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Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Positive Leadership: Mental Toughness

Whether you are an athlete in the Olympics or someone in the boardroom, a certain quality is always found in those who remain standing when the storm winds blow.  When rejection hits these people it bounces off them like hailstones.  They bounce back quickly from setbacks.  They feel energised to try even harder after a defeat.  That special quality these warriors are showing is something called “mental toughness”.  

Wikipedia defines this as “a term commonly used by coaches, sport psychologists, sport commentators, and business leaders – generally describes a collection of attributes that allow a person to persevere through difficult circumstances (such as difficult training or difficult competitive situations in games) and emerge without losing confidence.”

Each of us will receive a hit at some point in our lives that knocks the wind right out of us.  Rather than sitting around complaining when we are being pelted by chunks of hail the size of golf balls, we can put on a suit of armour to deflect whatever life throws as us.  That suit of armour is your mental toughness.

You can’t measure mental toughness; you measure its effect.  You can’t measure what’s going on inside a leader’s head, but you sure can measure their behaviour!  You can see mental toughness when someone is running a marathon and they are gasping for breath, and the only thing keeping them putting one painful footstep in front of the next is their strength of will.  You see it when someone is totally exhausted, yet they keep throwing hundreds of shots into the basketball hoop to perfect their free throw. Mental toughness is courage in action.  When you’ve got it, you cope better than your opponents with the demands you face.

How do we develop mental toughness?  Here are a few principles to get you started:

Principle #1: Realise Mental Toughness Can Be Developed.

Some people might be born with a certain personality that seems to handle adversity a little more effectively than others.  But that’s not always the case, and either way, anyone can develop this side of their personality.  Don’t avoid the issue by selling yourself any victim thinking, like “That’s just the way I am.”  How do you build mental toughness?  The same way you build muscles in the gym: by pushing yourself to new limits and increasing the pressure or resistance you are pushing against.

Principle #2: Mental Toughness in the Gym Correlates to Mental Toughness in Life.

The gym is the ultimate proving ground for “tough guys”. You really find out what you’re made of in the gym.
You don’t become successful at anything by letting your foot off of the pedal when the going gets tough.  This includes the gym and your business.  When it hurts to do even one more rep of an exercise, that’s when the real muscle development starts! If you throw in the towel on the bench press, you train your brain to quit when things get tough.  When you force yourself to keep pushing the weight even when you want to give up, you are training your brain to keep pushing. 

Principle #3: Champions Fall in Love with Discomfort.

Winners know that the path to success is steep and rocky, and the path to defeat is like a sign pointing at a waterslide that says, “Slippery, Fun and Easy to Reach the Bottom in a Jiffy!”  Bad habits are easy to slip into, like a warm bed when you’re exhausted.  Good habits are pretty much guaranteed to feel tough for most people because you end up denying yourself luxuries and pleasures. You must learn to do what is uncomfortable for you. To develop the psychological edge, you must have extreme discipline to give up the comfort zone that you train and live in. Delaying immediate satisfaction is the ultimate sacrifice that all warriors must choose.


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