Success is ONLY possible if you have the mental toughness to stick it out when your motivation, inspiration, and desire fades.
When you start out doing something new—a diet, workout, job, hobby, whatever—you’re interested and excited, so it’s easy to get into it. Over time, however, your interest fades and it begins to feel more and more like hard work. Eventually even your inspiration and motivation runs out. If you don’t have the fortitude to persist, you’re not going to get anything done. By the end of this article you will learn about a 5-step approach on how to develop mental fortitude and willpower to keep going.
The Navy SEALs have what they call the 40% rule: when your mind tells you it’s ready to quit, you’ve only reached 40% of your total potential.
One author spent a month living with a SEAL. When asked to do pull-ups, he managed to do eight. When pushed to do more, he completed another six. Each successive set decreased until he said, “I’m done!” He couldn’t move his arms, and his muscles were drained.
That’s when the SEAL said, “We’re not leaving until you do 100 more.”
The author did one pull-up at a time, and though it took a long time, he eventually completed the 100 pull-ups.
Our minds are created to protect us from danger, including exertions that could push our bodies to dangerous limits. They tell us we’ve had enough well before we reach the limit of our potential. Understanding this, we can see that the time our mind tells us to quit is when we need to start pushing harder. Though it will take A LOT of mental fortitude (and a lot of time), we will be able to accomplish great things as long as we keep pushing.
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Here is my step-by-step guide to developing that fortitude:
Step 1: Examine your beliefs. Think about the core beliefs you hold about your life, the world around you, and yourself. Have you developed ways of thinking that put limits on what you can do? Your past emotions, experiences, interactions, and behaviors always influence your present. You may find things from before that affect your now.
Time to examine each belief and find the ones that limit you. Get rid of any negative beliefs—things that make you say “I can’t” about yourself. These negative beliefs may be a self-fulfilling prophecy, but getting rid of them will free you up to do, see, and try more.
Step 2: Change negative to positive. We’re bombarded with negative self-talk all day long, and the inner voices never leave us alone. When we listen and give in to those voices, we end up quitting long before we truly run out of stamina.
Catch yourself thinking negative thoughts and make a conscious effort to change them to positive ones. Change the way you talk to and think about yourself. Productive, positive thoughts will keep you going when negative thoughts would have caused you to shut down and quit.
Step 3: Use your mental energy wisely. You only have so much mental energy available every day. If you use it all on useless, anxious thoughts, you’ll have nothing left for creativity and productivity.
Stop thinking about “What if’s” and “may be’s”. Bad things will always happen; no sense worrying about them. Anxiety will sap your mental energy and leave you drained. To develop mental fortitude, shore up your mind against worried thoughts.
Step 4: Analyze your progress. Take a moment at the end of each day to reflect on what you accomplished. Big and little, you’d be amazed by how much of what you do goes unnoticed in the grand scheme of things. By analyzing your progress, you can celebrate the small achievements.
Just like you don’t develop huge physical muscles overnight, the same is true of mental muscles. You have to use your mind every day in order to strengthen it. This simple activity can go a long way toward developing mental strength.
Step 5: Stop wishing, start doing. Do you ever find yourself thinking, “I wish I could do X” or “I wish I could be more X”? Stop wishing, and start doing! If you want to be like something, be like it. If you want to do something, do it. Stepping out of your comfort zone builds mental fortitude. You’ll have to wrestle with anxiety, but that just adds to your strength. The more you stretch and grow, the easier it becomes to accept new challenges and push yourself beyond your limits day in and out.
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