Mental toughness is what makes champions.
That’s what we’ve all been taught anyway. It seems like everyone believes that “tougher” is better. Leaders and coaches are always preaching about how to develop mental toughness and how people need to “toughen up”.
I think there is a huge misconception out there. If you have the wrong idea about mental toughness, your thoughts and actions towards developing it can actually be harmful.
Mental toughness is often associated with:
- The refusal to give in
- Pushing through tough situations
- Psychological or emotional resilience
- Being strong-willed
These attributes aren’t all “bad” or “wrong,” but we gotta be careful with what we are pursuing and why. It’s not in your best interest to to push through pain just to prove something to someone, or to go through challenges alone. Pursuing mental toughness in this way often leads to stubbornness, bullheadedness and and even pridefulness. Being overly “tough” can actually lead to more isolation and other potential problems when its meaning is misunderstood or misinterpreted.
Mental Toughness Mindsets to Avoid
Make sure you avoid these mentalities that are commonly associated with “toughness”.
The “I’m fine” mentality. It doesn’t work so well, believe me, I’ve tried it. Do not be under the assumption that it is cool and tough to not have any problems, pain, hurt, or anxiety. That is the furthest thing from the truth. No person in this world gets by without being hurt, or having to deal with crappy situations in life. Pretending that you have never felt pain or anxiety is not healthy, and it can eat away at your energy and joy. It is impossible to get the most out of yourself when you are hiding, acting and constantly covering things up and shoving them down.
It’s imperative to deal with emotional hurt and go through a healing process. Seek help, reach out to a professional as well as your friends and family members, and ask others for their support. Share your fear, anxiety, and pain as soon as you can to get it off your chest and realize that you’re not alone. It is so much more real, and it will make you much stronger to actually deal, cope, be real, face, share, embrace, relate, open up and begin to realize that we all have similar emotions.
The “I got this, I don’t need any help” mentality. It doesn’t work so well either, believe me, I’ve tried it. If you act like you don’t need any support because you think it’s tougher to act like you can figure it out on your own, you may struggle to connect with others. You also may isolate yourself and become unapproachable to those around you. Your relationships with the people who mean alot to you will suffer, because you won’t be fully open and honest with them.
If you are not fully open with the people you love the most, how can you expect them to be open toward you? If you are a coach, and you act this way, others will find it hard to relate to you and open up to you about their thoughts and feelings. So, open up and ask others for help.
The “constantly on the grind” mentality. It doesn’t work so well, believe me, I’ve tried it too. Don’t be under the misconception that it is “cool” or “tough” to do more and train more than everyone you know. Doing more is not necessarily better. This may lead to burnout, fatigue, stress, or obsession.
High-quality, intense, and focused training sessions will help you improve. Having a strong purpose and staying balanced will make you better. You may actually need to slow down, reassess, and do less in order to really focus and improve.
The “I have to prove something to everyone” mentality. It doesn’t work well either, I’ve been there. Sure, you need to work your ass off to be your best. But, constantly thinking that you need to “prove you’re a badass” and that you are “better than the next guy” can easily turn ugly.
Strength comes from knowing your own purpose, seeking balance, and overcoming obstacles, but not just so you can prove it to everyone else. When you can stay focused on your own journey, you’ll be able to let go of trying to appease others or gain their recognition and attention.
Developing Real Mental Strength and Toughness
Mental strength is about becoming a real badass, someone who’s willing to deal with what most people won’t: physical and mental/emotional discomfort. Someone who is willing to do whatever it takes to get 1% better, healthier and more well-rounded as an individual. Someone who is willing to ask for help when it’s uncomfortable. Someone who is going to be vulnerable or share fears even though that’s abnormal. Someone who will say “no” or actually change directions when the path becomes unhealthy.
You improve your mental strength by facing your fears and working on your weaknesses, in ALL uncomfortable situations that come up in your life. You’ll become stronger when you create more meaning and more purpose in your actions. You’ll gain confidence from trying and learning, even when you fall on your face.
As you build your mental strength, you’ll find it easier to pursue your goals and overcome challenges. You will be able to stay focused on your visions, regardless of what others think. You’ll be able to overcome setbacks and issues in your workplace, relationships, and training. The more you seek uncomfortable situations in one area of your life, the more likely you’ll do it in another.
To be your best at anything (life, work, relationships, sport, fitness), you must attack challenges and uncomfortable situations, and always maintain a strong support system.
Dawn Fletcher has recently been named “1 Of The 30 Most Influential Health Bloggers” and her site MENTALITYWOD.COM is recognized as a “1 of The Top 5 CrossFit Websites.” Dawn is a trusted Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, CrossFit Level 3 Coach, who works with some of the best athletes in the world. She helps driven individuals maximize their potential, so they can perform at the top. Dawn created MENTALITY WOD, the most comprehensive mental training website for CrossFitters and other high-achievers.