A friend recently asked me how I became mentally strong.
He asked because over the past few months he’s seen me adapt to a set of challenging circumstances. The cause of this necessary change was not of my own doing. It was the fallout from the poor choices of another.
In the immortal words sung by Gloria Gaynor, “at first I was afraid, I was petrified.” I was having to accept a new reality that was unfamiliar and unwelcome. My mind kept shouting, “I don’t accept this. This is not a reality I want to deal with.” Anger, resentment, feelings of betrayal and injustice; they all bubbled in my heart like boiling water.
And yet, I rose to the challenge (and continue to rise).
Adapting to my new reality did require mental toughness. And as I’ve pondered my friend’s question, I’ve come up with five things which help me to be mentally strong.
1. Strong Principles
If you’ve ever seen a grape vineyard, you may have noticed that the branches of a vine grow along metal wires that are elevated above the ground. These wires “train” the vine to grow upward and outward so it gets plenty of air and sunshine, and produces the best grapes possible.
Just as elevated wires “train” a grape vine to grow upward and outward, strong principles train the mind along mindsets that elevate, expand, and empower.
For the past 20 years I’ve studied strong principles for an hour a day. That’s 175,200 hours of training my mind along the paths of strong principles. The result has been that the principles are planted in my heart, and my mind runs along their course.
In truth, my mind isn’t strong. The principles are strong. I’ve just wrapped my mind around strong principles and those principles bolster my mind up. So when challenges come my way, my mind is able to stand firm because of the strong principles which guide it, and hold it up.
2. Emotional Endurance
If you’re going to run a marathon, you must build up your physical endurance. If you want to be mentally strong, you must strengthen your emotional endurance. Without emotional endurance, the mind crumbles under negative feelings and emotions.
When I was in high school, I had the emotional endurance of Eeyore. Like the sad little donkey from Winnie the Pooh, when something upset me in a negative way, I would get so upset I’d forget to be happy.
Over the years, I’ve experienced breakups, disappointments, a broken engagement, job layoffs, financial hardships, divorce, and mistakes. Each tested my limits.
My emotional endurance has increased because I’ve endured pain and challenges. Time and again, when things have “gone wrong,” I’ve had to learn how to best manage my emotions. In doing so, I’ve been able to stay mentally strong as well.
Being mentally strong requires you exercise ownership over Self. That means taking responsibility for your feelings, mindset, words, and actions. It also includes discerning when not to take responsibility.
When you have a sense of ownership over Self, things out of your control stop being personal. This allows you to take the position of a “third seat observer” and to be more objective about things. This doesn’t mean feelings and emotions go away. Rather, it means you are able to hold space for those feelings and emotions without being blinded or carried away by them.
4. The Power of Choice
Everything that is happening to you is part of your story, and you have the power to choose how the story goes. Things beyond your control may happen to you. But you always have the power to choose how you will act and think, and what the outcome will eventually be.
One of the most mentally debilitating choices you can make is to complain. Complaining literally wires your brain to be weak. On the other hand, choosing gratitude helps you to be mentally strong. Gratitude turns your attention to what is, rather than what isn’t. From this perspective, you are able to be more creative and action oriented.
When I was going through divorce, there was a moment when I focused on all the negative aspects. I felt overwhelmed and depressed, and I began to believe that the singular incident of divorce was going to brand me and define who I was for the rest of my life.
Thankfully, in another moment, a moment of clarity, I realized what was happening, and I chose to not be defined by one experience. I remembered that I choose who I am.
More recently, with this new reality I’ve come to accept, I didn’t want to do so initially. As I said before, my mind wanted to reject the new reality. But the power of choice allowed me to come to grips with what was unfolding before me, and to choose how I was going to proceed. I chose to rise.
5. Confidence and Trust
Confidence and Trust are two sides of the same coin.
Confidence is built on past experience. Think back on all the hard things you’ve endured. Remember how time and time again you’ve been supported, and guided, and helped. So far, you’ve survived all of your worst days.
Doesn’t that give you confidence?
Confidence is strongest when it rests on the Source of support, and guidance, and help. Call it God, the Universe, Light and Love. Whatever you will. When you notice that power in your life, and when you recognize its presence throughout the fabric of your existence, then your confidence begins to grow strong because you realize you are never alone.
On the flip side, Trust is built on hope. The hope of a better tomorrow. The hope that help is on the way. The hope that you can do hard things. The hope that all things will work for your good.
Your confidence may be shaken, but your trust can carry you through. Especially when placed on the most trustworthy of all. (Yes, I’m talking about God).
Armed with confidence and trust, you are prepared to adopt states, mindsets, and actions necessary for a favorable outcome.
If you want to be mentally strong, work on:
- Wrapping your mind around Strong Principles,
- Developing Emotional Endurance,
- Taking Ownership of Self,
- Exercising the Power of Choice, and
- Building your Confidence and Trust.
THANK YOU FOR READING!
Everything I write is with the goal of helping others. If you thought of someone while reading this post, please share it with them. It might help them out.
If you would like to learn how to be mentally strong, please visit my website for more information.
(Top Photo by Vance Osterhout on Unsplash)
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