9 Ways You’re Already Mentally Tough

As you know, I think a lot about “mental toughness” and how we can train ourselves to have more of it. But I also think we can get so caught up noticing the times we aren’t mentally tough that we overlook or discount the instances when we are. 

Mental toughness doesn’t have to be reserved for some high-stakes situation where we grit our teeth, put our head down and forge on. In my playbook, at least, it can simply be a moment where we overcome a part of our ego-driven selves — you know, the part that feels frustration, resentment, guilt, worry, anger, envy — and do something that feels uncomfortable but closer to our ideal selves. 

Here are 9 ways you’re already mentally tough:

  1. You get annoyed with someone and treat them kindly anyway. Even a spiritual role model like St. Thérèse had to work on this, and “once broke into a sweat at the effort to conquer her annoyance when a fellow nun made maddening clicking noises during evening prayers.” And my friend Colleen Cannon, founder of WomensQuest adventure retreats, is a master, treating even the most entitled guests with lighthearted patience and humor. 
  2. You stand up for what you think is right even if it might have unpleasant consequences. I’m thinking of the young Disney intern who tweeted a photo of a sign at work instructing employees not to tell visitors about the presence of alligators after an incident where a two year old was attacked, even if it meant she might get fired (she was).
  3. You don’t take it personally. Because you know what football quarterback Tom Brady knows: “A lot of times it’s not about you. It’s how others may feel about themselves and not necessarily about me personally.” (Actually,  Tom, it’s never about you.)
  4. You resist the temptation to say, “I told you so” — that instant hit of gratification just isn’t worth the eroded trust.
  5. You admit you were wrong. Even though it’s painful to imagine the other person jumping all over that, “Yeah, you really screwed up, you moron.” (Then again, they’re probably thinking it, whether you admit it or not.)
  6. You let go of a grudge. You know, because carrying that emotional baggage around affects you more than them; because not forgiving someone is “like drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.”
  7. You feel the urge to lash out during an argument and manage to hold your tongue instead. Because noone’s ever regretted not saying something hurtful to someone they care about.
  8. You say no to someone’s request. That’s it, no apologizing or justifying. 
  9. You speak your truth.  I have clients who work in environments where it doesn’t feel safe to be authentic or vulnerable, but they summon the courage to speak their truth anyway — about the effect of politics on the team, why the new strategy may not be good for the company — when it would be easier to stay quiet and not rock the boat. 

Sure, you may not behave this way, all the time, with everyone. But give yourself credit when you do: that’s mental toughness. 

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