It takes three years for fresh recruits to finally become Navy Seals after going through some of the most rigorous training that tests their physical and mental abilities to the limits of human endurance and beyond. It may seem sensible for Navy Seals to develop their mental stamina just as much as they would focus on their physical stamina. But what about the rest of us? And what is mental strength anyway?
While psychology has not always come through with the most reliable definition of mental strength, here’s one that makes some sense. Mental strength is the ability to monitor and regulate your emotions and remain positive irrespective of the circumstances. It is about hard work, commitment and healthy habits that help you in finding the courage within yourself to define your own values and your own definition of success. Here are a few ideas to help you start.
Define your core beliefs
We all develop our core belief system over time that comes largely from experience. These beliefs guide our actions, thoughts, behaviour and emotions during every interaction. Most of us, however, are not fully aware of our own core beliefs.
Identify the ones that you already live by and define new ones that you believe will help you succeed in life. These beliefs may test your conviction to continue working hard at times, but in the end, they will change your life for good.
Power of positive thoughts
We often disregard the amount of time we spend on extremely negative thoughts that hold us back from reaching our true potential by influencing our behavior in every situation. Changing your thought process requires constant self-monitoring, self-awareness, and lot of practice. When we replace such negativity with positivity, we are essentially rewiring our brains to be more productive. You need to reinforce the fact that while you have some weaknesses, you also have plenty of strengths to overcome those weaknesses and succeed.
Putting mental energy to good use
Regardless of what you believe in, there are things you can’t control. Focusing your energy on them will lead to wastage that you’ll have to make up for later on. To counter it, practice spending your energy only on productive tasks and thoughts and the more you practice, the better you get. If you still have any doubts, try Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
Be in command of your emotions
Mental strength doesn’t require you to disregard your emotions. In fact, it requires you to be in command of those emotions to ensure that they don’t control your actions. It requires you to understand when you can behave contrary to those emotions. Practice as much as you can, without forcing yourself into it or judging your own actions. It’s not easy at first, but with practice, you will get better at it.
Monitor your progress
Not many people are in the habit of reflecting on their daily lives. A busy world with tight schedules and responsibilities makes it even harder to do so. Make some time for yourself to reflect on your day, what you learned, and what you want to accomplish. Don’t judge or deride yourself for decisions that didn’t yield desired results. Just stay focused on what’s coming next.
Mental strength is a rare and valuable gift that not many possess. However, we all have the innate ability to build that strength with a little extra effort. It’s not easy to get there and it’s always a work in progress. But the good news is that the room for improvement has no door and anyone who walks in is welcome inside.