This is an idea I have been contemplating for a long time about what exactly is mental toughness.
I looked at what Navy SEALS did, I looked at what Shaolin Monks did, and athletes. I looked at a bunch of different areas trying to figure out what exactly is mental toughness.
I took me awhile to nail it down to a simple formula.
When you have a formula you can better understand it. You can use that as a framework so that when a situation comes up, where you need to be mentally tough you can recall the formula to figure out how you can utilize it.
What is mental toughness?
Mental toughness is the ability to persevere in a difficult circumstance.
Why exactly do you need mental toughness?
It is needed when you are experiencing any kind of negative emotion. For example, anger, fear, hopelessness, or any kind of emotion that is not empowering.
Without recognizing these emotions that come up, we tend to act out on them. If you don't’ act out them and suppress them, this leads to weakening you both physically and mentally.
When people think of mental toughness they think of people going through great hardship or economic misfortune, poverty that would shake most people. We need mental toughness to handle the ups and downs in our life. You can live a more emotionally stable life.
The Mental Toughness Formula:
Mental toughness = self awareness + reframing.
Self-awareness is really at the beginning of mental toughness. You need awareness of how you respond in a situation.
An analogy is imagine you are in a dark room and you are trying to get to the door. It’s dark, so you have no awareness. You will be bumping into chairs and table, tripping up over them.
This is what it’s like going through life with no self-awareness. You will constantly be bumping into people and events and react to them rather than respond to them.
Self-Awareness doesn’t need to be that difficult, it’s just being aware of if you are feeling positive emotions or negative emotions. They either create levity or gravity. One pulls you up, one pulls you down.
If something is pulling you down, it’s simply because of the perspective you have on the situation. All you need to do is to notice throughout the day how you are feeling, just be aware of when you are feeling down.
Where do negative emotions come from?
Negative emotions arise as a result of not accepting the present situation. It has to do with expectation. Carry this motto around with you that my friend Bob always says, “No expectations, no disappointments.” You can handle a lot of what life has to throw at you.
Unhappiness is also a result of back or forward thinking. Not staying in the present. This was demonstrated in a study where researchers pinged participants throughout the day to ask them what their current emotional state was and what they were thinking about. They found out that regardless of what people were doing, they were the most happy when they were in the present. This was also true for when people were stuck in traffic
When you are in the present, you can accept what is. All forward thinking is actually imagination. All backward thinking is just a memory. But all life, is in the moment.
The first thing is about how you are thinking is making you feel. If it is uplifting, great, keep doing that. If it is not uplifting, you need to reframe that.
Reframing a situation is at the heart of mental toughness.
Whether you think something is hard or not, you're right. It is your perspective. "Perspective" is actually just a partial view of reality.
You don't see things as they are, you see them as you are.
There is a Tibetan proverb that says, "Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength."
This reminds me of a story by the man named W. Clement Stone. He was pretty much the father of positive reframing of western society. I had a chance to work at his company that he started out in Chicago. It was great environment, great atmosphere, everybody really adopts this mentality of reframing everything into something positive.
I had just started working there when he had just passed away. I had heard this story about him from one of the other employees. This is about his wife.
She had been sick for many years and they were going in and out of hospitals to figure out what was wrong with her. Finally one day the doctor came out to deliver the gloom. He said, “Your wife has cancer.”
W. Clement Stone, the guy that is all about positive reframing, well how do you think he would respond to this?
He said, “That’s great news!”
The doctor was totally bewildered. “What?”
Mr. Stone continued, “I’ve been worried all this time, but now we finally know. So let’s get busy treating her for that.”
She went on to outlive both the doctor and her husband.
So you don’t have to let a situation, no matter how bad it seems to really pull you down. To reframe a situation, you don’t have to take as the first way that you see it. There are many angles. Be like a photographer, find the beauty with the right perspective.
About the blog
Luke Shao and Master Wang are on a mission to share the ancient Chinese approach to acquiring any skill.