10 powerful ways to build your mental toughness

If you’re serious about achieving success, you need to be serious about growing your mental toughness.


Life throws challenges and setbacks at all of us from time to time and if you haven’t developed mental toughness, you’ll stumble at the first obstacle in the road.

And you’ll agree, the ability to handle and recover from setbacks is becoming more important every day.

In today’s post I’ll highlight what makes someone mentally tough.

1) Resilience in the face of adversity

Resilience in an integral part of mental toughness. Resilience or grit, is the ability to keep moving forward in spite of challenges, rejection, setbacks, obstacles, and disappointments.

It’s the ability to never give up, no matter what.

There is no such thing as plain sailing to the top, so you better develop some staying power.

(Hint: few people have this ability and those who do are the ones who reach the top).

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2) Emotional intelligence

Many experts now believe that a person’s emotional intelligence quotient (EQ) may be more important than their IQ, and plays a larger role in the achievement of success, the quality of relationships, and overall happiness.

Here’s the thing:

EQ is the ability to understand our own and the emotions and reactions of others. Without this ability you’re lost before you’ve started.

A high EQ also means that you are in control of your emotions, a necessary trait for successful interactions with others.

Fortunately EQ is something that can be learned, and developed over a lifetime.

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3) Focus

It’s possible to develop your mental toughness by keeping your attention on your long-term goals and not getting side-tracked by temporary setbacks. An unwavering focus helps you to keep perspective in the face of sudden setbacks.

Don’t let short–term profits, negative feedback, or a hectic schedule prevent you from taking the next step towards your goal.

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4) Commitment

Mentally tough people are more consistent than others. They don’t miss deadlines, appointments or meetings.

Part of mental toughness is a commitment to always show up, to always deliver and to not get side-tracked, to always finish what you have started.

The good news? This is a trait, unlike talent or IQ, which is within reach of anyone. We can all commit to commitment.

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5) Develop habits that support your goal

Mentally tough people develop habits that help them focus on their goals. Like a tennis star who religiously goes to the practice courts everyday regardless of just having won a major tournament. That habit is the foundation of their mental strength.

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6) Learn to delay gratification

Instant gratification is the number one enemy of established habits.

It’s a sign of great commitment and maturity if you can learn to resist temptation now for the satisfaction of achieving your goal later.

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7) A realistic perspective on failure

Knowing how to handle failure is an important aspect of being mentally strong.

In his 2011 TEDx talk Dr. Sean Richardson made a fascinating point. He said we can develop mental toughness by looking at failure as a delay of gratification.

“What I have observed in my work, accepting failure, being okay with not getting what you want right now, is one of the best, best success strategies. It’s very tough and it’s going to take mental toughness to respond effectively.”

He quotes Michael Jordan who said: “In my career I’ve missed over 9,000 shots, lost almost 300 games, 26 times I’ve been trusted to make the game-winning shot and I missed.

“I failed over and over again in my life and that’s why I succeed – I can accept failure.”

Doesn’t that just say everything about mental toughness?

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8) Flexibility is paramount

Change is the only constant, so flexibility and the ability to adapt is not a choice, it’s a necessity. Like it or not, we live in times of constant change and the ability to handle that and adjust is what sets the winners apart from the rest.

In order to be a great leader, to achieve any form of success, you must work on developing your readiness to adapt to changing circumstances.

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9) Mentally tough people don’t seek permission

Mentally tough people hold themselves accountable. They don’t seek permission and are guided by their conviction of their vision. They basically don’t need others’ approval of their goals.

Think about it, did someone like Richard Branson, ask anyone if he could start an airline?

Again, they don’t get side-tracked, waiting for approval from others.

What this means for you: don’t give your power away to others. Know what you can control and let go of that which you can’t control.

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10) An optimistic mind-set

People who are mentally tough tend to be optimistic because they have confidence in their ability and they believe in their vision.

It’s their self-belief that makes them mentally tough.

It’s also an optimistic attitude that sees one through tough times and challenges. It is the hope created by a positive mind-set that keeps many people going long after others have given up.

Nothing great is achieved by expecting the worst to happen.

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NOW READ: A navy seal explains 4 exercises that build mental toughness in just five minutes

Picture of Coert Engels

Coert Engels

I'm a South African based writer and am passionate about exploring the latest ideas in artificial intelligence, robotics and nanotechnology. I also focus on the human condition, with a particular interest human intuition and creativity. To share some feedback about my articles, email me at coert@ideapod.com.

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