Leaders must have mental toughness -- the continued process of mastering control over thoughts, feelings and attitudes.
How does mental toughness carry one through the process of dreaming to achieving? And what is the mindset necessary to overcome the obstacles that determine to impede our progress with each individual step?
If you have been on this planet for more than twenty minutes, you know that some of the biggest and most insidious distractions come to us not from our outside environment, but from our internal struggles. All of our mental chatter and negative self-talk can distract our focus, bringing progress to a standstill. Because of this, it's the ability to concentrate in the here-and-now which makes the foundation of true achievement.
Mental Toughness in life requires a deep understanding of the quiet place in yourself. Especially in the midst of the mental, physical, and emotional storm raging around you. It's the waves of deterrence crashing in your life's ocean and mental toughness is your capacity to sink below the surface and watch it intently as it happens. "It is as if we are under the water, still depths, watching the waves above us moving and playing. We must perceive that, in fact, we are the water, not apart or separate and that waving is happening," says George Mumford who authored The Mindful Athlete: Secrets of Pure Performance.
When your mind is quiet, you can be what the yogis call 'the watcher'. You're in a state when you can just watch what's happening in your head instead of being controlled by it -- Russell Simmons
Mental toughness is a meet and defeat type of proposition -- it's ground zero leadership. It is the leadership inside one's self. And it starts by controlling emotions. And for that, we need to gain better perception.
Perception is Everything
To point your emotions in the right direction, you must have to begin to perceive things in a different way,
"You can't just be an 'emotional reactor', [you must] respond in a way that is a like a 'first responder' where I'm looking at something logically and I want to know the hormone that I want to call up, what is the response that I want, not just a reaction." -- Andrew Wittman, CEO of the Mental Performance Training Center. Listen to Andrew stop by LSG to talk mental toughness, target hunting, and dealing with high stress here!
Mental Toughness begins when you notice your own mind and what's passing through it without identifying personally those thoughts and feelings. You perceive what is going on in your mind and consciously call away the emotion in which will help you deal with the situation appropriately.
In other words, it's the ability to bare witness to negative events, internal or external, that naturally produce negative feelings but without associating with them. You actually can perceive said event as something of a positive force in your life by eliciting positive emotional responses.
Back to George Mumford, "We have a choice to reconnect to that deep place within at all times and to act from the space between stimulus and response. In so doing, we aren't tossed around by those [emotional] waves."
Boredom, anger, sadness or fear are not 'yours', not personal. They are conditions of the mind -- Eckhart Tolle, Author of Stillness Speaks
But how does mental toughness help you meet your goal as a leader?
"I'm the Problem and I'm the Solution"*
Mental toughness only comes to life if you're working towards your goal, or your target. Think about it:
If you don't know your target, for what are you persevering?
Once you put your mind to your target (when you actually know where you're going), you can ask yourself the following important question: Is the action that I'm currently taking helping or hurting me get to my target?
There is nothing more powerful than a man who can control his emotions. A loss of control leads to emotional mistakes, physical mistakes; ones that cascade down to every level. Leaders must demand it of themselves -- John Wooden
Once you know your target, you can actively work towards commanding yourself. Once you can command yourself by properly perceiving events in your life, you can influence how your own attitudes, opinions and feelings work in concert before pushing your sphere of influence out to others. Once this happens, you can begin to influence others people's thinking and attitudes to direct their action.
The mode of being mentally tough and emotionally proactive is a leaders way of life. You don't need to wait for adversity. Keep emotions properly relegated and deploy them properly for maximum stability and control.