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Building mental toughness – The one secret and five considerations

I have seen many high performers. Some of them had talent, there’s no denying that some of them were gifted, but I also saw gifted guys that couldn’t perform under pressure or in arduous conditions. This got me to thinking about the character traits that the higher performers had or the things that they were doing that the others weren’t.

The higher performers seemed to be mentally tougher. They were able to endure more. They were less affected by longer training sessions, and surprisingly they were less affected by the mundane tasks. They didn’t sweat the small stuff as much and they just rolled with changing situations.

So, how then does a person become mentally tougher than someone else? I think that’s actually really easy to answer.

Consistency is the secret and building daily habits and rules is the key to developing mental toughness. If you are able to get through your day with most mundane things just happening on autopilot it makes it easier for you when there is a situation that requires you to be resilient and make a hard choice. Habits like this help you to be effective:

  • Lay out gym clothes the night before
  • Do weekly food prep on Sunday
  • Get up at the same time every day
  • Develop a morning routine specific to your future goals
  • Go to bed at the same time every night
  • Have a night routine specific to your identity
  • Have a workout regime and stick to it – at least stick to being present
  • Have dedicated times for social media – don’t use outside this time
  • Refuse to chit chat, but rather engage in meaningful conversations
  • Don’t be a slave to your phone – never answer private numbers

You can’t think yourself tough, it is nested in the concrete actions that you perform.
So, it is a skill that has to be practised every day.

Here are my 5 considerations then to building robust habits.

1. Understand who you are.

You have to have an identity, we all do and it predicates how we see ourselves and how we project ourselves to others. When I was in the military my identity was rooted in the fact that I was a special force’s officer. When I left, I became an author and an ex special forces officer. Having a strong understanding of your present identity helps you to design motivations and habits. My identity now is different to when I was serving and so my habits have to be different too.

2. Develop little habits that will support your identity.

It’s much more important to have many small consistent habits than trying to have one life changing habit that is not achievable. For instance, I get up at 6am every day and the first think I do is a program called ROMWOD, it’s a stretching and movement routine that takes around twenty minutes. I do this daily. Over a period of time this small habit has paid dividends to me. ROMWOD has allowed me to be more mobile and reduces pain associated with the heavy workouts that I try and do.

3. Design habits to be autopilot

It’s vital to develop habits that help you even on the days that you don’t have motivation. Having the habit of laying your gym clothes out the night before removes the choice of what to wear, and also removes one of the variables that could make you miss your workout. Making it a habit to grab an espresso ONLY after you make your bed in the morning keeps you focused on the little things that actually can become overwhelming if you don’t do them every day. Have a predesignated wash basket and a dedicated day or time to do the most mundane of tasks means that it’s going to get done and you won’t be left stranded with something to wear at any given time.

4. Put your faith in the process

There’s no magic ways to get fast results from anything worthwhile, whether that be a new training program, the development of a new skill or learning a new job. To get good at something you have to chip away at it and trust the process, over time the results will come. Having many, structured and meaningful daily habits is no exception, over time the habits will pay off for you. Consistency is the key!

5. When you falter, get yourself back into a routine ASAP.

Just like building mental toughness, developing weakness is just as easy to do. If you take the easy option time and again you will inevitably make it your default position. It’s not the end of the world if you break away from the habits that you have developed, but you have to address it and get yourself back in control.

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