How would you describe mental toughness, strength and resilience?
Is it something that everyone has, or is it something that only certain people possess?
(Note: In this article, I’ll be using the terms toughness, strength, and resilience interchangeably).
Mental toughness is defined as having the ability to overcome obstacles and challenges in life. People who are mentally strong tend to be more confident, resilient, self-reliant, optimistic, determined, disciplined, goal-oriented, and happier.
Those who are less resilient tend to be more vulnerable to the negative effects of life events, which may lead them to feel anxious, stressed, or even depressed.
Mental strength and resilience are skills anyone can develop and improve. How long it will take to develop it to the level you’d like depends on your commitment and current situation. The best way is to see it as a life-long skill you can and should be continually improving or maintaining.
The best place to start is by stopping or minimising habits and activities that may be undermining and sabotaging your mental toughness.
Below are 12 mistakes to avoid that will help you improve your mental resilience fast.
12 Mistakes to avoid to be more mentally strong
1. Don’t fear alone time.
You should love your own company as much as the company of others or even more.
People usually don’t like their own company because they get bored or their mind gets flooded with negative thoughts.
If boredom is the problem, then try to explore new interests and activities. The richer your personal life is, the more interesting you’ll be and the more you’ll have to offer to others.
If negative thinking is the problem, then perhaps there’s some value in exploring them. Sometimes they bring to the surface areas we should work on and improve, however, very often, these negative thoughts and doubts are unfounded doubts and beliefs we can easily overcome with a bit of questioning and fact-checking. Suppressing them by being busy with other people won’t make them go away.
Being comfortable or even enjoying your own company will make you more mentally strong and resilient as it allows you to be less dependent on others and more immune to the opinions of others, as you’ll strengthen your own self-belief and self-worth.
2. Don’t dwell on the past.
The past is the past, and nothing can change it.
We often dwell on the past, remembering how things were, or ruminating about what could have been had we made different choices, or things just turned out differently.
While this may seem harmless, the problem is that it assumes that WHAT IS is worse or not good enough. Dwelling on the past prevents you from enjoying the present moment and keeps you in wishful land that is not real.
If you’re looking back to the past, look back to appreciate what was for what it was, and learn from it so you can make your present and future better.
That is the purpose of the past.
The less you dwell on the past, the more mentally strong you’ll be.
3. Don’t feel that life/world owes you something.
We’re not entitled to anything.
I know this can be a hard truth to swallow, especially when some people seem to be much “luckier” than you, where life served them great talent, looks, health, or wealth on a silver platter.
It sucks. It’s not fair. I know.
But that’s life.
Lions eat gazelles, and that’s not fair, either. But that’s life.
If you live feeling that life owes you, this will only make you bitter, resentful, and quite possibly discouraged because what’s the point of doing anything if life is against you.
In most cases, we’re much luckier than we are willing to admit, as there is a huge percentage of people who’d happily trade with us instantly.
Take full responsibility for what you can control and accept what you cannot.
4. Don’t expect immediate results.
This is the single worst mindset one can have that will corrode their mental strength, but also confidence, self-worth, self-love, and many other “self” aspects.
Nothing worthwhile comes fast.
That is why we value anything. Because it’s not easy to get.
When we expect immediate results, we’re automatically setting ourselves up for disappointment because most results don’t come fast. When they do, we usually already have them or we don’t want them.
There are only so many disappointments one can take before it breaks their mental resilience.
Be realistic about your expectations. Have reasonable expectations.
Good things are difficult to get and take time to achieve.
We value them because they don’t come easy.
5. Don’t worry about pleasing everyone.
You can’t be liked by everybody, regardless of how awesome you are.
More importantly, since everybody has different expectations and likes different things, you’d have to be a different person for everybody to be liked by all.
Pleasing everyone is a game extremely exhausting and damaging.
(Perhaps you even know someone who is like that.)
Trying to be liked is essentially seeing approval, validation, and acceptance from others.
This makes you emotionally vulnerable, not strong.
Focus on being a good person (there is a difference between being good and being nice). Work on being the person YOU can be proud of, accept, approve of and value.
That is where you find true mental strength and resilience.
The right people will value you for your qualities.
If you think about it. You don’t like everybody and probably don’t even want to be liked by certain people.
6. Don’t waste time feeling sorry for yourself.
Feeling sorry for yourself is not going to do you any good.
It will only prolong the suffering as you’re essentially validating it.
Yes, sometimes life slaps us hard, and a little pity party may help to get the feelings out of the system. If you must do it, keep it only as short as absolutely necessary. It’s easy to get stuck in feeling sorry for yourself.
Feeling sorry for yourself usually comes with the mindset of “things are happening TO you“. This can make you feel powerless.
Instead, try to find a way to see it as if it “happened FOR you“. There’s a benefit or valuable lesson in everything. (Sometimes well hidden, I admit).
The sooner you can stop feeling sorry for yourself, the sooner things will start improving again.
7. Don’t waste energy on things you cannot control.
As you know, in life, there are things that are outside of our control.
But sometimes, we can get caught up in our own head thinking about these things and waste valuable energy on it. If we can’t change it, we need to find a way to accept it or let go because everything we re-engage our thoughts with it, we will lose. That will not add to your mental toughness.
If you cannot control it, accept what is and/or let go.
8. Don’t let others influence your emotions.
This is a tough one but also a big one.
First of all, whatever emotions you experience, it’s important to understand that YOU do these emotions. They don’t just happen to you.
Our emotions are the reaction to how we see the situation.
Our emotions are the result of our interpretation of the situation.
The great news is that we have control over how we interpret any situation and what we make it mean.
If someone cut you off on the motorway, you can interpret it as:
a) They disrespected you and intentionally cut you off – and so you’ll get angry, furious and frustrated.
b) It’s a good reminder that you’re a good person because you’d never do something like this to anyone, unlike them.
Both of these interpretations describe the same situation, but either will make you feel very differently.
When you become more mindful and intentional with your interpretations, you’ll massively increase your mental toughness and resilience.
9. Don’t resent other people’s success.
When I was young, I used to have many negative beliefs about success, wealth and wealthy people. It took me some time to understand I was only doing it to make it easier for me to accept that I wasn’t wealthy or even knew how I could become wealthy. I didn’t realise that these negative beliefs and resentment prevented me from pursuing and working towards becoming wealthy because… well, then I’d become one of those people.
It didn’t take much work for my mindset to shift.
There is a lot of evidence out there of the good successful, and wealthy people do.
Success and wealth only amplify who we really are.
So if you feel resentment toward other people’s success, wealth, or other (good) qualities and accomplishments, check first whether it’s not something you actually want, and the negative feelings are just a protection mechanism to make it easier for you to justify not having it.
This is a very common mind game we play with ourselves.
Keep in mind that you will not pursue and achieve something you resent, despise, or hate.
Be honest with yourself and wish others well. That is mental strength.
10. Don’t shy away from responsibilities.
We often avoid taking responsibility for something because the result then would be up to us.
However, there is a great saying:
“If it’s to be is up to me.”
When you take responsibility into your own hands it will empower you and give you a sense of control.
You’ll then almost certainly apply yourself a lot more than if you felt that the result is up to someone else or the circumstances.
Don’t avoid responsibility. Take pride in being in charge.
It may not always be easy. In fact, it may be scary at times.
But it’s a great way to develop mental resilience and toughness.
11. Don’t give up after the first failure.
No great idea, invention, or physical accomplishment ever succeeded at its first attempt.
If you study the history of any of your favourite brands, companies, or athletes, you’ll find stories of passion, courage, and repeated failures.
Repeated failure until they achieved what they set their mind on. That’s the reality.
Don’t expect things just to work out or succeed right from the start.
Expecting it will just break your spirit right at the first failure, and you’ll quit.
In fact, it’s the hardship that makes success so rewarding and satisfying.
It’s the hardship that will make you feel like you’ve truly earned it.
Through overcoming hardship is where you develop your mental toughness.
12. Don’t fear taking calculated risks.
Taking risks can be scary. But not every risk is equal, and not every risk is a gamble.
Don’t be afraid to take calculated risks where the odds are in your favour.
Taking a calculated risk means being willing to accept the possible loss in exchange for the possibility of winning. Playing these scenarios in your mind will help you develop your mental resilience and deal with failure.
People who never take risks and play it safe are further weakening their mindset because even though they may avoid a possible loss, they also know that they don’t have the courage even to dare.
But to practice taking risks, you don’t have to go to a casino and bet your house in a game of Black Jack. You can practice by taking small risks like trying new restaurants or dishes, new places to visit, and generally going outside of your set routines and safe habits.
There are many more tips and ways to strengthen your mindset and develop your mental toughness. Let me know which of these 12 tips you liked the most or if you’d like me to expand more on this topic.
Thanks for reading.