There were few more arduous tests of mental toughness than 2020, and as 2021 poses a continuation of those challenges, it’s apparent that mental toughness will remain at the top of the list. It’s one of the most underrated, yet critical, skills to master — not just this year, but for a lifetime in business.
The Scientific American specifically researched how mental toughness plays a role in athleticism, reporting that a “whopping 83% of coaches rate mental toughness as the most important set of psychological characteristics for determining competitive success.”
When we think about mental toughness, there are a few experts we look to for inspiration. These tend to be great entrepreneurs, athletes, and motivational speakers who have proven the power of mental toughness and can inspire you to develop your own.
Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player, and one of the greatest athletes, of all time. He’s also a shining example of mental toughness because of how he conceptualizes failure. Some of his most commonly cited quotes include, “To learn to succeed, you must first learn to fail» and, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
With quotes like these, he’s getting at something that mentally tough entrepreneurs know well: Success is part of a double-sided coin, and the other side is failure.
Being willing and able to walk through the fire of failure is what’s required to succeed. So, when developing your own mental toughness, consider how you’ve understood and evaluated failure. Then, seek to reframe. What could you do if you were not afraid of failure? How do you believe you could not only get through failure but bounce back even stronger? If you approach the day-to-day of your business with the knowledge that you could handle any setback or failure, your mental toughness will deliver your best work.
Use the tools at your disposal
We all have tools that can strengthen our mental toughness. Stephane and Shalee Schafeitel, co-founders of Success Training Company, actually devoted an entire book to exactly that. Their book, the Wall Street Journal best-seller, Master Your Mindpower, is described as a «user manual for the mind and the ultimate guide for mental toughness.»
According to the Schafeitels, visualization is one of the most potent mental-toughness tools, a fact that’s been borne out by great athletes such as Michael Phelps, who credits visualization as an effective pre-swim practice. Stephane Schafeitel himself shares a harrowing story in the book’s introduction about how the power of visualization alone brought back his sight after horrific eye trauma. They also share tips such as box breathing for mitigating stress, which includes breathing in for four seconds, out for four seconds, and then holding your breath for four seconds.
Knowing what tools you can always tap into will give you the confidence to head into drastic situations or stressful days. Even the power of steadied breathing can change your body’s chemistry, and preparing for a big work presentation or a negotiation will go much better if you visualize success a few times beforehand.
Motivational guru Tony Robbins is also an advocate for enhancing mental toughness, often linking the capacity for mental toughness with certainty. “If you are absolutely certain that you will get the result you want, and that result would be life-changing, you will take massive action,» his team wrote in a blog post. «On the other hand, if you are absolutely sure that no matter what you do, it just won’t work, you’re not going to spend any time making any real moves.»
Mental toughness comes down to believing you create your own certainty, and taking the necessary steps to do so. “The key is to create absolute certainty — to fill yourself with the belief that you will accomplish what you set out to, no matter what is happening in the external world,» Robbins’ blog also stated. «You have to get the results in your head that make you feel certain as if it has already happened. And one of the best ways to do this is through imagery training.»
Imagery training is much like the visualization that the Schafeitels utilize: envisioning how something will go over and over again in your head. This prepares your brain for the scenario that you are trying to create. Visualize and run these «mind movies» as if they have already happened, and you will create the certainty that you need to succeed.
By embracing failure, committing to visualization, and running mind-movies of your ultimate success, your mental toughness will be at its peak for profound results in 2021 and beyond.