16 Things Mentally Tough People Do

Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash

Many times, the most successful people are not the most talented.

We assume since somebody is stronger, taller, better looking, or vastly more intelligent that they must be the best, but that is hardly the case.

The code word for somebody with vastly greater talent but without the results: potential.

Potential, like talent, doesn’t matter, it’s mental toughness that matters. The ability to be courageous, to endure hardship, withstand trials and tribulations, and to persevere through adversity.

If you want to be mentally tougher, find strong role models and inspirations. Act like them and emulate them. By acting a certain way you put the wheels of change in motion. You create a new identity, ideally a stronger one.

If you want to be more successful and happier, start with mental toughness. Follow these 16 things mentally tough people do and your life will change…fast.


1. They play the long game in life

In life, career, business, and wealth mentally tough people know success takes a long time to develop. They play the long game.

Mentally tough people aren’t foolish falling for get rich quick schemes. They know success comes from long, hard, sustained work. They trust the process and focus on doing great work no matter what.

Eventually, great work gets rewarded.


2. They fail, adapt, and learn from their mistakes

“Every wrong attempt discarded is a step in the right direction.” — Thomas Edison

Mentally tough people know the path to success is built upon failure. Each mess up, screw up, or wrong decision is one step closer in the right direction.

They know that indecision is still a decision, just a really bad one.

Instead of spending hours, days, and weeks belaboring a decision and wondering if it’s the right decision, they go and make one. While others are stalled thinking about decisions, mentally tough people are making decisions right or wrong. Regardless of the decision made, they get to the finish line faster because they find the wrong answer faster.


3. Better yet, they learn from other people’s mistakes

Mentally tough people are observant. They examine the actions of other people and notice what works, and more importantly, what doesn’t work.

They aren’t so stubborn as to think they will have different results doing the exact same thing. They don’t approach their life with the stupid mantra of “it’ll be different for me.”

Why waste time making the exact same mistake when you can bypass failure by examining the faults of others?


4. They have an internal locus of control

Mentally tough people’s default mode is to internalize, not externalize their life events.

They know it wasn’t somebody else’s fault or some crazy outside circumstance that led to a negative event like getting fired, not getting a job, or being dumped by a boyfriend or girlfriend.

They view these circumstances for what they are: a lesson. They look inward, examining how they could have acted differently to change the circumstance. They focus their energy on how they can learn and be better, not on how they were wronged.

The next time something happens to you, refuse this line of thinking. Instead, know it is happening for you.

When you live with an internal locus of control, your confidence and self-esteem rise and your stress lowers.

You realize it is up to you to change your life. The power is in your hands.


5. They admit when they are wrong and don’t make excuses

Hand in hand with an internal locus of control is ownership and accountability.

When mentally tough people screw up, they own up to it. They refuse to make excuses and set a plan in place to correct their mistake or change their behavior to make sure it doesn’t happen again.


6. They embrace change

“Don’t be so afraid when life changes.” — Cris Collinsworth former NFL wide receiver

There’s a great story about Cris Collinsworth while he was in college at the University of Florida. As a high school football player, he was a star quarterback. He was fast, agile, and could run like hell. He had chosen to attend the University of Florida because they ran an offense that was heavily predicated on a quarterback that could run better than he could throw. It was an option style offense.

In his first year as a freshman, he showed flashes of brilliance, throwing a 99-yard touchdown in his first game as a quarterback, which still stands as an NCAA record today some 40 years later.

However, after his first year, a new offensive coach was brought in with an entirely new offensive scheme. It was a pass-first offense, as opposed to the old run style offense. This put Collinsworth at a huge disadvantage as a quarterback. He was best suited to run, not pass. It was clear he would not be the starting quarterback heading into his sophomore year.

What was he to do? He certainly could have bailed and run off to another school as several highly touted rival colleges offered him a position as their quarterback if he chose to transfer.

Collinsworth declined their offers. He would stay and see what he could do, but this meant he would have to change positions. He would have to become a wide receiver, a position which he never played before. Unfamiliarity would be his new normal.

Turns out his willingness to adapt and change was the greater decision he ever made. It had long-lasting ramifications that impacted his life even to this day.

His willingness to say yes rather than no was life-changing. Had he chosen to transfer and stayed a quarterback he would have had a good college career and that is about it. He was not good enough to be a quarterback at the next level in the National Football League.

With this happenstance switch to receiver, he truly found his calling as a football player. He was incredible. He was fast, tall, and athletic with great hands. He was nearly impossible to cover for defenses. He would go onto an incredible NFL career, starring in two Super Bowls, and being selected to the Pro Bowl three times.

Because of his success as a wide receiver, doors opened for him after his playing days were over. Today he is a primetime NFL sports TV analyst and regarded as one of the best, having won 15 sports Emmy Awards.

His ability to adapt, change, and say yes is quite possibly the greatest strength Collinsworth has.


7. They refuse to pity themselves

Everybody has sh*t go wrong in their life. Some worse than others, but what mentally tough people don’t do is pity themselves.

If something bad happens they take it for what it is, a tough lesson, and move on. Strength comes from your ability to rebound and bounce back. In fact, mentally tough people often find themselves in discouraging situations since they challenge themselves routinely.

What makes them different is they don’t believe those difficult situations to be discouraging. They learn to recover fast. The more times they are knocked down, the faster they get up.


8. They are comfortable being uncomfortable

With comfort abundant in our lives now, nearly omnipresent, mentally tough people know in order to be successful they have to abandon their desire to be comfortable. Discomfort comes in many situations, it can be physical, emotional, or mental discomfort.

Regardless of the situation, they embrace discomfort and even thrive on it.

Tim Ferriss once said, “A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.” This powerful line of thinking doesn’t just apply to conversations. It applies to all aspects of life.

The world’s best athletes become successful because they are willing to subject themselves to the grinding discomfort of training and the monotony of preparation in order to become the best. They embrace being uncomfortable. It’s their default setting.


9. They accept what they cannot control and focus on what they can control

The three major tenets of stoicism: perception, action, and will. Control your perceptions of events, act purposefully and responsibly, and willingly accept what is outside of your realm of control.

Mentally tough people learn quickly to ditch investing effort into things they cannot control. It’s a waste of time. Stoics teach you cannot control what unfolds in your life, you can only control your perception of those events and how you respond.

When something unfortunate happens to you, focus on your reaction. Sit back, examine your emotions, let the heat of the moment fade, and then make the wise, calculated, and logical decision.


10. They direct their actions purposefully

Perception, action, and will. Control your perceptions of events in life and then act accordingly and responsibly based on the situation.

That’s what mentally tough people do. They don’t waste time on countless non-essential activities, they focus on the very few things that matter most.

Imagine how far you could go if you directed all your spread out energy away from countless activities to just a select few. That is the key to making true progress. The toughest part — not getting distracted. Mentally tough people are like a racehorse, focused on what’s directly ahead of them.


11. They refuse to gossip

“Nothing is more pathetic than people who run around in circles, ‘delving into the things that lie beneath’ and conducting investigations into the souls of the people around them, never realizing that all you have to do is to be attentive to the power inside you and worship it sincerely.” — Marcus Aurelius

All these qualities of mental toughness come together, other habits and ways of acting go hand in hand with other ways of being. By having an internal locus of control, you stop making excuses. You stop blaming others for your problems. You stop picking apart and being critical of others. You stop trying to knock people down to your level.

You do what is responsible and necessary, you focus on your actions.

As they say, those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. At least not until your house is perfectly in order, and no matter the case, no house is ever perfect.


12. They don’t worry about what others say about them

Not only do they not gossip, mentally tough people don’t worry about what others say about them.

Unfortunately, it seems we’ve forgotten the old saying sticks and stones may break my bones but lies will never hurt me. Social media is partially to blame for this. It’s easy to see all the negative things people say about you and we are hardwired to focus on the criticism.

This is just a masochistic way of going through life. It’s also narcissistic. Stop listening to negative people and stop paying attention to them.

When becoming successful there’s a likely chance you discover who your true friends are. Your success may come at the expense of your “friends’” egos. Your success will make them feel inferior that they haven’t achieved as much as you. In turn, they may try to take you down a peg or two. Cut them out and move on.


13. They don’t believe they are owed anything

Mentally tough people aren’t entitled to anything. They focus on their work, their families, and their relationships. No matter where their success takes them they don’t mail it in, relying solely on their reputation.

Several years back, and years after the immense success of arguably the most successful sitcom ever, Seinfeld, Jerry Seinfeld had an idea for a new TV show. One in which he would ride around in a special car, as he is an avid car enthusiast, with a comedian friend, get coffee, and the cameras would film their off the cuff interaction.

He figured this would be a homerun idea and a layup of an idea to pitch. He took it to every outlet he could think of.

They all rejected him.

This is the man that created the enormous smash hit, Seinfeld. The show that is synonymous with the 90s.

Despite all the rejection he didn’t give up. He may have felt a bit of disbelief that he couldn’t get his idea landed, especially given his track record, but it didn’t stop him.

He kept searching and found a burgeoning internet platform called Crackle. This led to 9 seasons with Crackle, where the show slowly became successful. Because he wasn’t too good for a lesser known outlet, he was able to get his idea off the ground. His small wins led to big wins. Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee was eventually picked up by Netflix and now Seinfeld has his second smash hit on TV.


14. They only compare themselves to others to gain insight and inspiration

Mentally tough people don’t look at others with envy. They look at others for inspiration and insight.

They aren’t envious when they see someone having a great life. Instead of asking “why are they so lucky and not me?” they ask themselves, “what are they doing right that has made them successful? How can I learn from them?”

The easy and lazy thing to do is to be envious. To assume those people got lucky. The hard part is to be humble enough to examine yourself and evaluate why you don’t match up to those people and learn how to become like those people. That’s using comparison for good, not bad.


15. They move on from the past

For mentally tough people, what happened in the past stays in the past.

They learn and move on from their mistakes. The ultimate reward is to not make the same mistakes.


16. They ask for help and actually do what’s recommended

President Lyndon Johnson was a master at learning from others. He wisely sought mentorships from elder politicians. He asked for their help and advice, in turn he helped them, and more importantly, he did what they recommended and gave them the glory of providing good advice.

They loved him for it. His mentors didn’t want to just give him advice, they went out of their way to help him go farther.

Don’t try to do it all yourself, ask others for help, but most importantly, don’t just vainly ask for help. Do as they say.


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