Do you wonder why it is so hard to resist temptation?
Do you feel like giving up on goals when the going gets tough?
You’re not the only one as perseverance is not an easy aspect to master. Only people who are mentally strong are able to show a great deal of diligence and courage in adverse situations.
Mentally tough individuals consistently achieve relatively higher performance results irrespective of the situation. They appear to be more tolerant to pain and discomfort as compared to mentally weak people.
Building mental strength is, in a lot of ways, similar to building body strength. Simply spare a few minutes every day and perform the following exercises to enhance your mental toughness:
1. Rehearse Mindfulness
The state of mindfulness refers to being in the present. You can’t be in the present if you’re caught up in an event from the past or think too much about forthcoming events. Rehearsing mindfulness also refers to being consciously aware of your emotions and thought processes.
Practicing mindfulness has several long-term benefits. It promotes overall wellness and emotional well-being in an individual. The concept of mindfulness is not entirely new and has been around since thousands of years in Buddhism. Being mindful helps an individual improve his/her working memory and attention.
Exercise: Various exercises can be performed to practice mindfulness. One of the most powerful exercises is to select a natural object from your immediate environment and focus on it for at least a minute or two. The object can be anything – a flower, an insect, the moon or even the clouds in the sky.
All you have to do is look at it and nothing else. Try and relax in harmony as long as you can concentrate. While looking at the object, allow yourself to be completely devoted to it. Look at the object, soak its beauty, examine its formation, and try to connect with its energy.
2. Practice the 4Cs Regularly
Mental toughness is an intriguing concept and various studies are being carried out to effectively improve it. Psychologist Dr. Peter Clough believes that mental toughness can be developed over time through disciplined practice and regular assessment of mental strength in the four core areas of Control, Commitment, Challenge, and Confidence.
Although these four Cs are independent, they’re connected through the concept of mental toughness. Addressing these four core areas allows an individual to scale his/her performance, improve positivity in overall outlook, promote greater well-being, develop a calmer response to stressful changes, and have greater aspirations along with higher perseverance to achieve them.
Among the 4Cs, control refers to having a sense of control on one’s emotions and reactions, and commitment describes the perseverance to stick to the set goals irrespective of adversities. Together, control and commitment make resilience. The third C, i.e. challenge refers to pushing boundaries, and confidence refers to belief in one’s own abilities.
Exercise: The best way to practice the 4Cs is to set goals. They can be both, short and long term. Visualize your goals every day for a minute or two with positive thoughts of achieving them. The effect of focusing on the 4Cs can be effectively measured by a psychometric test called MTQ48.
3. Set aside Time for Self-Reflection
Ambitions can be dangerously consuming. It is easy to lose oneself when trying to fulfill lofty desires. What most people fail to realize is that it is important to be connected to your own self in order to achieve the set goals and be able to enjoy achievements completely. It is imperative to make yourself happy to feel happy for others. This is exactly why setting aside time for self-reflection every day is important.
These few minutes of your time should be independent of meditation or prayer, they must be focused on your goals, behavior, and general state of mind.
Exercise: Whether your goals are meant to be achieved five years from now or just for today, take a few minutes every day and answer the following ten questions:
1) Am I living to my personal mission and core values?
2) Am I behaving like a person others can respect?
3) Am I taking care of my body the way I should?
4) Am I able to utilize my talent completely?
5) Am I performing to the best of my ability?
6) Am I engaging in a worthy activity?
7) Am I giving my family and friends my best?
8) Am I making a positive difference to the world?
9) Am I on the path to my preferred future?
10) Am I meeting the expectations I expect others to meet?
Initially, this exercise may take more than one or two minutes, but gradually, the answers to these questions will become easier. With practice, you’ll be able to lead your life with self-control and proceed on your preferred path.
4. Practice Three Acts of Gratitude
Counting your blessings as opposed to your burdens is the best way to feel happy about yourself. Studies have shown that people who consistently show gratitude are happier and devoid of depression. Gratitude has the power to physically alter your brain and the positive effects enhance immunity and enable better sleep.
Exercise: Devote two minutes every day to scanning the world around you for three new things that you can be grateful for. Do this for 21 days to train your brain to see the world in a new light. You will start scanning the positives around you instead of noticing the negatives. It is the fastest way of treading the path of optimism.
Ensure that when practicing this, the things you’re thankful for are specific, and not generic in nature. For example, being thankful for the love of your child is a generic feeling and cannot be one of the three acts for gratitude.
Being thankful because your child showed his love by lovingly hugging you today, on the other hand, is specific and can be one of the three acts to be grateful for on that day. Also, it is imperative to be thankful for new things every day and not repeat the ones you’ve already thought of.
5. Practice Mental Imagery
When Olympic gold medalist, Lindsey Vonn was asked about her secret to success, she said, “I always visualize the run before I do it. By the time, I get to the start gate, I’ve run that race 100 times already in my head, picturing how I’ll take the turns.” This goes to show that the power of mental imagery can have profound effects on the performance of an individual.
Visualizing yourself doing positive things and overcoming hurdles help in better performance, irrespective of the skill level. Thinking about each step over and over again helps you perform the task in a better manner.
Mental imagery (visualization) skills have been divided into five categories:
1) Motivational-specific: involves imagining yourself winning an event.
2) Motivational general-mastery: involves imagining yourself overcoming a difficult situation.
3) Motivational general-arousal: reflects different feelings such as relaxation, stress and more.
4) Cognitive specific: involves imagining yourself performing specific skills such as sports.
5) Cognitive general: involves imagining strategy and planning in relation to a particular event.
Exercise: To practice mental imagery, it is important to understand its four key elements – relaxation, realism, regularity, and reinforcement. Relax your mind and body, then create an imagery so realistic that it should feel like you’re actually in it.
Ideally, imagining the visual for at least 3 to 5 minutes is good, but even being able to do it for a shorter while isn’t a bad start either. Being regular in your practice will increase your visualization duration. It is important to reinforce the imagery through writing as it helps in planning and timing your imagery training.
Developing mental strength is a work in progress.
While the initial days may seem difficult, developing mental strength will become easier with practice. Stick to your chosen routine with discipline and you may end up creating your own definition of success.