Mental Toughness: What is it really?
Updated: Nov 22, 2019
Have you ever had those moments when you're physically tired, frustrated and discouraged but you suddenly hear something inside you as if saying "Don't give up, I know you can do it!"? Or perhaps those moments when you're emotionally down but your mind says "Focus!" and surprisingly, you are able to do a task successfully? My friend, that's what we call mental toughness or more commonly known as grit.
According to Wikipedia, 'Mental Toughness' is defined as "a measure of individual resilience and confidence that may predict success in sport, education and the workplace. It is frequently used colloquially to refer to any set of positive attributes that helps a person to cope with difficult situations."
Since I am not an athlete nor in a teaching profession, I'll share with you my personal experiences in the workplace. As you know, life isn't a piece of cake, and the same goes with working in the corporate world. There are countless failures and mistakes, exasperating projects and routinary tasks. There are also those difficult coworkers that you just want to ignore but you can't, because they could be a team member or a boss.
These instances are very common and I'm sure in one way or another, you were able to experience them. But what matters is how you're able to handle them. Let me give you a concrete example. If you may recall, I had a very painful heartbreak a few years ago and not only it affected my emotions, but also my thoughts, and I had a lot of disturbing ideas back then. But surprisingly, after the storm has calmed down and somehow things went back to normal, or simply what you can call as 'already moved on', I found the courage to tell some of my coworkers what really happened. They were amazed because they didn't even notice a bit of what I went through. Of course with the exception of a few who knew about it, my bosses and my teammates said they didn't even feel my pain because I was always focused and yielded excellent output.
Let me share with you the core distinctions of mental toughness according to Mental Toughness Inc.:
1. Winners Mindset The attitude of a performer that they will win or at least execute at a their maximum level consistently. Their belief in themselves and their technical aptitude and training acumen is solid and unwavering.
2. HyperFocus The ability to execute at a peak level of performance in all situations without getting distracted and with complete mental clarity and ease. Some call this being “in the zone”.
3. Stress optimization The ability to manage stress and pressure in the moment a task is performed, without doubt fear or anxiety. Or at very least without being deterred by fear and anxiety and performing regardless. A master of stress optimization knows how to use an extremely stressful environment to focus and better perform.
4. Failing well Being able to positively contextualize an inability to create the results that a performer set out to achieve. And to extract value and learning from the failure to perform, and to funnel it into the next performance so as to continue to rise to the next level.
5. Maxing out limits The ability to extract maximum physical effort in the experience of pain, mental and physical stress, and physical discomfort and to perform in spite unpleasant sensory by products. That might include mental duress, physical pain or exertion.
6. Preparedness This is a planning distinction and enables the performer to be prepared for any eventuality in the performance (or before the performance) and have a backup plan for any circumstance that is predictable or otherwise not. This allows the performer to be ready for any turn of event and to remain at ease and execute regardless on the situation. This also allows the performer to have a plan in the event that they succumb to a shortfall in performance and to recover fully to complete the task at hand without dialing back performance as a consequence because of disappointment or perceived failure or loss. And most importantly before the failure or loss is declared by external validation.
So how was I able to do it? I guess I fall on core distinction numbers 2 and 3: HYPERFOCUS and STRESS OPTIMIZATION. Part of my work ethic is to always do my best, regardless of how I feel and what I am going through. I know this is hard, in fact I sometimes lose my temper whenever the task is too hard or whenever it gets frustrating.
But how do I manage it when it happens? Here are the three (3) things I do: First, I focus on the goal! I know it's going to be rather difficult for me to finish that hard task, but I also know that if I fail to do it, there'd be a lot of consequences. So I start with the hardest parts first; those that you would just want to skip and move on to to get to the easy ones. Then again, that's where it gets a little bit tricky, because you need to focus on the difficult ones first, before everything else becomes easy. After a while, you'll just realize that you were already able to complete the task! Easy peasy! But wait, not yet. Again, the negative emotions and thoughts will come out as you go through the task. So what to do then? Think of positive thoughts! Have you ever thought of eating your favorite ice cream right after office hours? Do a retail therapy, or perhaps watch your favorite movie? Do think of them! Because these things that make you happy and make you smile, can actually help you finish the task. I guess that won't be too hard to do, right? And lastly, don't forget to pray. Nothing is more assuring than knowing that God is always with you every step of the way. Pray through it, pray that God will give you the strength, the security and the will to keep going.
So, do you think you are mentally tough enough? If not yet, go work on it, practice it slowly but surely. You cannot always ignore unfortunate circumstances or those unsettling feelings, but as long as you know how to deal with them, everything will come easy. There are limitless ways on how to become mentally tough, and I guess, as they say, "Experience is always the best teacher."
Cover image courtesy of a very good friend of mine, HAPPY BON! For more interesting and amazing works of art, please follow her in Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/happybon_art/ 😃