Some time ago, I was lucky enough to hear Matthew Syed speak about high performance. It was a fascinating and thought-provoking presentation, and one of the issues raised was the relative importance of talent in achieving high performance levels. Intuitively, you think that people operating at the top of their game, such as sports stars, must be inherently talented. When you see them running a PB, potting the black, scoring the goal, or however they are demonstrating their excellence, you think, “I could never do that!”
But what you don’t see are the hours and hours of practice, the years of commitment and dedication, the many times it’s all gone wrong, the injuries and setbacks that have been overcome to bring them to this point in time. Obviously talent, and for sports starts, physique, have a part to play – most of us are never going to be able to run like Usain Bolt – but the bigger part of the equation is the mental toughness that it takes to keep going, to learn from your mistakes and to constantly strive for improvement.
So what constitutes mental toughness, and how can we develop it, as business owners? Below are some practical ways we can build our mental resilience:
1. Manage your emotions
Negative emotions such as anger, despair, defensiveness and self-doubt can be barriers to learning and to improving our performance. The ability to control our knee-jerk, emotional responses and engage our logical responses is an important skill in achieving better performance. (Read The Chimp Paradox by Professor Steve Peters for help in this area.)
2. Be accountable and responsible
Life often seems unfair, and it’s easy to blame other people, or circumstances, or anything really other than ourselves when things go wrong. Mental toughness means understanding that the only thing we can really control is how we respond to situations, and we need to be accountable and responsible for own success or failure. We only have ourselves to blame for where we are now, and we can only rely on ourselves to get to where we want to be.
3. Face up to challenges
Things are unlikely to go smoothly all the time, and challenges are inevitable. The ability to respond positively to challenges, to seek a solution and adapt and change as necessary is vital. We can’t afford to be fearful of change and stubbornly clinging on to old habits if we want to progress.
4. Learn from the past, and move on
We need to recognise the value in our past experiences, but not dwell on them. Fear born of bad experiences can paralyse us and prevent us trying new things. Instead, we must learn from the past, both successes and failures, and apply those lessons as we move on. We need to learn to trust ourselves to do the right thing, and leave the past in the past.
5. Stop the negative talk
While it’s normal for us to vent from time-to-time, constantly moaning, complaining, and criticising others (and ourselves) just serves to make us feel worse. Instead of wasting time wallowing in negativity, we need to focus on improving our situation. And we should also try to distance ourselves from people who would drag us into their pit of negativity.
6. Develop a sense of urgency
Mentally tough people don’t sit around waiting for opportunities to come their way. They are constantly on the alert, identifying opportunities, threats and challenges, and meeting them head on, with a sense of urgency. They favour action over inaction and procrastination.
7. Be consistent
Athletes are consistent when it comes to practice and working out. We need to be just as consistent, putting in the hard work day after day, planning, building a team and driving the business forward. Keeping our focus on the goals we’ve set calls for consistency.
8. Be grateful and appreciative
We mustn’t waste time and energy worrying what we don’t have, but be grateful and appreciative for what we do have. Every cloud has a silver lining, and even the worst experiences will provide valuable lessons for us.
It’s tough to be tough, and we’re not going to achieve it all the time. But hopefully there are some practical tips here that you can use to build your mental resilience, and help you to achieve the success you desire.