Mental strength is necessary in pretty much every part of life. It’s what keeps you going when that little voice tells you how much nicer it’s be to lay on the lounge with a pizza and a beer, but how else can it help us, and how can we get mentally tougher?
Former Australian Cricket Captain Steve Waugh once famously said that mental toughness was “Not giving in to yourself”. The team that Steve Waugh led has been considered one of the best of all time. They were famous for their mental toughness, and the ability to cause “mental disintegration” in their opponents. The other team would sometimes simply collapse in the face of the Australian attack, and the self-belief the team had meant they could find a way to win when all hope seemed loss to even the staunchest supporters.
Your mind is stronger than your body
As we all know, your mind will want to quit long before your body does. Every ache is amplified and it seems like you can’t continue. Some people call this “The wall”, the point where every part of you seems like it wants to give up and you can’t think of a good reason to continue.
It could be a physical challenge, a mental one, a recreational, personal or professional moment where every thought you have says you should quit. It’s too hard, too big or too complex. In the middle of this though, is that tiny voice, that little part of you that tells you that you can do this. That you will not be defeated. Not here. Not now.
Being mentally tough means finding that little voice and listening to it when it says it wants to take just one more step, to do one more lap, to fill the next sixty seconds with distance run. it’s the part of you that just Will. Not. QUIT!
Getting mentally tough
How do you get mentally tough? That’s the funny part. It’s not something you need to find or make, you have it already. The human body is an amazing survival machine. You are built to adapt to the challenges thrown at you, whether it’s temperature, stress, pain, discomfort, hunger or anything else in your environment. It’s only your mind that might have trouble with the situation. Your body says “Relax, I got this”.
Mental toughness isn’t restricted to athletics. From mothers giving birth to senior citizens trying to figure out an iphone, there’s always part of us that wants to say it’s all too hard, and give up. Naturally it’s a bit easier for Grandad to toss the iphone than it is for a mum to call it quits in the middle of labour, but the mental process is the same.
Working you willpower
Keep putting yourself in situations where you’re uncomfortable, where you’re challenged and under pressure. It doesn’t have to be a life or death situation, just put a time limit on how long it’ll take you to finish a project, or how many push-ups you can do, heck, how fast you can write an article! Just make sure that no matter what happens -interruptions, pee breaks or other circumstances- that you don’t let yourself quit. No matter how justified, understandable or valid your reason, be stubborn and stick to it anyway.
Each time you succeed, you build confidence in your abilities. You become used to going beyond what’s comfortable and safe. You don’t give up easily, and eventually, you don’t give up at all.
That is the true secret to mental toughness; you cannot ever truly be defeated if you never quit. You just keep coming back again and again until you succeed. Be the champion you know you can be.