4 Traits of Mental Toughness

I am not a physically strong person. Chances are, I will never be tremendously strong. What I lack in physical brute, however, I make up for in mental toughness. In my last article, I talked about grit, and how it may be the defining factor between being successful or not. Grit as I defined previously is the “firmness of mind or spirit : unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger.” (Merriam Webster) Grit and mental toughness go hand in hand. Mental toughness is the ability to keep betting even when the deck is stacked against you. To plunge deeper into this topic of work ethic, let us look at four traits that I believe are signs of mental toughness.

“Mental toughness is the ability to keep betting even when the deck is stacked against you”

1. Self Motivation

“The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place… and I don´t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently, if you let it. You, me or nobody, is gonna hit as hard as life. But ain’t about how hard you hit… It’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward… how much you can take, and keep moving forward. That´s how winning is done…” (Rocky) Chances are you have heard this quote before. The sooner you realize that your dreams will not appear before you (probably), the sooner you will be on your way to developing self motivation.

Self motivation is a key component on those days when nothing is going right. Trust me, you will have those days (or weeks, or months). On your pursuit towards your goals, obstacles will arise and beat you down into the dirt. You have to be willing to eat dirt for years at a time in order to achieve what you really want. If you do not have the self determination to finish what you started, these setbacks will hinder you from finishing the race. Self motivation comes from an internal fire inside you. If your motivation is derived from an external source, I suggest you do some soul searching.

2. Clear Goals

“The tragedy of life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goals to reach.” (Benjamin Mays) I see a lot of people go through the day in a robotic fashion. They are not experiencing life, they are merely going through the motion. This is why I think setting goals is important.

Creating clear goals allows you to specifically map out where you are going and how you are going to get there. It is important to take time to clearly define your goals. If you do not clearly set goals, you will spend time doing tasks that are not essential to your overall objective. Setting goals allows you to easily make decisions that will benefit your future. If you know what you want, you can clearly figure out how to get there. Even if life throws obstacles your way, and you get side tracked, you will be able to look back on the road map that you have laid out and get yourself back on track.

“Creating clear goals allows you to specifically map out where you are going and how you are going to get there”

3. Optimistic Outlook

“An optimist sees challenges as temporary, able to be overcome, and as stepping stones that are leading them to a better solution. A pessimist sees challenges as permanent; they see them as massive stumbling blocks which make it impossible to move forward, thus signifying the end of that road. Finally there is the incurable optimist, which is that optimist that relentlessly pushes forward, time and time again, never letting trials keep them from believing in the good that lies up ahead. These are the best optimists of all.” (Amy Rees Anderson)

Part of being mentally tough is having an optimistic outlook on all aspects of your life. Like I have said before, and I will say it again, THERE WILL BE BAD DAYS; on the bad days it is critical to have an optimistic approach. Optimistic people see the lesson learned in each failure. Optimistic people are not just more likely to succeed, they are also better people to surround yourself with.

4. Calm Under Fire

“No pressure, no diamonds.” (Thomas Carlyle) I love the pressure, and I love the game. I love staying up late on my computer working hard while others are watching Netflix. Pressure is what makes the greats, the greats. Pressure is Kobe Bryant hitting the game winning 3 at the buzzer.

Being calm under fire is a key principle in developing mental toughness. In life, business, and in school things will get hectic at times; you will have bills to pay, deadlines to meet, and finals to take, but it is the people who can cope with all different things that come out on top. “Anything worth going for is going to be high pressure one time or another. Mentally tough people are at their best under pressure. Calmness under fire isn’t something you just switch on. The key here is to seek out pressure situations working up from low pressure to medium pressure to high pressure situations. Perform in front of larger and larger groups. Seek out better and better opponents, games top participate in. What seemed like high pressure before will become the new normal for you.” (Mike Martel) So bring it on. Watch me out perform all those who can not handle it.

So there you have it. I like to think of these four traits as building on one another. You must have self motivation to begin any project. Without motivation you probably will not get passed the first roadblock. You need to set clear goals for yourself. When the world gets hectic, and you get off track, will you know where you are going? Life will knock you down every now and then. Like rocky said, “It ain’t all sunshine and rainbows”. Will you be able to get yourself backup? Do you have the unwavering optimism you need to overcome even your darkest days? If you have made it this far in your journey, expect to receive more and more opportunities. Opportunities are not given as a gift, they are earned by people who work. I pray that you are able to remain calm even when you are under a lot of fire.

Call to Action

  • What motivates you?
  • Do I know where I am going? Do I know how I will get there?
  • How do I handle life’s punches?

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My name is Jack Thompson, and I am the founder of Mach Seven. We create work that inspires and builds awareness around things we care about. You should check us out!