How to Develop Mental Toughness

by | Jun 7, 2022 | Mindset

When it comes to mental toughness, we tend to think in terms of fitness or within sports arenas. Athletes and trainers preach the importance of being able to push past obstacles while keeping their competitive edge. But while mental toughness is important from an athletic standpoint, it’s even more important in everyday life. 

Charles R. Swindoll once said, “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it.” This quote teaches us that so much of our lives depend on our mentality. Sure, it’s easy to keep a strong mindset when life is going great, but it’s even more crucial to keep that strength when challenges come our way. Here are a few things you can do to develop your mental toughness. 

Keep your perspective.

When things don’t go the way you expect, it’s easy to completely lose sight of the bigger picture. But having the ability to keep your perspective is a key aspect of mental toughness.  

There are a couple things you can do to practice keeping perspective. Jennifer Carter, PhD, at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center says she reminds herself to think beyond this moment in time by using advice that her mom gave during her college swimming years. “An upcoming race felt like life or death. My mother helped me one time by asking, ‘Will you even remember this race in one year?’”  

Perspective is all about recognizing the difference between the big things and the small things (a.k.a. the things that will make a difference in the long run, and the things that won’t). Don’t sweat the small stuff—it may be cliché, but it’s true.  

Set goals you’re passionate about.

Angela Duckworth, researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, spent some time studying cadets at the military academy, West Point. Her goal was to predict which cadets would stay in military training and which would drop out.  

Initially, you would probably think that the cadets who stayed in training were the ones who were the biggest, strongest, or smartest. However, what she found was that those who succeeded were the ones who had the most grit and passion for their long-term goals. 

This leads us to an important lesson in mentality. If you’re not completely passionate about what you are doing, it’s going to be very hard for you to stay mentally tough when you come across obstacles. Make sure you’re truly committed to reaching your goals, no matter what it takes. Think about what your goals are, how you’re going to reach them, and WHY they’re your goals in the first place.  

Change the way you think about adversity.

Mentally tough people don’t just show up to face their problems, they thrive on them. They welcome them as an opportunity to prove how resilient they are. Many of us have adopted the mindset that we should shy away when issues arise, but what would happen if we were willing to meet them head-on? 

A mindset refresh won’t happen overnight. It takes practice and dedication. Most importantly, it takes commitment to get comfortable being uncomfortable. If you find yourself constantly responding to issues negatively, practice taking a more positive approach. Teach yourself to be grateful for adversity, because without it, you would not be able to appreciate all the good things in your life.  

Some people might think mental toughness is something you’re either born with or you’re not. What they don’t realize is that with the right amount of determination, you can build it. While building it can take time, there are things you can do today to get started: 

  • Notice the way you respond to negativity and do your best to remain positive.
  • Embrace time spent by yourself.
  • Keep your attention focused on long-term results instead of quick fixes.

Looking for tips on finding your “why” in life? Read our blog post for two simple questions to help you out!

Glen and Joya Baker smile for the camera, surrounded by their children.
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