By Haley Neidich, LCSW
Mental toughness is a term which is frequently used to describe the mentality of athletes or sportspeople. It is that driving force which gives people in competitive sports the strength, stamina, and inspiration to continue, even when the odds are against them, or when their strength is flagging.
However, mental toughness can also be a very useful tool in everyday life. It is what drives us forward even when we are confronted with obstacles or adversities. Some people are born with mental toughness. They are clear about who they are, where they want to be, and how they are going to get there.
Fortunately, for the rest of us, mental toughness can also be learned. Learning to develop and harness your mental toughness can give you the power to overcome problems, confront difficult situations, and to achieve your goals.
What is Mental Toughness Really?
Mental toughness can demonstrate itself in many ways, and it is unlikely that anyone is really mentally tough in all aspects. Some people may demonstrate fortitude and resolve in certain areas but fall apart in others. While others may seem to be weak and without resolve in many aspects, yet, when confronted with a particular situation they can demonstrate incredible force and mental toughness. To develop all-around mental toughness, you need to first know and accept both your strong points and your weaknesses.
Next, by identifying those situations which daunt you and leave you unsure as to what to do, you can begin to form a strategy to prepare yourself to confront and surpass them. Just as an athlete needs to work on their weak points to triumph in their sport, we need to work on and shore up our weak points to triumph in life.
Most sportspeople count on the help of a trained coach to guide and motivate them to achieve their potential, and many people seek the help of a trained therapist to assist them in identifying their weaknesses and helping them to strengthen them.
Building Motivation and Willpower
A therapist can help you to develop your willpower and keep you motivated. Willpower is really a combination of an intention, accompanied by a good deal of effort, and achieved with the help of courage. A therapist can help you to identify behaviors or habits which could bring benefits to you if changed.
If you really understand the consequences of making the change, you will experience a greater “will”, or motivation, to initiate a change, and hence, a greater chance of success. A therapist can help you to have the courage to make necessary changes. Mental toughness is about seeking different options, looking for alternatives, being able to adapt, and never giving up.
Mental toughness goes further than that though. When everything seems to be ticking along nicely, most of us just sit back and go with the flow. However, to advance in sport, business, and life, you need to keep pushing the limits. You need to take yourself out of your comfort zone, to raise the bar, and to step up to the mark. Only then can you really begin to discover what you are capable of.
Complacency is very debilitating, and although for a while you may feel safe, secure, and in control, sooner or later you will have to confront the changes that you need to make to advance and to develop as a person. If you don’t push yourself forward, you will find that when you are hit with a setback, and of course at some point you will be, you will not have the mental toughness to deal with it.
Positivity and Goals
When faced with a difficult situation, many of us who have not developed our mental toughness feel lost, stressed out, and anxious, and, if unresolved, this can even develop into depression. When we become anxious about something our ability to analyze and see the situation clearly is impaired. That means, that our thoughts go around in circles and we cannot find a solution. This can lead to a feeling of despair and hopelessness which can culminate in depression.
Some people respond to this helplessness by drinking alcohol or consuming other substances which will only further diminish their capacity to deal with the situation. Others seek refuge in TV shows or video games which distance them from reality. A professional can help you to get out of this cycle and to find solutions.
Having the ability to strive in the face of adversity depends on having clearly defined goals which are possible to attain. Additionally, a positive attitude is essential, to put on a brave face and to keep on trying. Sometimes, situations can seem so overwhelming that remaining positive can be impossible, and this is where a therapist can really help.
A person who is outside of the problem will have a much clearer vision and can encounter innovative ways in which to remain motivated. Do not be afraid to reach out for professional help, it is not a sign of weakness, but one of determination to find a solution and to move on. A trained professional can help you set realistic goals and can give you the support to keep you motivated to attaining them.
Of course, even the best-laid plans can malfunction, and the real test of your mental toughness will be in learning to accept when something is not functioning, to regroup, re-plan, and to start again. An important part of mental toughness is adaptability, and the capacity to see what is functioning and what is not.
Life is full of setbacks, and by developing your mental toughness you will be able to accept the disappointments and frustrations, that will undoubtedly occur, and to arm yourself for the next battle. Failure should be regarded as an important learning experience, and it can help us to really build determination, character, and mental toughness.
Mental toughness is something which some people naturally possess, but fortunately, it is also something which all of us can develop. It is a way to confront and to learn from the problems that life throws at us and to develop a strategy to keep striving to attain our goals.
To find a mental health professional near you, visit ThriveTalk.com.