11 Habits of Mentally Strong People
8 Minutos de Leitura
The world is the great gymnasium where we come to make ourselves strong.”
- Swami Vivekananda
I like to observe people. When I’m walking around I wonder what other people are thinking. What are they worried about, longing for, and how are they responding to the challenges life handed them?
What makes some people face life head on, embrace every challenge they come across and what makes others run away from difficulties and challenges?
We all think of mental strength when we come across major lows in life, unemployment, a bankruptcy, a divorce, the death of a loved one.
But about the mental strength that we all need in everyday life? The capacity to lean into discomfort, to difficulties, to choose the right thing over the easy thing to do, to chose the long-term well-being over the short-term gratification.
Mentally strong people stand out from the crowd. They’re not numb, they walk around with a different conviction and vitality, with a quality that’s hard to identify but even harder to miss.
Becoming mentally stronger is not out of reach, here is a set of strategies and habits that build mental toughness.
1. They practice acceptance
“The boundary to what we can accept is the boundary to our freedom.”
- Tara Brach
Mentally strong people face reality. This is one of the things that sets them apart. They don’t deny or avoid the truth of their circumstances, but they also don’t blow them out of proportion.
Being mentally strong is about acknowledging exactly where you are and accepting it. Knowing that your capacity to accept the uncomfortable truth of reality is what allows you to move toward better circumstances.
2. They’re emotionally agile
“Emotional agility means having any number of troubling thoughts or emotions and still managing to act in a way that aligns with your values.”
- Susan David
If you can handle yourself and your emotions you can handle life. Ultimately, what people fear most is not events in themselves, but how they will react and what it will do to them.
Mentally strong people are able to show up to all their emotions and experience a wide array of feelings without being overwhelmed by them. And because they show up to their emotions, they trust that they can handle any challenge they come across.
People that avoid difficult emotions are reinforcing their lack of trust in themselves and perpetuate a cycle that breeds mistrust.
3. They’re flexible
“Things change, we need flexibility to ensure that we change too.”
- Susan David
In psychology, we refer to behaviors not as right or wrong but as adaptive or maladaptive. Maladaptive behaviors are insensitive to context. It’s reacting the same way over and over again, regardless of how different the circumstances are or how effective that behavior has proven.
Adaptive responses are sensitive to context. Mentally strong people are able to assess each situation and choose the appropriate behavior even if that entails thinking and acting in new ways. They’re not stuck in rigid ways of acting and thinking.
4. They’re fully accountable for their lives
“At the end of the day, you are solely responsible for your success and failure. And the sooner you realize that, and accept that, and integrate that into your work ethic, you will start being successful. As long as you blame others for the reason you aren’t where you want to be, you will always be a failure.”
- Erin Cummings
Assigning blame and responsibility for your life to outside circumstances and other people is handing your power to them.
Mentally strong people hold themselves accountable for every area of their lives, they understand their focus needs to flow towards the things they can control and they’re flexible enough to adjust when things outside their influence zone interfere with their plans.
5. They examine and define life on their own terms
“An unexamined life is not worth living.”
Part of mental toughness is having your own ideas and beliefs about life and success. If you’re chasing someone else’s definition of success, you’ll never feel truly fulfilled.It takes courage to say “this is what I want for myself,” and it takes, even more, courage to actually do something about it. The easy option, however, leads nowhere worthwhile, so choose courage.
Grab a pen and paper and write down your own definition of success and exactly how you want to live your life.
6. They’re guided by their values
“When clearly defined, your values will simplify your decision-making process and will create fertile soil for you to flourish.”
- Christie Inge
If you’re clear on your values making decisions is a lot easier. It’s a matter of assessing whether or not the decision you’re making is aligned with your values and long-term goals.
You’ll spend less cognitive resources, that you can use to take action steps that will help you achieve your goals, which builds up your mental strength.
7. They’re aware of their strengths and weaknesses
“An arch consists of two weaknesses, which, leaning on each other, become a strength. “
- Leonardo Da Vinci
Ah, the strengths and weaknesses part... If you research this topic you’ll find different takes on it: from only focusing on strengths, to working hard to overcome weaknesses. It’s both. But it is really about awareness.
Mentally strong people are highly aware of their strengths and they use them to their advantage. But they’re not oblivious to their weaknesses, they acknowledge their areas of improvement not from a place of inadequacy but of acceptance.
8. They have clear boundaries
“Boundaries are a part of self-care. They’re healthy, normal and necessary.”
- Doreen Virtue
A huge part of mental strength is about having clear boundaries and communicating them assertively. When you don’t have boundaries your mental energy flows towards figuring out how others are going to behave towards you, which you have no control over.
When you have boundaries, you don’t need to worry about that, you know you’ll be able to speak honestly when boundaries are being trespassed and ultimately distance yourself from people incapable of respecting them, which brings your attention back to where it belongs, you.
9. They take care of themselves
“The relationship you have with yourself sets the tone for every other relationship you have.”
- Jane Travis
People often think of mental strength as this monumental task that involves major changes. When, in reality, little tweaks in daily habits can have a big impact.
Strong people take care of themselves by eating healthy, exercising, resting and getting enough sleep. They know this is what allows them to show up at their best.
When their needs are attended to, they’re more patient, focused and better able to respond to life’s challenges and demands.
10. They develop their skills
“The world is a university and everyone in it is a teacher. Make sure when you wake up in the morning you go to school.”
- Bishop T. D. Jakes
When you don’t have goals, a purpose, a mission or a hobby you lack something that structures your attention and focus and you drift through life, making it easier to engage in unhealthy habits that steal away your mental strength.
Strong people invest in developing their skills because they’re committed to a mission or purpose that will benefit from those skills. By directing and structuring their focus, they build mental strength.
11. They focus on how they can help others
“Helping others is the way we help ourselves.”
- Oprah Winfrey
People will only go so far for themselves. But for a loved one, a community who looks up to them, a student, a mission, a deeply held purpose...they will summon the kind of mental strength that we write books and make movies about. That’s what unlocks strength they never knew they had.
The strongest people are not self-absorbed, their gaze is locked on something bigger than themselves, that’s where they draw their power from.
Wrapping it up
Instead of asking how strong you are, ask yourself how you can become stronger. Which of these habits do you resonate most with? What other habits help you build your mental toughness? Please share your thoughts because you never know who you might end up helping.