You’ve heard the stories of incredible mental fortitude, seen the result, and been inspired. It sticks for a day or two, maybe even a week, and then you have to find another source to get your mind game right. But if you can train your body to be jacked and strong, why can’t you train your mind to do the same?
There’s a misconception out there that you have to undergo some incredible hardship or be a chosen one to have that mental fortitude to overcome adversity. The hard truth is that mental strength is a choice you make, not a trait you inherit. So what does it take to join the ranks of the mental elite? Here are the 5 common components shared by those who have a strong mental game.
Failure isn’t the end, it’s an opportunity to grow. True, some failures are going to be much harder to overcome than others, but true strength is gained when you pick yourself up and ask what you can learn from your experience and do better next time. So many people fear failure, and as a result they never achieve anything of merit. You can either choose to be weak, or to push past your fears and put yourself out there regardless of the outcome, to gain knowledge, and be better for the next time.
They set goals and see them to completion.
At some point or another in your life you’ve probably set a goal for yourself, whether it was to get an A on a math final, land a promotion, or hop on stage for a bodybuilding competition. The one detail that separates the mental spartans from the mainstream is that they see their goals to the end. Every. Single. Time.
Anyone can set a goal. It takes serious guts to create a plan, stick to it day in and day out, and see your goal come to fruition. Think about a time you wanted something – and I mean really, REALLY wanted something – and how hard you worked to achieve it.Now think how different your life would be right now if you put that same intensity and effort into every goal you have. After all, if you aren’t working towards something, you aren’t making progress.
They never stop learning.
Just because you graduated ten years ago doesn’t mean you’re done learning. Relax, that doesn’t mean you have to take up calculus or go back to studying ancient Roman history. Learning can range from discovering how your body responds to a certain diet to reading a book on a topic of interest to you. Taking just thirty minutes a day to improve yourself isn’t a lot to ask in the grand scheme of things, yet is a common theme among those whom we consider the smartest and most mentally capable.
Admitting you aren’t perfect and always seeking improvement will help you ease into strengthening your brain. While it may at first seem like a chore, hit the bookstore (or your online shopping venue of choice) and browse the personal development section. Pick a title that looks enticing, commit yourself to ten pages a day, and watch how your mental game improves.
They turn the negative into a positive.
Get written up at work? Girl you’ve been crushing on said no when you asked her out? Drop the bar when you went for your squat PR?
Instead of dwelling on what you didn’t do, think of how you can approach it differently for success. You now know what not to do, so turn it into a strategizing session to get what you really want. As Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Basically, instead of being defeated by your shortcomings, recognize that they are simply a way you shouldn’t go about a process and find a new method to try.
Set boundaries for yourself with negative emotions. Allow yourself to feel the pain for a set period of time, like 24 hours, and then get to work on a new solution. Not only will you keep learning about yourself, you will also get closer to your goals.
They overcome their physical limitations.
This doesn’t mean if you aren’t missing an arm you can’t be mentally strong; it means that when you are at your lowest, when your body is ready to give up, your mind prevails and you push through that last stretch. Whether it’s breaking through the final mile of a marathon or pushing an extra 25lbs on your bench press PR, your mind will always try to give in before your body. When you feel that little voice inside your head telling you it’s too much, when your limbs start to shake, start telling yourself you can do it and watch your body perform past what you thought was possible.
You may have picked up on the common theme, but the prevailing trait the mentally strong share is their ability to turn the stereotypically mundane and negative into an exciting, positive experience. One of the strongest qualities those we consider the mental elite have is their ability to recognize that they aren’t the strongest, the smartest, or the best. They have a lot to learn and they yearn to grow, setting goals even when, to the outside world, they appear to have it all. Ready to keep improving your mind game? Check out part three to put it all together.