1 HARD THING YOU HAVE TO DO TO BE MENTALLY STRONGER (AND HAPPIER)
By Angel Chernoff
About a decade ago, when I was intensely focused on weight-lifting and physical-strength training, I gradually learned that you can’t be truly committed to any goal if you have a weak mind that’s unwilling to be uncomfortable. To combat this, I wrote two simple questions on two different post-it notes and stuck one on my bathroom mirror and the other inside my gym locker:
- How many workouts have you missed because your mind, not your body, told you that you were too tired?
- How many workout reps have you skipped because your mind, not your body, said, “Nine reps is enough. Don’t worry about the tenth”?
To this day, the answer to both questions is probably hundreds for most people, including myself. Weakness of the mind is a real dream killer, and the only way to fix this weakness is daily practice.
Far too often we think that mental strength is all about how we respond to extreme circumstances. How did she perform on stage during that televised event? Did he bounce back from that heart-wrenching divorce? Can she keep her life together even after suffering from a major, debilitating injury?
There’s no doubt that extreme circumstances test our bravery, determination and mental strength, but what about common, daily circumstances?
Just like every muscle in the body, the mind needs to be exercised to gain strength. It needs to be worked consistently to grow and develop over time. If you haven’t pushed yourself in hundreds of little ways over time, of course, you’ll crumble on the one day that things get really challenging.
But it doesn’t have to be that way…
Choose to lift some weights when it would be more comfortable to sleep in. Choose to do the tenth rep when it would be more comfortable to quit at nine. Choose to create something special when it would be more comfortable to consume something mediocre. Choose to raise your hand and ask that extra question when it would be more comfortable to stay silent. Prove to yourself, in hundreds of little ways, that you have the guts to get in the ring and wrestle with life.
Mental strength is built through lots of small, daily victories. It’s the individual choices we make day-to-day that build our “mental strength” muscles. We all want this kind of strength, but we can’t think our way to it. If you want it, you have to do something about it ritualistically. It’s your positive daily rituals that prove your mental fortitude and move you in the direction of your dreams over the long term.
The bottom line is that when things get difficult for most people, they find something more comfortable to do. When things get difficult for mentally strong people, they find a way to stay on track with their positive daily rituals.
And of course, if you’re struggling with any of this, know that you are not alone. Many of us are right there with you, working hard to feel better, think more clearly, and get our lives back on track.