fathom some pretty big goals, it can sometimes want to deter you as it seems very unrealistic by society or other peoples standards have made you think it's impossible. But whatever your heart dreams, it can achieve. So set macro goals with your heart, and micro goals with your head. This will ensure your logic doesn't try to talk you out of something that over time you definitely can achieve.

5) Positive self-talk

This can include affirmations of your strengths, cues that pumps you up or helps you manage your nerves. As well, It can include reminders to focus on what you need to execute in those really important moments. Negativity limits your brain's potential, and inhibits optimal thought patterns. Imagine how paralyzed you felt when you were scared or in fear... Having positive self-talk can lead you away from your natural thought patterns of safety or comfort. But, that's because society has trained you to "be careful" and "stay safe". Positive self-talk will lead you through some dangerous situations with poise and confidence. Wouldn't you rather survive? Then get stuck in the moment and freeze, which could actually hurt you, no? You need to consistently remain positive in your head in order to create a stronger mindset over time. The mind is very powerful, and the thoughts or words to say to yourself have deep control over your sub-conscious mind. If you want to be more positive, then you need to talk more positive to yourself and act as if you're already living whatever you're trying to be. Tell yourself "I am happy, I am joyful, I am in control, I am strong, I am intelligent. If you tell yourself negative statements, your life will always be negative. Even if you feel like you're not those right now, trick your sub-conscious into believing it is. Before you know it you will be living in-tune with those qualities. You have to change the thoughts in your head, to ever change the actions or life your living.

6) Vision and Imagery

Focusing on reenacting any tasks that you will be performing in your sport or career, this leads you into connecting your senses and movements towards better engagement and preparation for what is about to occur. The best athletes envision success and the movements or situations that they may or know will occur. Preparation is one of the KEYS to success. In my preparation for competition, I would spend multiple hours envisioning key moments and actions that I would want to execute with perfection in order to connect my muscle memory for a better sense of awareness and flow when the real time comes. Plus, this preparation gives me the opportunity to be really relaxed in those situations because my mind already knows what it needs to do. The better you plan, prepare and prioritize, the more effective and efficient you will be in those stressful or challenging moments. You need to see it in order to achieve it. If you don't see yourself living it, the mind can create doubts that it's impossible, but as well you may feel overwhelmed in the moment because there is so many moving pieces at the time. If you have a plan, you know how to tackle every situation with ease. Hence why pro athletes look so relaxed. They already know where the next step is, they just need to react or respond, and then make micro adjustments to add the precise final touches. If you have to make macro adjustments on the spot, the brain will get paralyzed by analysis paralysis. Which is when you try thinking too much too fast. Make it easier on yourself and envision yourself succeeding or completing the task step by step very well. Then you will understand how to feel really comfortable when those situations arise, and will usually give yourself the best opportunity for success.

7) See failure as Growth, and reframe it positively

No matter if it's in sports, business, or arts... The most successful individuals in these fields see failures or setbacks as ways to get better and grow. They never play the "victim" or believe that they can't adjust and find a way to succeed. They choose to find the positives from any situation, and use that to their advantage. This is a very important step in becoming mentally tougher! Growth comes from trial and error. But then making the correct adjustments to not just keep repeating the same mistakes. You can always have a positive perspective towards anything, it's just your choice to look at it that way. The most successful people have failed more than most attempt. So, the person you're admiring or wanting to be like in your field or your passion, has made so many mistakes along their journey. But, they chose to learn from them and keep moving forward. They also have mental toughness to keep trying and never get deterred because they truly want to achieve greatness. If I gave up on baseball because I struck out once, I'd be making a fool out of myself because that's literally apart of the game. The same principle goes for life. You're going to fail sometimes, but that doesn't mean you give up because the results didn't go your way. Getting back in the box with a better approach and a stronger trust in your abilities, will lead to those big home runs that you'll be grateful for, and happy for achieving. Once you hit one home run, you'll always be coming back for more, even if that means striking out a bunch more after that. Because once you've had a taste of real success, it more addictive than anything you can imagine. And this fuels you to keep getting in the box everyday.

8) Be adaptable

We never truly know what can come our way. And having the adaptability to adjust on the fly and make smart decisions is very important. Any athlete, businessman/women or performer can tell you things never really go as planned. But, their preparation and adjustability is what allowed them to make smart decisions in times that many may become alarmed. The key is to stay alert and in control, you must always be ready for anything. When you're adaptable you've been putting in all the work, you're prepared by working hard and staying consistent. But, a situation arises that you weren't planning for, and your adaptability gives you the opportunity to make the best of the moment. Being comfortable in uncomfortable situations is what's going to test your mental toughness. Being adaptable to just always make small adjustments along the way, is what is going to set you up for success in those uncomfortable situations. Be flexible, be open to learning new things, be open to trying new things. All of this is going to make you a more resilient individual. But, also be a lot easier on yourself to just keep flowing. When you're flowing, no matter what falls on your path, you just find the path of least resistance and flow around it. If you can't flow around it, then just keep working at it, and eventually it will break down and you'll keep on flowing. Life is more fun being spontaneous and unpredictable at times anyways, it keeps you on your toes. This lets you enjoy what life is all about, going through new situations and new challenges, but with the right mindset to be flexible, open and always adaptable to what is thrown your way.

9) Emotional Stability

Emotions and feelings are what make you human, but you must have the ability to control and manage your responses rather than compulsiveness taking over. If you have unpredictability of how you will respond to situations, it can affect your focus and self-discipline. You need to be able to respond to situations rationally and objectively instead of "reacting" without purpose or sense. Control what you can control, that means being in control of your actions and emotions. The brain works in 3 stages, Impulses, emotions, logic. When you are using logic, you have control of the other two. When you use emotions you can barely control the impulses. When you're impulsive, you have no logic or emotional rationality at all, the body is just leading the mind, and this unfortunately will lead to a lot of bad decisions and heartache. Emotions can be good or bad, but it's how you choose to use them and when. If you're not conscious and in control of yourself, your emotions will get the better of you and make you seem like an idiot. Think of any athlete you've seen on t.v. get really upset and then ended up making things worse... Wasn't it logical just make some adjustments and move on...? Isn't sports about just competing to win or lose. So, the best athletes are able to shake things off, and let their logic be in control. That's the difference between good and great. To stay off the emotional roller coaster, you have to stay consistent with your emotions and let logic steer the way. Don't let success go to your head, but don't let failure go to your heart. Learn from it then move on. Use logic, and then pick your emotions. If the body is leading the mind, it will steer you in the wrong direction.

You need to build your mindset to keep learning and growing in order stretch your comfort zone and be able to add more valuable skills. Situations and experiences will build your repertoire of your overall capabilities, and capacities, but will also help you polish those key skills and traits that you're working so hard towards. If you have a fixed mindset, you will believe you know it all... But, of course this will never be the case. See every situation and person as an opportunity to learn and grow. Open minds are the brightest of the bunch! Trying to learn from everyone and everything, is also very helpful in staying humble and grounded. People will be attracted to your demeanour and mannerisms because you're not focused on being above anyone. Having an open mind while still valuing your own perspectives is what makes you unique. Everyone can share with one another, and sharing is caring. If you want people to help you, than be a helpful person. If you want to grow, help others grow! The universe just reflects what you are putting into it. It's that simple. Keep your glass half full and always with the potential to add more. If your cup seems to be filling up quickly, take a sip and remind yourself that you will never arrive at this all knowing destination. Your whole life you will be learning and making adjustments, and if you keep that mindset you surely will be very successful in everything you do.

11) Self-discipline and Focus

Remember your goals and desires take discipline and focus. Procrastination will never create anything but regret. Create a Mindset that drives you to be focused and disciplined towards what helps and serves you in your life. No matter who or what tries to mislead or derail you, your self-discipline and focus will be an asset when times get challenging or temptations come your way. There are days that are tougher than others. And sometimes your motivation or energy can feel low. But, really defining your "why" and purpose in life will help you triumph over life's hurdles. Once you have your "why" engraved, nothing will ever stop you from working towards that reason. It's called tenacity... and it takes consistent effort to create it. W humans have a deep belief and strong work ethic, anything can be achieved. Now discipline is a very hard skill to master, but the way you get better at it is by using the correct tools and techniques to keep yourself on track. This is by journalling, goal setting, positive self-talk, meditation, and even exercise. These are all great ways to keep yourself on-track and positive towards why you're working so hard to achieve your goals. If you are shooting a bow and arrow and you just aim at the target, you may get lucky and hit the bulls eye, or you could completely miss the target all together. However, if you focus on being very precise and paying attention to the little details, you will most likely hit the target, and get pretty close to the bulls eye. And eventually over enough time and practice you will be splitting arrows right down the middle. Life take practice and consistency, if you're willing to stay disciplined and focused, you can hit any target you're aiming for.

It takes time to fully convert to a resilient mindset, but once it's fully developed your deepest desires will begin to manifest. Mental toughness can be conditioned or it can be developed. Either way, it is up to you to truly choose what approach you want to take in life. Nothing is handed to you when it comes to real success. Stay invested in the process, and choose the roads you take on the journey with your passion. You all have gifts and talents that can help you achieve your REAL desires. It is up to you if you settle for easy or choose to venture out of your comfort zone to create your own path. It will not be EASY... but it will be VERY rewarding. Mental toughness is one of the most important skills you should acquire... without it, many other aspects of your life will never truly flourish...

Stay focused, stay consistent, stay in the moment...

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