7 Signs You’re Mentally Tough
“While you can’t control your experiences, you can control your explanations.” — Martin Seligman
“Are you an optimist or a pessimist — and why?”
As a former pro athlete, I had many days and extra reps of optimism and pessimism. Every week, the world would either think you’re a hero or a villain.
But leaning and learning to stay optimistic is one of those things I’ll always take from pro sports, even if my life turns to shit now.
And no, that doesn’t mean I’ve never had negative thoughts.
I have them all the time.
If you can lean into and learn mental toughness, it will improve the quality of your life.
1. The science of learned optimism
“The main tool for changing your interpretations of adversity is disputation. Practice disputing your automatic interpretations all the time from now on. Anytime you find yourself down or anxious or angry, ask what you are saying to yourself. Sometimes the beliefs will turn out to be accurate; when this is so, concentrate on the ways you can alter the situation and prevent adversity from becoming disaster. But usually your negative beliefs are distortions. Challenge them. Don’t let them run your emotional life. Unlike dieting, learned optimism is easy to maintain once you start. Once you get into the habit of disputing negative beliefs, your daily life will run much better, and you will feel much happier.” — Martin Seligman
Thank you, Martin.
The science of optimism says how you speak and what you dispute to yourself matters.
How you talk to yourself and react to things matters. How you take criticism internally. How do you dispute your internal reaction to trauma, adversity, losing, or tough times?
This is optimism in real-time.
Brian Johnson says, “When something happens (whether that thing is good or bad), you can think that it will be either permanent or temporary and either isolated or pervasive. You can also think it was because of something you did or something out of your control.”
What matters is what you think and how you dispute the thoughts and feelings that come into being.
2. Optimists practice living in awareness of the three P’s
Are you taking the events and things that happen to you as permanent? Personal? Pervasive?
It’s not just what you believe about yourself that matters. It’s what you believe about what’s happening to you and how hard you believe it.
Belief is a funny thing.
The most elite athletes in the world — the LeBrons, the Kobes, the MJs, the Sue Birds — put in the work to cultivate a superior belief in themselves.
Disputing the three P’s will grow your mental toughness and optimism. You go through shit, talk yourself through shit, get therapy, cultivate your craft and skills, understand your brain, and figure out how to stop self-limiting patterns of beliefs from growing.
Adversity is temporary, not permanent. It’s usually isolated, not pervasive. And why are you taking it personally, it usually isn’t.
And If you are aware of these invisible Ps, you can start to counteract and disrupt the pessimistic beliefs before they take root.
3. The Best Way to Get Mentally Strong
Interrupt yourself when you start talking shit about what’s happening in your life.
“You can’t do this.”
“Why are you procrastinating?”
“You’ll never make it.”
Interrupt the small shitty voice and replace it with a kind, compassionate, and empathetic one.
This is crucial to learning how to grow courage, optimism, and mental toughness.
4. Become a master of self-awareness
Developing your mental toughness happens in tough times, not easy ones. Great sailors aren’t made when the weather is perfect, they’re made when they weather the storms.
Remember when you feel shitty, or rough, or depressed, or sad, or lost, or confused, or lazy — NOW IS THE TIME!
If you demonstrate perseverance and grit and bravery in times of fear or doubt or loss, you’re building your mental toughness muscle.
If you let it sink you over and over again, you are building the helplessness muscle.
It’s that simple.
Stop letting your ego dominate you, step in and tell it to shut the fuck up once in a while.
5. Cultivate the acceptance of criticism
When I played pro and collegiate hoops, I got criticized by fans, media, coaches, players, and even my agent.
I took my lumps in the professional sports world and had to choose how I’d respond to them.
Remember this saying: “This too shall pass.”
Know that these negative isolated events and words can be erased by a good performance or a hard day’s work.
What you don’t want is one bad day to spread to the other 364.
Don’t take insults or negative feedback personally, just ignore them and move on.
This is mental toughness 101.
6. Stand up for yourself
Defend your boundaries.
Don’t let any negative people or thoughts or ideas into your inner sanctuary unless they help you find a better path.
Being accepting, kind, compassionate, and passive aren’t the same thing.
You can kindly say no to someone that crosses your emotional boundary.
It’s also okay to tell your ego, “Hey man, shut the fuck up, I got this.”
7. Be Here
The next time you interact with someone that isn’t present with you, watch how you respond or how the other person interacts with you.
Most of the time, you’ll notice humans aren’t present in life.
Try to be here.
Set the phone down.
Lean into this conversation, this moment, and you’ll start to grow from the inside out.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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