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5 ways to build mental strength and toughness

Do you lack mental toughness? Is it a quality that you want to own? Mental toughness or mental strength can be developed, through practice. Changing the way you function in your day to day life can help you become mentally strong.

The dictionary describes 'Mental Toughness' as "a measure of individual resilience and confidence that may predict success". But, it is not a quality that is either inherently present or absent in individuals. Mental toughness is an attribute that can be developed.

You will come across people with better self-discipline and willpower than you. You will meet individuals who show greater restraint than you. These individuals could not have been born with these qualities, they undoubtedly made a conscious effort to develop these qualities through sheer determination, grit and discipline. It is a combination of all these qualities that builds and improves mental toughness.

You will not find a magic potion that you can use to infuse mental strength in you. Mental strength is an art, and you have to master the art, through practice. A few changes in your attitude and how you deal with situations can bring about tremendous improvement in your mental strength.

Here are five steps that you can adapt to develop mental strength -

Always assume a position of control

A quote I found on a cousin's WhatsApp status, resonates with how I feel about life. It read, "Pray as if God will take care of all; act as if all is up to you."

I find this so true of life - when you seize control over things that define you, your action can galvanise newfound strength and passion in you.

A lot of people leave things to chance. When things work out, they feel that their prayers got answered, and if they do not, they then hope for good fortunes to shine on them, the next time. They leave everything to fate. When you attribute your successes and failures to luck, you literally own up to a lack of dedication on your part. It is your effort that gives you success, and it is your indolence that can bring about your downfall.

Successful people do not rely on dame luck. If you read about big achievers, you will find that they strived for success and made things turn in their favour – it was their commitment that brought them success. They react to their successes and failures, as of their own making. Whether it is success or failure, they believe it was them that caused it to happen.

Lesson for you

Don't be beguiled by theories of luck. Nothing can or should be credited to destiny. Success is nothing but an outcome of your efforts. You know you can change fortunes through your own initiatives. And, remember you cannot direct luck and make it work in your favour, but you can influence results through your dedicated effort.

Know when to walk away

"You've got to know when…to walk away, and know when to run"

The lines of this Kenny Roger's song holds a valuable lesson. We must know when it is time to let go and move on.

How you deal with situations demonstrates your mental strength. What does that mean? Believe that nothing is impossible but know that not everything is possible. Step aside from matters that you have no ability to impact or control. Why waste your energies and time on futile exercises, when you can accomplish something more constructive?

Imagine focusing all of your energies on something that you cannot influence. Do you think it'll help you become productive or achieve strength?

In my interactions with people, I see some become over excited or agitated over issues. Yes, it's fine to feel strongly about things, it is fine to make the effort to change the situations but testing your abilities and trying to change everyone around you might not work. You have a limited supply of mental strength, why exhaust it on trivial matters when you can put it to better use? Why spend your energies in trying to resolve things out of your control?

Let me take the environment issue as an example. I am concerned with the damage that we are causing to the environment and speak up when I have to. I practice the three Rs – recycle, reduce and reuse. But, I don't join the placard-waving, slogan shouting and dharna holding activists. It is not for me to force a change in the people around me, not through these means. I can teach through my actions.

Lesson for you

Set your limits; know your limits and act accordingly. Don't stress yourself in trying to champion every cause. Push yourself but know your limits too.

Don't anchor onto the past

Do not remain anchored to the past. Living in your past glories can be your biggest folly. View the past as a valuable experience from which you learnt significant lessons, and nothing more.

See the past for the way it helped you grow. If there were mistakes made, learn from those episodes. If others around you made mistakes learn from them too. If you achieved successes, learn from those journeys. Absorb all the lessons that you can from your failures and successes but let go of the feeling of anguish or joy.

Don't let failures dishearten you and don't let success go to your head. We spend too much time mulling over things that went wrong and too much time gloating over our victories. What happened in the past is not what defines you. They are nothing but training sessions; think over what happened, pick up pointers that can help you perform better the next time – use them as learning tools.

Lesson for you

Change your outlook and look at all things as an opportunity. When things go wrong, look at it as an occasion to educate yourself and improve your performance. When things go right, be happy. Recognise the factors that lead to your success, and apply them to achieve your next goal.

Be enthusiastic over others success

Resentment and bitterness can actually sap you of all your energy. Resentment is a negative emotion and it creates negative energies. It can pull away huge volumes of mental energy and cause a strain on your mental, physical and emotional health. Why allow something negative to take charge of you – all the time and energy that is spent in being resentful can be fruitfully applied to better things.

When someone achieves something, be happy for them, share their joy, be part of their happiness. You'll feel so much better. You'll draw positive energies from your interactions and be better able to concentrate on your own affairs. However, if you let resentment smoulder, it will consume you and not allow you to concentrate on your goals. Don't let another success preclude you from achieving something great yourself.

Lesson for you

Don't be bitter over someone else's accomplishments. Be around them and imbibe their good qualities. Being in their company will change you, and you'll soon find yourself tasting success because you'd have learnt so much through your interactions.

Limit your choices

Having to choose from a multitude of choices can have adverse effects. We have a restricted stock of mental energy – and we often use it for exercising restraint and willpower. The more choices we have the more use we make of our mental faculties to sift and decide on a choice. It puts more strain on the brain. Do we have the time and energy to do that?

When you are caught in a busy day, where every hour is precious you won't usually find time to decide or make the right choices. This results in taking shortcuts. When you're exhausted and occupied the mind is more prone to think, 'to heck with it'.

It becomes the trigger that makes us lose focus and become reckless and impulsive. And, we end up making the easiest (read silliest) decision, without weighing and measuring it. We lose the capability to rationalise - it is a sign that all of our mental energies are burnt and exhausted.

Here is an example of limiting choices – say you are in the habit of constantly checking the notifications on your phone or struggle from continually sifting through your inbox. Why not turn off the notifications alert and check your mailbox at a fixed time, instead of at short regular intervals.

Lesson for you

Remember, allowing yourself innumerable choices can sap you of mental energy – they are a foe to your mental agility. Be in control of the choices you make. But, don't make it about willpower, you mustn't have to use restraint through self-control, instead make it a choice.

Is there anything that you practice to remain in control? Share your tips with us.

Article by Juana
Juana is a freelance writer, with years of experience, creating content for varied online portals. She holds a degree in English Literature and has worked as a teacher and as a soft skill trainer. An avid reader, she writes on a variety of topics ranging from health, travel, education and personality development.

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