Have you ever wondered what sets some people apart? Why some reach success and others don’t? Is it luck? Right place, right time?Great skill or talent?Or could it be something known as mental toughness?
Within my counseling practice, I see and hear people everyday who possess the quality of mental toughness. The interesting thing about that though is that they typically can’t see it for themselves. They wouldn’t describe themselves as mentally tough, quite the opposite actually.
Let’s Define Mental Toughness
According to Wikipedia, the definition of Mental Toughness is a collection of attributes that allow a person to persevere through difficult circumstances and emerge without losing confidence.
Let’s examine that a little bit closely but focusing on two key words in that definition: persevere and emerge. Now, I want you to imagine a picture in your mind that would reflect those two words…what is it that you see?
When I think about the word persevere, the image that comes to my mind is of someone running a race. I see them rounding that last corner and feeling that last bit of strength kick in because the finish line is within sight. Sweat is dripping and their muscles are aching, but they begin to sprint because persevering to the end is what matters most.
Now when I think about the word emerge, the image that comes to my mind is of a sprout arising out of the dirt. It’s been reaching for the sunlight and finally was able to burst out of the darkness. After emerging, now it can grow and thrive.
Ok, so now that we have these images in our minds, let’s revisit those clients in my counseling practice whom I mentioned earlier. Are they not in counseling because they are trying to persevere through the challenges they are currently facing and will they not emerge out of their circumstances stronger than when they first entered in? Yes! This is why I am able to see them as mentally tough!
Chances are is that you also possess more of this quality than you might think.
What Message Are You Communicating?
Instead of minimizing and dismissing our strengths and struggles, what if we acknowledged how hard they truly are but then follow up with how we are choosing to persevere and emerge?
I don’t think we will ever really understand the impact we can have on other people. There will always be someone watching and listening to us. The message we communicate to them has the power to inspire or discourage.
Think about that friend that you have who embodies strength. What is it about them that makes them strong? My guess is that they project their mental toughness and don’t allow their circumstances to define them, limit them, or dictate their level of happiness.
We all will face hardships in life; it’s how we react to those challenges that will determine our level of mental toughness.
How You Can Inspire Others
Now you might be thinking that this quality of mental toughness is only for those special people who are super positive all the time or for those people who were born with innate tenacity and grit. But I want you to truly stop and consider that you could also possess this great quality and have the ability to inspire others with just everyday choices. Mental toughness does not always surface in the big moments; it can be seen and displayed in the seemingly insignificant choices as well.
Let’s look at a few examples.
- Perhaps you have a goal of losing weight. Your mental toughness shines through your consistency, not just the completion of your end goal. Others are inspired when they hear you doing extra reps, running outside despite the weather, and saying no to the little temptations along the way.
- Let’s say that you have a goal of paying off all your credit card debt. You display mental toughness by the important boundaries you set in place and your commitment to them. You inspire others by cutting out some of the “extras”, by becoming creative with low to no cost activities, and by valuing and sticking to your budget.
- Perhaps your spouse recently lost their job. Your mental toughness can inspire others when you choose to respond with acceptance and encouragement. Even when you feel you have the right to be angry and/or critical, you remind yourself that it is just a season and believe that you can come out stronger together on the other end.
These are all simple displays of how you are already mentally tough or how you can adjust your choices to increase your capacity of mental toughness. You don’t have to be a famous athlete, a trauma survivor, or a well-spoken leader to possess this great quality.
It’s a learned behavior, but you have to be willing to embrace this mindset.
What do you think the world would be like if we all leaned into our own personal strength a little bit more and chose to persevere and emerge, despite all the hardships that we have to endure in life?
There is no shame in sharing where you have been or what you are currently going through. This moment of vulnerability actually increases your ability to connect and overcome.
Let me share a story with you. I recently sat down to lunch with a good friend. After catching up for a few minutes, she admitted that she just wanted to be real for a moment. She then proceeded to describe how she felt she was failing in her marriage, as a mother, as a Christ-follower, and in her career. She felt overwhelmed, emotional, and kind of stuck.
But you want to know what I found inspiring in all of that?
Her willingness to be open and honest about the hard stuff.
Her perseverance as a wife, mother, Christ-follower, and working woman, despite all of the heavy grievances.
Her ability to admit that she doesn’t have it all worked out.
And last but not least, her ability to have hope in the fact that she would soon emerge out of the darkness.
My friend is a perfect example of the pure definition of mental toughness: a collection of attributes that allow a person to persevere through difficult circumstances and emerge without losing confidence.
My hope for you and me is that we can be just like my friend. We acknowledge the hard, find a way to push through it, and then bask in the belief of the good on the other side.
So now, will you join me in this pursuit to inspire others to be strong with our own aptitude of mental toughness…?