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5 Things Mentally Tough People Don’t Do

You can’t spot a mentally tough person in a crowd.

If only. Then it would be easy to track them (appropriately) and copy them (subtly) and so gain the mental fortitude that will propel us from good to great.

Mental toughness — also known as resilience or grit — is a key ingredient in exceptional performance. That invisible extra 1–5%. Mentally tough people are able to manage their minds through adversity, failure, pain and extreme pressure to perform at their peak. They are in charge of their mental state (as much as anyone can be) which promotes best results.

In life, too, mental toughness is critical for dealing with stress and challenge — it’s also the spark we need to dig out of ruts, change direction, to be bold in our choices.

But for all its agreed value, mental toughness is hard to pin down because it is founded on unique combinations of things we can’t see or measure: biology, history, experience, insight, learning and tools. (Take the mental toughness test here).

Some people get a head start due to their genetics and the environments, but mental toughness can be built from wherever you are — and here’s the secret:

Mental toughness is as much about what you don’t do — as what you do. Exceptional performers are able to bounce between them.

5 Things Mentally Tough People Don’t Do

1. Think in black and white.

Black and white — or rigid — thinking will make you overly judgmental and keep you stuck. Flexible thinking is the hallmark of resilience. People who can adapt quickly can be counted on to cope best in any situation. The world is not black and white; there are an awful lot of grey areas. So introduce some shades of grey into your thinking — it’ll make you bolder and tougher when adversity strikes.

2. Chase certainty to calm down.

Life is uncertain. Change is inevitable. Sometimes we need to change — we HAVE to change — in order to cope with difficulty and to grow. So learning to live with uncertainty is a better, healthier aim than trying to control the world around us. Tell yourself it is okay not to know the outcome, then immerse yourself in doing what you need to do right here, right now.

3. Let their feelings rule.

Mentally tough people are not devoid of emotions — they are able to express and manage their emotions, and be vulnerable when necessary. But they don’t allow distressful or negative feelings to swamp them to the point of inaction. They don’t allow their feelings to push them into doing things they regret. Whatever happens, they are able to think rationally, then act clearly and decisively — not matter what their feelings are doing.

4. Globalise their fears.

When you’re scared or worried it’s easy to let your fear of the situation spill into a much larger “global” deal. For example, I’ve been dumped so I will always be alone and lonely. I can’t get a job so I’m destined to be unemployed and broke. When mentally tough people feel afraid, they are able to attach their fear to the specific event or circumstance. This partner cheated on me so that partner was no good for me. I missed out on this job for this reason, there are other jobs that will suit me better. Hooking fears to specifics makes difficulties seem smaller and therefore much easier to cope.

5. Hone in on what went badly.

When things go wrong your flaws and mistakes flash up in neon lights, making you dwell on them and beat up on yourself. Mentally tough people don’t allow failures or setbacks to dominate their thinking and bring them down. They acknowledge what went wrong and work out ways to counter it without losing sight of their strengths. They are able to see what went right too, and build on that.


People often don’t know how mentally tough they are until adversity strikes. Why not start now? Every time you deal with a difficult situation or rise from a setback, acknowledge it, think about how you did it and bank it. Then it’s yours to draw on any time you like.


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