Dr. Deb’s Mental Health Vitamin: How to be mentally tough
By Dr. Deb Wade
GCU Vice President, Counseling and Psychological Services
“Shatter your limits!”
“Crush your goals!”
“Believe it … Achieve it!”
Have you ever set an important goal for yourself, then put inspirational quotes all around you for motivation? Great idea!
I believe that goals are more easily accomplished when one first works on mental toughness and strength, even if the goal is a physical one. Why? Because the environment around us can be full of deterrents to our goals if we allow them to have merit. Let’s look at an example:
Perhaps you have set a goal of running a marathon. Some may ask you if your body is equipped to run a marathon or if you have really thought through this endeavor.
Did you know that talent and intellect are not nearly as important as your mental toughness when trying to challenge yourself with a new goal or performance? In fact, studies have shown that these two variables are only 30% responsible for your achievements – and that is a high estimate – whereas mental toughness can absolutely enhance the probability of tackling a goal.
Perhaps you have seen a naturally gifted athlete who is only using part of his/her potential, seemingly squandering talent. On the other hand, you have seen an athlete who may have fewer natural gifts but who is so determined to excel that nothing gets in the way, and he/she gets the very most out of performance.
I believe this is great news because we can’t change our genetics, but we absolutely can develop and foster mental toughness, which is 100 percent within our control! How is that possible?
- Mental toughness is about grit: A “pop word” in today’s vernacular that means perseverance, passion and unalterable commitment. Being completely focused on the goal, working hard to achieve it and disallowing any deterrent will fuel passion which will, in turn, continue to fuel commitment and hard work.
- Mental toughness is about consistency: Develop your vision and do not allow anything to derail it. For example, “I’m too busy to run today,” or “People are telling me that too much running will damage me,” or “There have been so many interruptions in my day that I can’t afford to run today” are external excuses that need to be corralled. Consistent pursuit of your goal will eliminate the minutiae that can tend to rob your vision of its completion.
- Mental toughness is about quieting the inner excuse-maker: “It’s OK if I cheat today and not run” or “I just don’t feel like working out today” or “I could really use some extra rest today and can make it up tomorrow” are excuses that we can allow to take over our brain. Choose to do it anyway!
- Mental toughness is about quieting the naysayers: Sometimes well-meaning friends can put enough negative energy into the air that you can begin to believe it. Just don’t!
- Mental toughness is about feeding your brain positive messages: Disallow self-denigration but instead feast on positive inspiration, read about other overcomers and align yourself with those whose devotion and commitment to excellence in performance is their daily mantra.
So, about that marathon … you can do it! Your body will listen to your brain.
When you are mentally tough, when you disallow negative inner dialogue or negative external dialogue, and when you are consistent, persistent and relentless in your pursuit of the goal, a passion for completion will develop that NOTHING can every derail! Double-tie those running shoes and go for it!