By Di Westaway | Chief Adventure Chick at Wild Women On Top
Have you ever wondered why some people succeed and others fail? Why some people are resilient, and others aren't? Why some people seem to cope better with stress, grief or trauma.
You might think that successful people are more intelligent, lucky, talented or blessed than the rest of us. And certainly, some people are naturally more intelligent, privileged and gifted. But research shows that’s not the secret to success.
In fact, studies show intelligence only accounts for about 30% of our achievement and that in fact, mental toughness, or grit, is a far bigger determinant of our success.
Mental toughness is the perseverance and passion to achieve long term goals. And as research by Dr Angela Duckworth discovered, it’s the most important factor in achieving your goals in health, in business and in life.
This research shows that while everyone has different life experiences, backgrounds, limiting beliefs and talents, we can all work towards building our resilience to become better, stronger, more powerful versions of ourselves. Mental toughness, grit, resilience, and perseverance can become your defining traits, regardless of the talent you were born with. You can become more consistent. You can develop high levels of mental toughness.
As Australia’s first female Prime Minister, and Chair of Beyond Blue, Julia Gillard said in a Women In Leadership speech: “Resilience is a muscle and if you work it, it gets stronger.”
And if you build your resilience in small ways by choice, when life throws you unexpected challenges – and it absolutely will – you’ll be more equipped to deal with them.
So how do we give our mental toughness muscle a workout? Here are our top tips:
1. Get a goal
You need a challenging goal.
And again, for the people in the back: you need a challenging goal!
This goal needs to be physical, and it needs to actually scare you. Why? Because it will motivate you to change your habits. Each of these new little habits will test your courage, perseverance, resilience and mental and emotional toughness just a little bit. For example you might decide to sign up for Coastrek. Depending on your level of fitness the idea of walking 15km, 30km or 60km will scare you just a bit. The distance that scares you is the one you pick.
The challenging goal will motivate you to do the new habits, even when you’re busy, tired, hungover, sleepy, hungry or cold or when your will-power threatens to melt into a bowl of ice cream.
So decide on that goal. That thing you said you would always do but have never found the time/motivation/finances/energy. Tell yourself, and your friends and family, you are going to do it within a specific timeframe. Then, break it down into small chunks and make it happen.
2. Build habits
You can’t magically think your way to becoming mentally tough, but you can develop mental toughness by regularly challenging yourself.
For you, it might be…
- Going three months without missing a training session
- Cooking every night during the week
- Meditating for five minutes every morning this week
- Waking up in time to see the sunrise every workday through winter
- Getting to yoga three times a week for twelve weeks
- Getting your 10,000 steps in every day during springtime
- Doing 10 sets of stairs three times a week
Different people find different things challenging, so ignore what others are doing and decide what's going to work for you.
Then, you need to record your wins and celebrate your achievement when you do it!
3. Change your mindset
Just like a muscle, mental toughness needs to be worked to grow and develop. If you don’t push yourself in small ways every day, you’ll shrink when things really get tough. Heartbreak, grief, the loss of a job, the loss of a friend, financial strife - things can come out of the blue and you need to know that whatever happens, you’ll be able to cope.
If you have a mindset that always wants to take the easy option, you need to shift this. This is HARD. Taking the easy option is, well, easier. But in the long run, it makes life harder.
So, practice taking the hard option every day in every way. Do that tenth set of stairs when your heart is thumping through your chest telling you to stop at nine. Choose a walk before or instead of wine. Push yourself to ask the extra question when it would be easier to capitulate. Walk home instead of getting an Uber. Prove to yourself — in a thousand tiny ways — that you have enough guts to stand up and say YES I CAN. It’s your physical actions that prove your mental fortitude.
Because you CAN do it. You are capable of far more than you believe. So now, it’s time to practice doing things you never thought you could, and realise how strong you really are.
Who's with me?
If you need a cheer squad to support you, come and join us in our Wild Women Community! We're here to motivate and encourage you, every step of the way.