A few weeks ago, as I re-watched “Last Dance,” a documentary on Michael Jordan’s career, Jordan’s mental toughness inspired me. Many elite athletes had the talent to compete but what set Jordan apart was his mindset, one that would not accept failure, one that would not settle for anything less than pushing through all obstacles. Much of the documentary made me reflect on my leadership attributes, particularly my mental toughness. I questioned, “Do I have the ability to overcome all obstacles, push past failures, and face down adversity with positivity and confidence? What is the strength and resiliency of my mindset”?
To be highly successful, you must be mentally tough; it’s what separates those who are good from those who are great. Elite leaders must overcome negative setbacks, mistakes, burnout, and stress. They must push aside doubt and banish negative self-talk. Developing mental toughness will not only help leaders overcome sub-par performance, but it will also help them build resilience and grit.
How do you develop mental strength?
Having a positive mindset is a fundamental attribute. You don’t have to convince yourself that life is always filled with rainbows and unicorns or ignore negative feelings, but you must believe that there is always a silver lining no matter what life throws at you. It’s knowing that you will be stronger because of the challenge, not despite it. It’s about seeing the best in others and believing in positive outcomes.
Believe in Yourself
As famed American surgeon, Maxwell Maltz said, “Low self-esteem is like driving through life with the handbrake on.” Mentally tough people believe in themselves and are self-confident; they don’t think they might succeed; they know they will succeed. We all have moments of self-doubt, and when you do, take action and push through it. You’ll gain confidence by doing hard things over and over.
Never Be a Victim
Mentally tough people never blame others for what life throws at them; instead, they take full responsibility for everything that happens in their lives. Why? Because doing so is self-empowering. Step into this responsibility and take charge of your life; you will build your confidence and overcome your self-limiting beliefs.
To build mental toughness, you must continually expand your competency zone – or in other words – get out of your comfort zone. Relentless pursuit of greatness is not a linear path. There will be ups and downs. The more obstacles you overcome and failures you face up to, the more resiliency you will build and the more confident you will be as you expand your competency zone – the best definition of mental toughness, in my opinion.
Develop a Support System
Successful people know that they can’t go it alone and are committed to developing a solid support system. Mentors, teammates, sounding boards, cheerleaders, and accountability buddies are part of every successful person’s repertoire. Surround yourself with positive people who believe in you but who will hold you accountable by being honest with you no matter what.
Do the Work
Stop making excuses and get to work. The only way to get good at doing hard things is by doing hard things and the only way to develop mental toughness is by doing hard work. Stick with it and push through difficult situations. Be willing to do more than the next person.
Developing mental toughness is not about eradicating your weakness nor is it about being cold-hearted towards yourself and others; it’s about self-awareness, dedication, and cultivating an “I can do anything” mindset. It’s about persevering in the face of adversity, taking on every challenge life throws at you with curiosity, resolve, and self-compassion. It’s about taking risks and building self-confidence. The more you practice being mentally tough, the tougher your will becomes.
In closing, I’ll share my favorite Michael Jordan quote. “If you’re trying to achieve, there will be roadblocks. I’ve had them; everybody has had them. But obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”
Like this? Consider listening to my podcast interview with Brandon Webb, former Navy Seal on how to master your fear.