“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”
We live in turbulent times. There are fewer guarantees and more uncertainties these days. Thankfully this also means there are lots of opportunities to be had. And if you and I are to overcome the obstacles in our way and seize the opportunities, we’re going to need strong minds.
Mental strength means you understand how to manage your emotions, adjust your thinking, and choose to take positive action, despite your circumstances. It’s knowing deep down that every little struggle is progress. And if you really want it, you’ll do it, despite failure and rejection and the odds. Every step forward will be tough, but will feel better than anything else you can imagine. You will ultimately come to realize that the struggle is not found on the path, it is the path. And it’s worth your while.
Being willing to walk this path of resistance is what mental strength is all about. And it’s something Angel and I cover extensively here on our blog, in our book, and with our course students on a daily basis. Why? Because 90% of our problems as rational human beings are the byproduct of learned mental weakness. In other words, over time we’ve heard a succession of lies from other people about what we need and what we don’t need – about what we can and can’t do – about what is and isn’t possible for us – and we subconsciously believed every word.
What’s worse? We now tell some of these lies to ourselves and we live by them every day.
Which means it’s time for us to unlearn these lies for the sake of our own mental strength:
- It wasn’t supposed to be like this. – We all have an idea in our heads about how things are supposed to be, and sadly this is what often messes us up the most. Realize this. Expect less and learn more. Let go and let life grow you – let it test you. You won’t always understand it and that’s OK. Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does. And then just when you think it can’t get any better, it does. Mentally strong people are appreciative of the obstacles in their path because they know the obstacles are necessary stepping-stones. So keep going, keep growing, and someday you will be able to describe your entire life in just one sentence: “It didn’t go as planned, and that’s OK.”
- Disappointment and sadness are not necessary. – Having an excessive preoccupation with happiness can actually lead to an unhealthy attitude towards negative emotions and experiences. Mentally strong people don’t try to avoid negative emotions – rather, they accept both positive and negative emotions and let these feelings coexist. This is a key component of their resiliency. Trying to be happy 24/7 is futile; we need to focus on being whole instead. Disappointment, frustration, sadness and failure are part of your wholeness – all of these things help make you who we are. Happiness, victory and fulfillment are nice things that also happen to you, but they don’t teach you and help you grow nearly as much.
- This situation is definitely bad. – There’s an adage in the ancient philosophy of Stoicism, “There is no good or bad, there is only perception,” which was later echoed in Shakespeare’s famous quote, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Truth be told, the way we perceive a situation has tremendous power to either help us or harm us. So often, we react emotionally and project negative judgments onto a situation, when the first key to overcoming a challenge is to view things objectively. In the long run, it usually isn’t what you have or where you are or what you’ve been through that makes or breaks you; it’s how you think about it all and what you do next. (Read Man’s Search for Meaning.)
- There’s no hope. – Mentally strong people know the opposite of defeat is not courage; the opposite of defeat is hope. And there’s always hope. When you lose something good, don’t think of it as a loss, but as an experience that gets you back on the path you were meant to travel. Ultimately, the measure of who you are is what you do with what you have at any given point in time. It’s important to remember that you have enough, and you are enough, always. Stay strong. Think clearly. Even when it feels like things are falling apart, they aren’t.
- You don’t really have any other choice. – Have you ever met a happy, successful person who regularly avoids responsibility, blames and points fingers and makes excuses for their unsatisfying lives? Me either. Because happy, success people are mentally strong. They accept responsibility for how their lives unfold. They believe their own happiness and success is a byproduct of their own thinking, beliefs, attitudes, character and behavior.
- Successful people follow the rules. – Break the rules. Don’t break the law, but break the rules. You don’t need to measure up to other people’s benchmarks. The psychological root of most unhappiness lies in external validation, which happens when you try to measure your self-worth based on the opinions of others. But it’s not what others think… it’s what you think about your life that counts. You, and only you, get to decide what kind of life you want to live. Other people’s goals and expectations don’t matter that much in the long-run. (Read Choose Yourself!)
- There is always an easier way. – The path of least resistance is often the path of least reward. You need to do hard things. There are no shortcuts to any place worth going. As Einstein once said, “Genius is 1% talent and 99% percent hard work.” You must run to be a runner. You must write to be a writer. You must actively work on a business venture to learn how to run a successful business. There is no substitute for doing the work. So meditate on this every day: “I will do the work. It won’t be easy. It will be worth it!”
- Now is not the right time. – The right thing at the wrong time is the wrong thing. And when it comes to your goals, later is always the wrong time to do the right thing. Why? Because time is passing. So stop waiting for the right time; it will never come. Make a decision and take a chance. You have to dare to do it, because life is too short to wonder what could have been.
- You need more to be happy. – Mentally strong people know that gratitude is the best attitude adjustment. The more goodness you see, the more you create, and the more good things you have to smile about. Happiness doesn’t start when “this, that or the other thing” is resolved. Happiness is what happens now when you appreciate what you have.
- You need to be perfect to be impressive. – If the face you always show the world is a mask, someday there will be nothing beneath it. Because when you spend too much time concentrating on everyone else’s perception of you, or who everyone else wants you to be, you eventually forget who you really are. So don’t fear the judgments of others; you know in your heart who you are and what’s true to you. You don’t have to be perfect to impress people. Let them be impressed by how you deal with your imperfections. (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Self-Love” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
- You have a great reason to hate them. – The true mark of maturity is when somebody hurts you and you try to understand their situation instead of trying to hurt them back. It’s about forgiveness. And it doesn’t mean you’re erasing the past or forgetting what happened. It just means you’re letting go of the resentment and pain, and instead choosing to learn from the incident and move on with your life. Remember, the less time you spend hating the people who hurt you, the more time you’ll have to love the people who love you.
- Loved ones should always agree with you. – Mentally strong people know that someone who loves you won’t always agree with you just to make you happy. If anything, they will say what needs to be said, sincerely, regardless of whether or not you want to hear it. Why is this good news? Because close relationships grow stronger only when two people are able to share their innermost feelings and thoughts about themselves and each other. To be fully seen by someone in raw form, and be respected anyhow, is what love is. It’s about acceptance and truth over agreement and ruse. And, sometimes, it’s agreeing to disagree and being OK with it.
I want to leave you with this to think about…
In 1914, the great inventor Thomas Edison experienced a devastating hardship. His entire laboratory burned down to the ground, and years worth of his work was ruined. Newspapers described the situation as the worst thing to happen to Edison, but that was a lie. Edison didn’t see it that way at all. The inventor instead chose to see his circumstances as an invigorating opportunity to rebuild and re-examine much of his current work. Edison reportedly said shortly after the fire, “Thank goodness all our mistakes were burned up. Now we can start again fresh.”
Now that’s what I call mental strength!
The floor is yours…
What other self-defeating lies do we often tell ourselves? What’s one self-defeating lie you once believed was true? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts and insights with us.
Photo by: Mark Rochefort