We all want to be mentally tough, but sometimes it may feel like you weren’t born to be that way. Understand one thing: mental toughness is not always an inherent trait. It can be learned, developed, and honed. If you want to become mentally tough, you need to work at it.
You want to become tough mentally?
Here are some habits you need to develop.
Habits to develop for mental toughness
1. Develop your EQ
Your emotional quotient plays a major role in becoming mentally tough. It involves self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. Having a high EQ equates to being in control of the mind.
2. Believe that you are always in control
There are many things in life that we can’t control, but we can always control what we do, how we act. Develop this mentality, and you’ll see how you become pro-active as opposed to reactive.
3. Have a morning routine to get your mindset ready
Learn to take your time in the morning. Wake up a little earlier if needed. Spend time to set your mind to deal with whatever comes your way that day. Meditate, pray, or simply sit in silence as you enjoy your breakfast.
4. Don’t let fear get the best of you
“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
– Litany Against Fear, Dune by Frank Herbert
Visualization has long been known to help ease anxiety – among many other things – but it can also develop mental toughness. In the morning, when you get ready for the day, visualize yourself overcoming the challenges you will face. Visualize yourself delivering an astounding presentation, closing a deal, or passing an exam with flying colors.
6. Filter out white noise
That includes critics who criticize for the sake of criticism. The world is full of negativity, and while you can’t prevent that from happening around you, you can ignore it and develop mental toughness.
7. Be open to feedback
Ignore criticism that’s not helpful, but be open to constructive feedback and learn from it.
8. Set boundaries
Being mentally tough means having to set boundaries – between you and colleagues, friends, and family members. You need to be able to draw the line when necessary. Learn to say no.
9. Deal with toxic people
Toxic people, energy vampires, or whatever you want to call them – you need to know how to deal with them. Either ignore their negativity, “neutralize” them, or walk away. It may be hard at first, but learning how to walk away will only make you mentally tougher.
10. Surround yourself with mentally strong people
Find like-minded people and spend time with them. There’s nothing like a support group to ensure help you achieve your goals.
11. Find a mentor
In line with surround yourself with mentally strong people, seek a mentor who you can go to when you need help, a person who will willingly listen to you, give you advice, and help you develop mental toughness.
12. Choose your battles
You win some. You lose some. Learn how to walk away when you have to. You don’t always have to fight, even if you are in the right. Sometimes, you just have to back down.
13. Accept failure
You WILL fail. Knowing that and accepting it when it happens will make you tougher. Fail. Discover what you did wrong. Figure out what you can do better.
14. Learn to psych yourself up
You can’t always depend on your circle – no matter how supportive they may be – to give you a pep talk. Learn to talk to yourself positively, to give your own pep talk. It may seem weird at first, but if you keep at it, you’ll get better; and, when you see the results, you’ll be psyching yourself up with ease.
15. Embrace change
If there’s one habit you should develop to become mentally tough, it is this. We face change all the time. They may be small, every day changes. They can be huge, sudden life-altering changes. Learn not to be afraid of these changes and to embrace the uncertainty they bring. It is during these times that you discover things about yourself when you grow. Once you stop being afraid of change, you’ll find that you can deal with practically anything.
Do you consider yourself a mentally tough person, or is this an area you need to work on? I hope the tips above will help you to develop mental toughness.
If you’ve got stories to tell and tips to share, let us know!
This was first published in April 2016; updated October 2021
Excellent list! A concise way of expressing things that I’ve learned largely through trial & error (and a lot of psych reading) over the past decade or so. They definitely take practice, but once you’re on the other side, MAN, are they good skills to have for enjoying life!
“At the end of the day, we can handle a lot more than we think we can.” — Frida Kahlo
(That quote has always stuck with me since I read it.)
I just thought you deserved a thanks!
Thanks for the quote. I need that today (and probably for a while). Have a good one!