In the Fitness world we often talk about Motivation as the engine to boost your workout and your Gains.
While I agree that it is very important, Motivation and Willpower without Mental Strength will fizzle away very fast.
Mental Strength requires more than just willpower: it requires hard work commitment and perseverance.
It’s about establishing healthy habits and choosing to devote your time and energy on self-improvement.
Developing Mental Strength is easy when life seems simple: true mental strength becomes more apparent in the midst of a tragedy, like the one where are living now in the middle of a pandemic, with countries rioting for human rights and justice.
Choosing to develop Mental Strength will build a fortress in your brain that will prepare you during challenging times while enabling you to tackle your objectives whether they might be career, family or fitness goals.
None of us is born with Mental Strength: just like a muscle in your body you have to train your brain to toughness.
Mentally tough Athletes are more consistent than others: they don’t miss workouts and don’t miss assignments.
Mental Strength can be different for everyone, and that is why I breakdown below 4 steps that helped me define it and that helped me boosting what I call “Brain Gains”:
Define What Mental Toughness Means to You:
For the West Point army cadets being mentally tough meant finishing an entire summer of Beast Barracks.
For you, it might be…
going one month without missing a workout
going one week without eating processed or packaged food
delivering your work ahead of schedule for two days in a row
meditating every morning this week
grinding out one extra rep on each set at the gym today
calling one friend to catch up every Saturday this month
spending one hour doing something creative every evening this week
Whatever it is, be clear about what you’re going after. Mental toughness is an abstract quality, but in the real world it’s tied to concrete actions. You can’t magically think your way to becoming mentally tough, you prove it to yourself by doing something in real life.
Evaluate your Core Beliefs
Core beliefs develop over time and are based on your past experiences.
Sometimes, core beliefs are inaccurate and unproductive. For example, if you believe that you’ll never succeed in life, you may be less apt to apply for new jobs -- and inadvertently, you may not present yourself well on job interviews. Therefore, your core beliefs may become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Identify and evaluate your core beliefs. Look for beliefs that are black and white, and then find exceptions to the rule. Very few things in life are “always” or “never” true. Modifying core beliefs requires purposeful intention and hard work, but it can change the entire course of your life.
Mental Strength requires that you are aware of your emotions and how you can make the best choice to respond to them.
When I started training I truly hated squatting, my mind would steer away from that rack and it was a nightmare to just thinking about it.
It required a great deal of mental strength to train my legs every week, I started experimenting with being uncomfortable.
So much that at one point I started squatting every day at the beginning of every workout: the first 2 weeks the pain was unbearable but after 2 months my legs were bigger and stronger, and my mind was ready for more challenges.
Practice behaving like the person you’d like to become.
Some discomfort is often necessary for greater gain, and tolerating that discomfort will help make your vision a reality, one small step at a time.
Reflect and Document your Progress Daily
Once you evaluated what mental toughness is for you, once you analyzed your core beliefs and once you started getting comfortable with discomfort, then the final step is to document you journey, daily.
Today’s busy world doesn’t lend itself to making much time available for quiet reflection.
Create time to reflect upon your progress toward developing mental strength.
At the end of each day, ask yourself what you’ve learned about your thoughts, emotions and behavior.
Consider what you hope to improve upon or accomplish tomorrow.
Developing Mental Toughness is a constant work in progress, because as individuals we grow and change and mature as the world around us moves forward.
Developing Mental Toughness is also the greatest gift of self love you can give to yourself.
Mental Toughness is about your habits not your motivation: motivation can be fickle, and willpower comes and goes, but the small changes and consistency you apply to your daily routine will make the difference on the long run.