1. They surround themselves with people who think differently than them.
Being around people who have had different experiences, different upbringings, or different areas of competence is a lesson in getting out of your comfort zone. We like to be comfortable. We like to stay in the realm of confidence, where we can predict what will happen next, and what we will do when it happens.
Being around people who lead different kinds of lives than you will open your eyes to situations you wouldn’t run into on your own path. We all have different stories, different beliefs, and different dreams, and hearing about someone else’s may just expand your own or awaken a passion you didn’t know you had.
2. They engage in simulations of situations that terrify them.
How would you feel if right now, without any warning, you received a phone call for your dream job, and all you had to do was an interview for it in the next two minutes? Are your hands sweating just thinking about it? Even more than death, the number-one fear in America is oral communication. Simply verbally communicating under pressure is enough to make most of the United States tremble.
If you’re one of the millions, and you hate interviews, wouldn’t you like to make that experience a little easier? Simulating that terrifying situation can help. Conducting mock-interviews with family members and friends can help you to rehearse well-thought answers to typical interview questions.
When your future boss asks what your worst working trait is, you won’t fumble over your words or laugh nervously if you’ve been over it a few times. Consider simulating the experience a trial run. The more trial runs you rehearse of a situation that scares you, the more confident you will be in that situation (and the less it will scare you).
3. They prepare.
True story: once on my first day at a new job, I forgot one of my shoes. I was running late that morning and threw both my shoes and my jacket into the passenger seat and took off for the office at a scary speed. I peeled into the parking lot, grabbed the keys out of the ignition, and went to put on my shoes, only to realize that only one of them was lying on the passenger seat.
I began a mad search for his brother. It wasn’t under the passenger seat. It wasn’t in between the seat and the console. It wasn’t in the backseat. I started the morning fifteen minutes late, after limping into the nearest store with one shoe on my foot to buy new shoes. Later that night, I found my shoe on the floor of the garage, where it must have slipped out of my ill-prepared hands and onto the concrete slab.
The moral of the story is this: if I had woken up ten minutes earlier that morning and thought through the challenges of the day and fully prepared myself mentally for them, I probably would’ve shown up with both shoes on.
Preparing for the challenges ahead, both mentally and physically, will make you feel more confident and organized, put you at ease, and lend you a clearer, less emotional mind. You’ll probably be wearing two shoes, too.
4. They are creative.
You are less likely to freeze under pressure if you already practice being creative and adaptable in your day-to-day life. Planning is great and needs to happen to prepare you for situational outcomes, but there will always be a kink in the plan.
There will always be something that doesn’t go as it should have. In those instances, you will have to be creative and flexible to work around them. Great mothers and nannies do this phenomenally.
The plan may be to go to the park. Mom or babysitter has the baby backpack chock-full of tools for the day ahead because they planned for it. However, children are bundles of joy and surprises, so when the unthinkable happens, and little Johnny jumps straight into the water fountain, the caretaker has to be creative. Because she planned for the unexpected, she has an extra set of clothes for little Johnny.
However, when he then rolls around in the mud in his new set of clothes, mom or babysitter will have to adapt their mindset. Little Johnny might get carted home in a new diaper and not much else. Just like in this example, sometimes the key to creativity and adaptability doesn’t require much else than a change of expectation.
5. They engage in physical exercise to stretch themselves (both physically and mentally).
I know what you’re thinking: what does achieving mental toughness have to do with how many times a week I go to the gym? Physical exercise is one of the most popular and easiest ways to engage mental toughness.
Remember gym class in high school, when your teacher made you run laps around the gym? When your lungs burned, and your legs felt like jelly, you kept running, partially because your classmates would all see if you stopped, and partially because you wanted to see if you could.
You were training yourself to be mentally tough. Now, as an adult, that manifests like this: doing five reps instead of just doing four. Getting up out of bed and going for a run when you really just want to sleep in the extra thirty minutes.
Pushing yourself to run to that lamppost, and then the next one. The relationship between pushing your body and pushing your mind is strong.
6. They balance their time between training and resting.
Don’t mistake mental toughness practice for lack of balance between your goals and rest. Mental toughness isn’t devoting all your time and energy, all the time, to attaining your goals. It’s about being hyper-focused and persistent in the time you’ve allotted to work toward your goals. Going full-power all the time will lead to burn-out and stress, neither of which is helpful for growing your mental toughness.