Whether training or racing, you’re going to hit some challenges. Here’s how to motor on.
You may not be back to racing quite yet, but you’re likely starting to train for a fall goal. Whether it’s your first time prepping for a race or your first time back at hard practice after a break, it’s time to train your mind as well as your body. As Under Armour coach Tom Brumlik will tell you, “The mind leads the body.” That means putting in the work to get your brain tuned up along with your body. Here’s how.
Tap into the Power of Affirmations
In order to set a baseline of positivity across all aspects of life, not just training, Brumlik recommends practicing positive self-talk. “I’m big on affirmations,” he says, short complete sentences you can state anytime. “I tell my athletes to practice ‘I am’ statements throughout the day, even when they’re not training or racing.” For instance, if you’re in the first stages of a giant project at work and feeling overwhelmed by how much of it lies ahead, tell yourself, “I am on my way.” When your alarm goes off at 0-dark-30 for a run, say, “I am a morning person.” Whatever the case may be, it’s the practice of “I am” statements that leads to the gains. “You can’t pull them out on race day alone,” says Brumlik. “The practice has to be ingrained.”
And Develop Some Mantras Too
In addition to finding some all-purpose affirmations that can apply to all facets of your life, you’ll also want to have some shorter, more running-specific mantras in your mental toolkit. Any training session or race can feel like a roller coaster, with highs and lows, twists and turns. One minute you’re feeling great, flying through the intervals, and the next you’re facing the biggest, steepest climb of your life. Knowing and embracing that fact—and having an automatic response—will help you push through.
Research shows that when you repeat a mantra whenever you hit a challenge, it can give you a mental and physical boost. The wording can be anything that reliably lifts your spirits. Think along the lines of “I am strong” or “I’ve got this,” for instance. Or repeat something that relates to the act of running, like “Swift and smooth,” “Light and fast,” or “I eat hills.” Other options include “Light it up” or “Go for it.” Whatever serves to motivate you, used on repeat, is what will get you through.
Focus on Your Breathing
You can put your breathing to use in a variety of racing and training scenarios. “I like to use breathing before a race or hard workout to calm my nerves,” says Brumlik. “You can also use it to relax and smooth things out during a race.” The quality of your breathing in the midst of a hard workout or race can also serve as a good indicator of your effort level. If you’re in the first mile of a race and find yourself breathing hard, it’s time to dial things back so you have something left for the end. “It’s very common to go out too hard, so pay attention to your breathing rate and breathe slowly and deeply to slow yourself down if needed,” Brumlik recommends. There are more than just physical upsides to using your breath as a barometer, as Brumlik suggests: in doing so, you’re practicing mindfulness which can help you create focus, foster calmness, and, most importantly, reinforce that you are in control of your run.
Count Your Steps
If you find yourself in the pain cave during a workout, mentally settle into your cadence to take your mind away from the challenge. Have a look at the MapMyRun app to find your perfect cadence and then focus on the rhythm of your feet. Before long, you’ll forget the pain and fall into an easier, more efficient stride. “Think about light, quick steps, which will help your mechanics,” says Brumlik. “Think about driving your arms back and your foot straight down to get the most out of your stride.” Building mental skills is all about developing a positive mindset, says Brumlik. “Running can be a challenging sport,” he says. “Stay away from words like ‘I can’t’ and instead focus on positive practices until they become habit.”
Dre Baldwin was driven by his ambition to be a professional basketball player, and for a long time, it looked as though his dream was not meant to be. After struggling to get onto his high school team, he finally made it in during his senior year — only to spend most of the season on the bench. In college, he made the NCAA Division 3 team, but then coaching changes meant he was off the team by the time he graduated.
While others might have given up on their dreams by this point, Dre’s passion and talent, along with his ability to market himself and drive, resulted in him starting a professional career in 2005. Over the next nine years Baldwin played professionally in eight countries.
During this time, he started posting YouTube videos focusing on basketball training, and then later on the mental aspect of the game and sport. Gaining traction, he formed Dre All Day, which delivers his masterclass and keynote addresses to thousands.
In this article, Baldwin discusses what it takes to be mentally tough and the techniques from sport psychology that can help anyone succeed, whether on the court or in a negotiation.
The mental game is the foundation
In sport, the mental game is vitally important. Players can get things right every single time in practice or during a training match with teammates, but then crumble under the match pressure. Baldwin attributes this difference to a player’s mental game and how if in a situation under pressure, whether or not they start to listen to other people, rather than their own knowledge of their abilities.
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Baldwin then further compares this to the sound of your own voice, “when you speak, and you listen to your own voice, that sound is conducted through the bones, it sounds different to the sounds that come through the air. When we listen too much to the sounds coming through the air — anything other than ourselves — it drowns out the sound traveling through the bone.” Too often, whether it’s what we hear others say, or think they believe, we allow it to drown out our confident, inner voice.
You don’t always need full information to act
Baldwin, perhaps, drawing on the experience of an athlete who instinctively reads a game, stresses that often you can act without having all of the information. In today’s information-rich age, it’s impossible to have all the information, and in some fields, information is created even faster than it can be consumed. Baldwin believes that the threshold is surprisingly low simply because the sheer volume of information available means that even a small proportion is enough — as little as 10%.
“The 10% rule is pretty simple. You only need 10% of the information to go and take action. You don’t need to take in all the information, and you’ll learn the rest of the core knowledge by doing things,” Baldwin explains. This is valuable because we can often be paralyzed by too much information, or perfectionism. The rule isn’t universal, but many will over-research and over-analyze, so it’s worth asking yourself if you are one of the exceptions that really does need to know everything. As exceptions to the rule, Baldwin acknowledges that those “getting married or performing surgery probably needs all the information, but almost everything else: 10%, you’re good.”
You are the ‘Super You’
‘Fake it until you make it’ is a commonly heard mantra, but not one that Baldwin believes in. The difference is, perhaps, subtle but the mindset is entirely different. While the fake-it-until-you-make-it approach believes that the things you want will eventually come if you behave a certain way, Baldwin proposes the idea of the ‘Super You,’ that says you already are that person.
The ‘Super You’ approach comprises many aspects of sports psychology, but in essence, if you can fake it, then you can already do it. So, why not just do it? This can be achieved in a manner of different methods, whether it is through visualization, imagining your success in five years’ time and behaving that way now, or just doing what you already know you can do.
Baldwin uses the example of an athlete under-performing when under pressure, “the skills are still there, but you can’t access the skills. Confidence is the framework that I use: the Super You is the concept of you being at your highest possible level of confidence.”
Mental toughness is vital
Baldwin showed an inspirational level of determination in realizing his dream. One of the key things that he highlights is the importance of mental toughness, recognizing that not everything will go well, and continuing despite that.
This is an important lesson for every walk of life. However much you prepare, or hard you train, sometimes things just won’t go your way. Baldwin explains, “it doesn’t mean perfection. It means dealing with the fact that sometimes things go wrong. But continuing to show up.”
Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She’s also a psychotherapist, international bestselling author and host of the The Verywell Mind Podcast.
Ann-Louise T. Lockhart, PsyD, ABPP, is a board-certified pediatric psychologist, parent coach, author, speaker, and owner of A New Day Pediatric Psychology, PLLC.
Mentally strong kids are prepared for the challenges of the world. To be clear, mental strength isn’t about acting tough or suppressing emotions. It’s also not about being unkind or acting defiant.
Instead, mentally strong kids are resilient and they have the courage and confidence to reach their full potential. As a parent, there are things you can do to help instill mental strength in your kids.
Tips for Raising Tough Kids
Kids who are mentally strong are able to tackle problems, bounce back from failure, and cope with hardships. Helping kids develop mental strength requires a three-pronged approach. There are three ways to help kids become mentally strong.
- Help them learn to control their emotions so their emotions don’t control them.
- Show them how to take positive action.
- Teach them to replace negative thoughts with more realistic thoughts.
There are many parenting strategies, discipline techniques, and teaching tools that help kids build mental muscle. Tailor your approach to meet the specific needs of your child.
Show Kids How to Be Tough
One of the best ways to teach kids mental strength is to mirror these qualities in your own life. Kids learn how to respond in different situations by watching their parents. So, try to be cognizant of your own mental toughness and work on areas that need improvement. Here are some ways to show your kids how to be mentally strong.
Role Model Mental Strength
Showing your child how to be mentally strong is the best way to encourage them to develop mental strength. Talk about your personal goals and show your child that you’re taking steps to grow stronger. Make self-improvement and mental strength a priority in your own life and avoid the things mentally strong parents don’t do.
Show Your Child How to Face Fears
If your child avoids anything scary, they’ll never gain the confidence they need to handle feeling uncomfortable. Whether your child is afraid of the dark, or they are terrified to meet new people, help your child face their fears one small step at a time.
Cheer them on, praise their efforts, and reward them for being brave and they’ll learn that they’re a capable kid who can handle stepping outside their comfort zone.
Teach Mental Toughness
Look for opportunities to empower your kids to be mentally strong. By working with them in different situations you can impart the mental toughness they need to deal with uncomfortable emotions and handle challenging situations. Here are some specific ways you can teach your kids to be mentally strong no matter what life throws at them.
Teach Specific Skills
Discipline should be about teaching your kids to do better next time, not making them suffer for their mistakes. Use consequences that teach specific skills, such as problem-solving skills, impulse control, and self-discipline. These skills will help your child learn to behave productively, even when they’re faced with temptation, tough circumstances, and difficult setbacks.
Teach Emotion Regulation Skills
Don’t calm your child down when they’re angry or cheer them up every time they’re sad. Instead, teach them how to deal with uncomfortable emotions on their own, so they don’t grow to depend on you to regulate their moods. Kids who understand their feelings and know how to deal with them are better prepared to deal with challenges.
Let Your Child Make Mistakes
Teach your child that mistakes are part of the learning process so they don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed about getting something wrong. Allow for natural consequences when it’s safe to do so and talk about how to avoid repeating the same mistake next time.
Foster Tough Abilities
Building mental strength in kids requires also paying attention to their confidence levels, independence, and self-esteem. Work with your kids to fine tune these areas of their lives while encouraging healthy habits that build mental strength. Here are some ways to build upon what they are learning about mental toughness.
Encourage Healthy Self-Talk
It’s hard for kids to feel mentally strong when they’re bombarding themselves with put-downs or when they’re predicting catastrophic outcomes. Teach your child to reframe negative thoughts so they can think more realistically. Developing a realistic, yet optimistic, outlook can help kids get through tough times and perform at their peak.
Kids need a strong moral compass to help them make healthy decisions. Work hard to instill your values in your child. Create opportunities for life lessons that reinforce your values regularly. For example, emphasize the importance of honesty and compassion, rather than winning at all costs.
Children who understand their values are more likely to make healthy choices—even when others may disagree with their actions.
Allow Your Child to Feel Uncomfortable
Although it can be tempting to help a child whenever they’re struggling, rescuing them from distress will reinforce to them that they’re helpless. Let your child lose, allow them to feel bored, and insist they are responsible even when they don’t want to be. With support and guidance, struggles can help your child build mental strength.
Make Gratitude a Priority
Gratitude is a wonderful remedy for self-pity and other bad habits that can prevent your child from being mentally strong. Help your child affirm all the good in the world, so that even on their worst days, they’ll see that they have much to feel thankful for. Gratitude can boost your child’s mood and encourage proactive problem-solving.
Affirm Personal Responsibility
Building mental strength involves accepting personal responsibility. Allow for explanations—but not excuses when your child makes a mistake or misbehaves. Correct your child if they try to blame others for how they think, feel, or behave.
A Word From Verywell
When it comes to building your child’s mental strength, it takes commitment and consistency. But with regular communication, practicing when tough situations arise, and working to build their confidence and self-esteem on a regular basis, you will be imparting mental strength.
Look for opportunities to start small and build from there. Also, help them grow and learn from their mistakes. In no time, your kids will have a mental strength that will last a lifetime.
Last Updated: November 16, 2020 References
This article was co-authored by Katie Styzek. Katie Styzek is a Professional School Counselor for Chicago Public Schools. Katie earned a BS in Elementary Education with a Concentration in Mathematics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She served as a middle school mathematics, science, and social studies teacher for three years prior to becoming a counselor. She holds a Master of Education (M.Ed.) in School Counseling from DePaul University and an MA in Educational Leadership from Northeastern Illinois University. Katie holds an Illinois School Counselor Endorsement License (Type 73 Service Personnel), an Illinois Principal License (formerly Type 75), and an Illinois Elementary Education Teaching License (Type 03, K – 9). She is also Nationally Board Certified in School Counseling from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
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School can be a difficult place to be. Learning how to act tougher in school can help you navigate through friends, bullies, and teachers. Acting tough doesn’t mean acting like a jerk, however. Toughness is more about self-confidence and standing up for what you believe in. Learning to act tough is all about adjusting your attitude, changing up your appearance, and rethinking how you interact with others.
Positive thinking and daily practice can help you perform your best.
You can’t fake mental toughness. It’s just not something that magically happens or you can somehow conjure up at mile 20 of a marathon. Yet, as a sport psychologist, I hear so many athletes talk about how they “dig deep” to find a reserve of mental strength when the road gets tough during a race without working on this skill during training.
But mental toughness is a skill set, and execution without practice rarely—if ever—works. Practicing this skill must be incorporated into your training cycle in order for you to access it when it really counts on race day.
So What Is Mental Toughness?
The notion of mental toughness is not well-defined or understood, but being mentally tough is all about how we respond when we begin to feel uncomfortable or encounter an obstacle or challenge. It’s the how that’s important. There are a number of factors that contribute to mental toughness, but at the core, there are two key, defining features: willingness and optimism.
Willingness refers to how inclined you are to endure, whether that’s accepting intensity on a physical level, or being determined to maintain your effort level across a given time or distance. Willingness is having the self-determination to stay in the experience without backing down or giving up. We know that our willingness varies based on a number of variables, and most notably, changes in direct relation to the strength and meaning of our goals. We are much more willing to tolerate a hard effort if it means we’ll finally grab that PR, for example.
Optimism, on the other hand, is a positive belief about a future state or desired outcome. Optimism helps us bridge the gap between what we are currently doing and how that relates to achieving our goals. Believing that our current effort will help us become stronger, fitter, and faster aids our willingness to maintain that effort during training. This belief is present in the short term and the long term; trusting that you can finish the next interval in a single workout is just as important as knowing that the current workout will help you hit your ultimate goal later in the season. This bigger-picture optimism is critical to access during the training cycle.
How to Build Mental Toughness
There are a number of ways to practice the skill of mental toughness both on and off the run. An ideal training plan will have a range of paces, efforts, and types of runs scattered throughout. The harder days are designed to build your physiological system and help you get stronger, faster, and fitter. Those harder days also provide an opportunity to work on developing a mental toughness platform that you will then be able to access later. Approach these hard days wisely and intentionally. Mark them on your calendar and plan how you will approach them mentally to ensure that you are getting the most out of the workouts. Use these four tips as you embark on each workout:
1. Connect to your why.
We are much more willing to tolerate discomfort when we know that doing so is tied to a meaningful purpose or long-term goal. As you warm up, bring to mind the big goal you are currently working on (maybe that sub-4 marathon) and why that goal is meaningful to you. Be specific. Doing this as you ease into the run will set the stage for tackling what’s to come. With a strong why, you will figure out any how. And mental toughness is all about embracing how you endure.
2. Find a way, not an excuse.
Understand that both willingness and optimism are mediated by self-talk. We can be really good at talking ourselves out of upcoming harder efforts before we even reach them. We can negotiate with ourselves in an effort to avoid unpleasantness. Be mindful of the messages in your mind and realize that you can change your thoughts. You can use the power of self-talk to engage in both willingness and optimism throughout your workout. When you begin to encounter discomfort, bring positive “I am” statements to life: “I am willing to keep pushing. I am capable of this effort. I am optimistic that this will help me obtain my goals.” If “I am” statements don’t work, try a variation by using “you are” self-talk—referring to yourself in the second person as if you are a coach, guiding the session along. “You are going to finish strong. You are almost there. You are crushing this segment.”
3. Train purposefully in unpleasant conditions.
Crummy weather provides an ideal test for mental toughness. So does running during a time of day in which you are not used to training. Vary the times you train and intentionally pick a few sessions that will alter your usual schedule to be purposefully uncomfortable. Of course, don’t risk injury or harming yourself in extreme conditions, but if you’re usually a lunch time runner, make it a point to wake up and run in the very early morning when you’re tired or groggy. For morning runners, alter your schedule and run in the evening after a long day when you’re feeling fatigued. Starting at an inconvenient time when you may not feel fresh will train your mind and body to work through uncomfortable situations and help you hone both willingness and optimism.
4. Practice daily.
Outside of the those tough training sessions, there are plenty of opportunities to practice mental toughness in your daily life. For those of us who shower (hopefully you), you can sharpen this skill simply by proactively and purposefully turning the water cold for a few minutes each day. But don’t just jump in and shiver. Enter the shower with your arms open, allowing the water to hit your body and accepting the experience for all that is, in both your physiological experience and in your emotional and psychological reactions. Tolerating an uncomfortable moment each day lets you learn the connection between an unpleasant physical experience and the games your mind plays to quickly escape or avoid.
It’s important to remember that your mind is designed to scan for danger and seek protection. Thoughts will start seeking a place of refuge the moment your body crosses the threshold into an area of discomfort; this is where the task of developing mental toughness begins. It’s your job to decide whether you let the mind win, and you back down and let off the gas or if you will enact self-determination to reach your desired level of success. If you train your mind to tolerate and even embrace these uncomfortable moments by establishing an internal level of mental toughness to sustain the experience, you are training yourself to be able to access this same skill set come race day.
What is Grit?
Let’s define grit. Grit is the perseverance and passion to achieve long–term goals. Sometimes you will hear grit referred to as mental toughness. Angela Duckworth, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, suggests that grit is a strong predictor of success and ability to reach one’s goals.
Duckworth’s research on grit has shown that…
- West Point cadets who scored highest on the Grit Test were 60% more likely to succeed than their peers.
- Ivy League undergraduate students who had more grit also had higher GPAs than their peers — even though they had lower SAT scores and weren’t as “smart.”
- When comparing two people who are the same age but have different levels of education, grit (and not intelligence) more accurately predicts which one will be better educated.
- Competitors in the National Spelling Bee outperform their peers not because of IQ, but because of their grit and commitment to more consistent practice.
A Video Explanation of Grit
This short TED talk by psychology professor Angela Duckworth explains the concept of grit and how it helps foster mental toughness in our everyday lives.
How to Be Mentally Tough
Step 1: Define what grit or mental toughness means for you.
For you, it might be…
- going one month without missing a workout
- delivering your work ahead of schedule for two days in a row
- calling one friend to catch up every Saturday this month
Whatever it is, be clear about what you’re going after.
Step 2: Build grit with small physical wins.
So often we think that grit is about how we respond to extreme situations, but what about everyday circumstances?
Mental toughness is like a muscle. It needs to be worked to grow and develop.
Choose to do the tenth rep when it would be easier to just do nine. Choose to create when it would be easier to consume. Choose to ask the extra question when it would be easier to accept. Prove to yourself — in a thousand tiny ways — that you have enough guts to get in the ring and do battle with life.
Step 3: Build strong habits and stop depending on motivation.
Grit isn’t about getting an incredible dose of inspiration or courage. It’s about building the daily habits that allow you to stick to a schedule and overcome challenges and distractions over and over and over again.
Mentally tough people don’t have to be more courageous, more talented, or more intelligent — just more consistent.
Grit comes down to your habits. It’s about doing the things you know you’re supposed to do on a more consistent basis. It’s about your dedication to daily practice and your ability to stick to a schedule.
Examples of Grit
- Mentally tough athletes are more consistent than others. They don’t miss workouts. They don’t miss assignments. They always have their teammates back.
- Mentally tough leaders are more consistent than their peers. They have a clear goal that they work towards each day. They don’t let short–term profits, negative feedback, or hectic schedules prevent them from continuing the march towards their vision. They make a habit of building up the people around them — not just once, but over and over and over again.
- Mentally tough artists, writers, and employees deliver on a more consistent basis than most. They work on a schedule, not just when they feel motivated. They approach their work like a pro, not an amateur. They do the most important thing first and don’t shirk responsibilities.
3 Articles on How I Develop Grit
- How to Fall in Love With Boredom and Unlock Your Mental Toughness
- What I Do When it Feels Like My Work Isn’t Good Enough
- What I Do When I Feel Like Giving Up
Best Books on Grit and Mental Toughness
- Grit by Angela Duckworth
- Mindset by Carol Dweck
- How Children Succeed by Paul Tough
Want more great grit books? Browse my full list of the best self-help books.
Free Book Preview: Unstoppable
The right thing is almost always the hardest thing to do. We need to do the right thing and be hard on ourselves. We need to look at ourselves, our situations, how we act and how we make decisions. Too many times we slide and take the easy way out. Avoiding the hard decision, which is often the right one to make.
If you were in a competing business situation with a friend and you had information you found through research that would give you an edge, would you use it? You have a hard decision to make. Do you use it to ensure you are ok? Your friendship shouldn’t be detrimental to you. It shouldn’t stop you from being successful or living to your full potential.
You need to be honest and tough. Tell yourself the truth. Ask for the truth. Hear the truth.
When you are tough on yourself, you’ll demand the same from those around you. Don’t be afraid of being hard. Challenge people. When people are challenged they pay attention, they become satisfied and committed by having problems to solve. People don’t appreciate you for being soft. They appreciate you for being firm and having standards that you expect to be met.
By being tough, you help more people than if you let things slide and don’t commit.
Think of it this way for example. Make the hard decision to work the weekend instead of party. You earned cash instead of throwing it away. You improved your life. You’ve invested in yourself. Now because you’re tough on yourself, you are starting to be the best person you can be.
Again, most people wouldn’t think of it that way. But then, I think most people are soft. Make a list of where you’re soft and where you’re tough. I’m sure most will find that their soft areas outweigh their tough list!
Sometimes when you need to make a tough decision you might find yourself stalling. Usually that means one of three things.
1. Lack of information. This can stop you cold. Get more information if you need to in order to make the call.
2. Fear. You can’t live in fear of what could or might happen or who may not like your decision. Consider the facts and do what you know is best.
3. Concern over past mistakes. Today is today. Put the past behind you and move forward from right now. Don’t get today’s circumstances mixed up with some other situation from the past.
Identify your reason and tackle it so you can move forward. Never fear betting on yourself. Making a decision is courageous, brave, necessary and the mark of a true leader. Making tough decisions and being hard is a sign of growth. It means you are setting priorities and goals that are important enough to you that you will forgo instant gratification for the longer-term win and achievement.
This might be uncomfortable for you at the beginning but as with everything, practice makes perfect. You’ll be more at ease with your decisions knowing that you are right in your course of action.
It probably also means that some people will call you unreasonable because you won’t bend or give in on these issues and decisions which you found to be important. As I’ve said before, being unreasonable is a sign that you are 10X-ing it. Being unreasonable is a compliment. It means you aren’t giving up or giving in. Stick by your guns. Be tough and unwavering in the attainment of your goals. Reaching your goals is what is ultimately going to lead you to financial freedom.
When you are soft, you let things slide and you might refuse to make the tough decisions. But understand, this in itself is a decision. You’ve decided to let things continue on as they have been. But what is going to change? You’ll be stuck. In the same situation, in the same financial crisis and on and on. Be tough. Make a change.
Being a hard person doesn’t mean you are constantly upset or an unhappy person. It means you are developing into someone better and you are committed.
7 Habits of People With Remarkable Mental Toughness
You don’t have to be born mentally tough. Here’s how you can develop the vital trait.
First, the definition:
“The ability to work hard and respond resiliently to failure and adversity; the inner quality that enables individuals to work hard and stick to their long-term passions and goals.”
The definition of grit almost perfectly describes qualities every successful person possesses, because mental toughness builds the foundations for long-term success.
For example, successful people are great at delaying gratification. Successful people are great at withstanding temptation. Successful people are great at overcoming fear in order to do what they need to do. (Of course, that doesn’t mean they aren’t scared–that does mean they’re brave. Big difference.) Successful people don’t just prioritize. They consistently keep doing what they have decided is most important.
All those qualities require mental strength and toughness–so it’s no coincidence those are some of the qualities of remarkably successful people.
Here are ways you can become mentally stronger–and as a result more successful:
1. Always act as if you are in total control.
There’s a quote often credited to Ignatius: “Pray as if God will take care of all; act as if all is up to you.” (Cool quote.)
The same premise applies to luck. Many people feel luck has a lot to do with success or failure. If they succeed, luck favored them, and if they fail, luck was against them.
Most successful people do feel good luck played some role in their success. But they don’t wait for good luck or worry about bad luck. They act as if success or failure is totally within their control. If they succeed, they caused it. If they fail, they caused it.
By not wasting mental energy worrying about what might happen to you, you can put all your effort into making things happen. (And then, if you get lucky, hey, you’re even better off.)
You can’t control luck, but you can definitely control you.
2. Put aside things you have no ability to impact.
Mental strength is like muscle strength–no one has an unlimited supply. So why waste your power on things you can’t control?
For some people, it’s politics. For others, it’s family. For others, it’s global warming. Whatever it is, you care, and you want others to care.
Fine. Do what you can do: Vote. Lend a listening ear. Recycle, and reduce your carbon footprint. Do what you can do. Be your own change–but don’t try to make everyone else change.
3. See the past as valuable training and nothing more.
The past is valuable. Learn from your mistakes. Learn from the mistakes of others.
Easier said than done? It depends on your perspective. When something bad happens to you, see it as an opportunity to learn something you didn’t know. When another person makes a mistake, don’t just learn from it–see it as an opportunity to be kind, forgiving, and understanding.
The past is just training; it doesn’t define you. Think about what went wrong but only in terms of how you will make sure that next time, you and the people around you will know how to make sure it goes right.
4. Celebrate the success of others.
Many people–I guarantee you know at least a few–see success as a zero-sum game: There’s only so much to go around. When someone else shines, they think that diminishes the light from their stars.
Resentment sucks up a massive amount of mental energy–energy better applied elsewhere.
When a friend does something awesome, that doesn’t preclude you from doing something awesome. In fact, where success is concerned, birds of a feather tend to flock together–so draw your successful friends even closer.
Don’t resent awesomeness. Create and celebrate awesomeness, wherever you find it, and in time you’ll find even more of it in yourself.
5. Never allow yourself to whine. (Or complain. Or criticize.)
Your words have power, especially over you. Whining about your problems always makes you feel worse, not better.
So if something is wrong, don’t waste time complaining. Put that mental energy into making the situation better. (Unless you want to whine about it forever, eventually you’ll have to make it better.)
So why waste time? Fix it now. Don’t talk about what’s wrong. Talk about how you’ll make things better, even if that conversation is only with yourself.
And do the same with your friends or colleagues. Don’t just serve as a shoulder they can cry on. Friends don’t let friends whine; friends help friends make their lives better.
6. Focus only on impressing yourself.
No one likes you for your clothes, your car, your possessions, your title, or your accomplishments. Those are all things. People may like your things–but that doesn’t mean they like you.
(Sure, superficially they might seem to like you, but what’s superficial is also insubstantial, and a relationship not based on substance is not a real relationship.)
Genuine relationships make you happier, and you’ll only form genuine relationships when you stop trying to impress and start trying to just be yourself.
And you’ll have a lot more mental energy to spend on the people who really do matter in your life.
7. Count your blessings.
Take a second every night before you turn out the light and, in that moment, quit worrying about what you don’t have. Quit worrying about what others have that you don’t.
Think about what you do have. You have a lot to be thankful for. Feels pretty good, doesn’t it?
Feeling better about yourself is the best way of all to recharge your mental batteries.
Others in my “remarkable” series: