It’s the mental toughness that

mental toughness

It’s the mental toughness that

Mental toughness can help us in navigating during rough weather  

Life is like a long journey mostly on an undulating road, the ride can never be smooth on a long run. Somewhere we are bound to get jerks as our life is not immune to pain, suffering, tragedies, adversities and challenges.

We can encounter such incidents anytime and anywhere during our life journey. Uncertainties prevail. Even during our routine life, most of us invariably face personal problems relating to our relationships, physical and mental health and financial issues.

That is Life. We have seen people, irrespective of their financial position and social status, crumbling under the pressure of adversities. Many faced their challenges not only bravely but overcome them strongly from adversity. In fact, the real test of life comes when we face adversities. How do we handle them? 

How extreme important it is to manage the thoughts relating to those particular circumstances?

Any adversity can make us mentally and psychologically vulnerable. If we don’t know how to deal with the thoughts that are generated on those moments, we suffer intensively. Not only we suffer mentally but also make ourselves susceptible to mental health problems.

Any traumatic incident such as death of close family member or break in relationship or loss of livelihood or heavy financial setback can potentially lead to depression and even people go to the extent of ending their lives.

On average 15 Indians commit suicide every day. There may be many reasons behind suicides or attempt to suicides, but one thing is common to all. That is, they are unable to manage their thoughts during adversities. They were not mentally tough, that’s why they couldn’t come out from the situation of extreme hopelessness.

Meaning of Mental Toughness

Mental toughness means the ability to perform under adversity. In recent times, this quality of mind has received attention as we are working more and more under stressful environment.

In fact, this term initially came from sports, where it’s used for athletes. To succeed as an athlete, it’s the primary requirement. It’s widely believed that the success of sports personalities largely depends on their mental toughness. Resilience is extremely important during adverse situations. When we are mentally tough, we act mindfully with resilience, perseverance, and determination.

According to American Psychological Association, mental resilience means, ‘adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even significant sources of stress’. How easily and smartly we get adapted to such situations is the key to become ‘a mentally tough’ person.

The more rigid we are during adversity, the greater are the chances to break under severe mental stress. Mental toughness allows us to adapt and succeed under difficult conditions. How early and easily we recover back from any adversity or traumatic event, to a large extent, depends on the toughness of our mental ability.       

Be like Bamboo:

Bamboos are known for their strength as well as flexibility and resilience. Like bamboos, we should also be strong and easily adaptable to new life’s conditions whenever the need arises.

Bamboos can withstand any strong windy situation. They just bend under wind pressure but then revert back to straight position when storm eases. There is a famous quote from Bruce Lee,

‘“Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.”

Like bamboos, we should stand tall and straight but flexible enough to withstand any outside pressure. Under challenging times, we need to act strongly but at the same time flexible and adaptable.

There is also a saying worth quoting that, ‘Bamboo is flexible, bending with the wind but never breaking, capable of adapting to any circumstance. It suggests resilience, meaning that we have the ability to bounce back even from the most difficult times.

We should believe in our own capabilities and be confident under any adversity we may come across.  We should never be rigid in our beliefs. Our belief system should always be flexible to handle any changed conditions with additional inputs/information.

Be Stoic:

The Roman philosopher, Epictetus, the founder of Stoicism, had very correctly remarked that, “For good or for ill, life and nature are governed by laws that we can’t change. The quicker we accept this, the more tranquil we can be”.

We must accept our limitations in controlling our external surroundings. The things which are beyond are control must not be the source of our strong reactions.

Similarly, we should remember that “whatever has happened, has happened, and in any other ways such things would have happened”.   We should accept those things wholeheartedly.

Mental toughness, according to stoicism, is based on 3 important parameters. First, focus on things over which we have control like our thoughts, behaviour and actions.

Second, accept the things where we have no control or things that have already happened, never worry over them. Third, we should be able to express feelings of ‘indifference to indifferent things.’ We should not, as far as possible, bother about things which are not directly relevant to us.

For a stoic, it means, ‘only worry about what matters to you. Everything else is noise.’ If we adopt these components of philosophy, we can become mentally flexible as well as strong.

Be mindful:

One of the biggest problems of humanity is the inability to exercise complete control over our inner world. Most of the time we are on autopilot mode, mind is working default mode network (DMN).

Most of the actions (more than 90%) are unconscious, automatic, and impulsive. We are not conscious and mindful in the sense, it’s not ‘present in the moment’. Because of this nature of mind, we are not, truly speaking, the author of our behaviour, actions and choices we make.

Unless we are fully aware and conscious about things that are happening inside our mind and in the world around us, we can’t understand the nature, quality, and extent of any problem that we encounter inside and outside us. 

However, if we start living mindfully, we become increasingly aware of what is going on around us. This is called meta-awareness, to be aware of awareness. When we are stressed or emotionally disturbed, we regain equilibrium much faster if we are mindful.

In other words, we have the ability to recover faster from virtually any distressed and troublesome situation. When we suffer from anxiety, stress, negative or depressing thoughts, mindful behaviour helps us in overcoming most of the life’s distressing situations.

Take away: ‘

As long as life goes well, even with routine problems pertaining to health, relationships, finances or with boss or colleagues at work place, it really doesn’t matter. There is no one who doesn’t encounter such difficulties in life. Inherently, life is complex and deeply interwoven with large number of factors. Everyone’s life is unique. That’s why, everyone reacts and behave differently during adversities.

However, experience shows people who have better control over their inner world, that is mind and thoughts can overcome difficult times quickly with greater ease. Even under the worst possible circumstances, we are free to think and make choices. Viktor Frankl who was an Austrian psychiatrist and a holocaust survivor very rightly said that

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way”.

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Balvinder kumar

I am retired IAS officer and writer of books and doing work for mind therapy.

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