Best Practices for Mental Toughness? Show me yours, I'll show you mine.
1. 1% more/ 1 more principle
In many of our endeavors, we limit ourselves mentally and physically with some arbitrary point of can't. The 1 more principle challenges you to do just a small, nominal amount of work/effort beyond that line. It repeatedly reinforces in our brain that we are more capabale than we give ourselves credit for. It also uses the process of progressive overload used by weight lifters and other athletes to build strength and endurance.
2. Remove the flinch
So much of our suffering comes from our own negative thoughts, expectations and fear. The human mind can create sensations worse than physical pain in the body when it anticipates physical or emotional discomfort. We can train our central nervous system to regulate these reactions, largely just by practicing controlling our breathing. An excellent practice, once you have firm control of the breathe, is to engage in activities that your perceive will bring discomfort (cold showers for example). Over time the anxiety and discomfort that come with the anticipation of the activity will diminish or subside entirely, leaving you mentally stronger.
My personal form of meditation concists of two things:
1) learning to let the impulses and distractions from your goals fade away without acting upon them (I struggle quite a bit with impulse control without this practice) &
2) Visualization - I picture myself competing the actions and steps it will take to achieve my desired outcome. Then, I try to imagine what it looks and feels like to achieve my goal.
I find that these practices make my goals seem more real while helping me stay grounded and avoiding disappointment (as we know the moment of triumph is rarely as sweet as sum of small bits of progress along the way).
Similar to the breathing exercises I use when calming my nervous system, I find stretching to be an amazing tool to release tension and anxiety from the body so that you can continue toward your goals. I copy some basic vinyasa yoga moves but often just move where it feels good. Just 5 minutes of stretching can help me reset and work longer at my goals. It can also take me from a stimulated state to a more restful state in the evening.
5. Create Urgency
When we have a deadline with consequences our systems of arousal create a heightened focus that allows us to perform above our normal state. If we can trick the mind into believing there is urgency (this can be as simple as setting a timer or setting yourself up against another activity you desire to do as a reward) you can use that heightened state to make progress on something difficult or where you might otherwise have been at an impasse. Often times these first steps are majorly important factors to building momentum and having success. Most people never start.
6. Public Accountability
Many people respect the thoughts, time and opinions of others more than their own. Ideally this is something a mentally healthy person will change and learn to treat themself with respect, but if not push for whatever will get you to give your all by making yourself accountable to someone else.
7. Build Concistency & Habit
Motivation comes and goes, but habits stick. The days where you don't feel your best, didn't get enough sleep or have a good time with friends between you and your goals are the hardest. Doing simple, repeatable actions towards your goal every day are what will carry you through those times. Habit is muscle. Exercise it (1% more per day of course). After time, your brai will automate the things that push you forward so you can spend your energy contemplating and negotiating other things.
8. Learn to say no
Thought hopefully you have to tools to help if you are left no choice but to grit on with it.
This is my simplified gratitude practice. It lifts the mood naturally and creates confidence.
A friend of mine also recommends jumping up and down and flailing your arms. I don't do this often but it 100% works. You can't take yourself seriously for too long flailing like a lunatic and it will fish out that smile if you can't find it without help.
10. Fear Setting
Last but certainly not least...
Fear setting is a journaling technique where you write down a difficult decision, typically with a call to action.
You then write when steps would would take to achieve the goal behind that decision. Additionally, you write what the potential benefits might be. Rate the benefits 1-5.
Next, you write the consequences of inaction. What will happen if you choose not to act? Rate the consequences 1-5.
Finally, (2 parts) write what the costs of failure? Rate 1-5. AND write the ways you could mitigate or rebound from they failure. Rate the adjusted outcomes 1-5.
The framework is meant to help you compare the scores of the top and bottom 2 sections but I find the process of thinking through each section to be the most beneficial.
Conquer your fears.