Growing your mental strength
“A mentally strong person knows how to control their thoughts. Instead of letting them run wild, they observe their thoughts and watch them pass. They understand that their thoughts are not who they are. Instead, it’s the actions they take that form who they are. Mentally strong people will call out their thoughts on certain behaviours” (Rachel Sharpe, Declutter the Mind)
Whilst watching international test cricket, I was struck by a specific remark, discussed by many of the commentators, most of whom were cricket stars in the period in which they played — in essence they said: “One of the most important assets of any top batsmen is their mental strength. Yes, their technique and ball sense abilities are crucial, but their mental strength gets them through tough periods of play, helps them deal with criticism or choice comments from the opposition and enables them to focus on and deal with every delivery which comes their way.” Temperament is all important it would seem, especially when one needs to be resilient.
“Mental strength is the capacity of an individual to deal effectively with stressors, pressures and challenges and perform to the best of their ability, irrespective of the circumstances in which they find themselves” (Mental Toughness, Clough & Sewell, 2002). In all professions, not just in sport, mental strength enables calmness under pressure and the confidence to deal with the many challenges that life throws at one. Resilience, and our mental toughness, are often challenged when life circumstances change unexpectedly or for the worse — such as a family death, retrenchment, serious illness, etc. These circumstances, however untimely or serious, do present opportunities for growth, positive changes and even the potential for success if one is able to develop the mental muscles and cerebral fitness needed to triumph.
“Mental Toughness — The “Grit” Behind the 4Cs”, written by I Turner (2017), suggests the following helpful tenets for growing your mental strength:
- Control — the extent to which you feel in control of your life, including your emotions and sense of life-purpose. Whilst no-one can be in total control of their respective lives, this tenet could be likened to high self-esteem and having a good sense of who you are. Such people are less likely to be negatively impacted by the emotions of others, and more led by the belief that they are at least able to influence favourable outcomes.
- Commitment — the extent of your personal focus and reliability. Such people are able to set goals effectively and execute them without getting distracted. Turner suggests that a high commitment level indicates that the person is good at establishing routines and habits that cultivate success.
- Challenge — the extent to which you are driven and adaptable. Such people see challenges, change and adversity as opportunities rather than threats and, as such, are likely to be more flexible and agile than those who suffer from a fear of failure.
- Confidence — the extent to which you believe in your ability to be productive and capable; it is your self-belief and the belief that you can influence others.
Mental strength should be cultivated, preferably from childhood. Teaching should focus on replacing negative thoughts with positive and more realistic ones, emotional intelligence (understanding and managing emotions) and taking positive action steps. Feeling sorry for yourself leads to despair.
Originally published at https://www.stretchforgrowth.com on January 16, 2022.