How to Build Mental Stamina

Studies are indicating more and more that the quality most responsible for success in work and in life is resilience, mental toughness. It is what many people refer to as grit.

For example, one study examined cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point. All incoming cadets have to go through a rigorous and stressful training program. Researchers found the best predictor of success in the program was not how smart a cadet was or how good a leader, but how much grit or determination a cadet had.

What exactly is mental toughness? Specific definitions can vary, but it involves moving toward goals inexorably, not allowing anything to sidetrack you. How can you develop mental toughness? Again, it is definitely not an exact science, but there are things you can do.

1. Define what mental toughness is to you
Mental toughness is first determining what goal you want to reach, and then taking specific actions to get there. Is your goal getting in shape? Then when you go to the gym, do that one extra rep when you feel like stopping. Is it learning something new? Study for that extra 30 minutes when you really feel like stopping.

But the key is consistency. Mental toughness involves continually working toward your goal no matter what obstacles might pop up.

2. The power of small wins.
Often, when people think of mental toughness, they associate it with how people deal with major crises in their lives, a major setback like a job loss or death of a loved one. But mental toughness, as mentioned, is built by all of the little choices we make every day. It is the conscious decision to go the extra yard – doing that extra pushup, walking that extra block. These are the things that build mental toughness.

3. Habits build mental toughness
Contrary to popular opinion, mental toughness is not always about summoning up that superhuman willpower that enables some great action. It is about building those daily habits that develop the consistency to get things done regardless of disruptions and interference.

You need to focus on small actions rather than big lifestyles changes. You need to develop a routine that enables you to move toward your goal regardless of how motivated you feel. You need to adhere to that routine, focusing on doing rather than the result. When you backslide, get back to the routine as quickly as you can.

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