“You have control over your mind, not outside events. Realize this and you will find strength.”
- Marcus Aurelius
Mental strength is an ability which can be developed over time. We need a strong psyche to cope with life’s challenges, to adapt to the inherent changes of our existence, to make ourselves those changes and to follow our dreams and goals. People who give up easily to their dreams, who live in unhappy compromising situations because they are afraid to change, they think they can’t manage on their own, those who accept to be treated with lack of respect and consideration, who feel sorry for themselves blaming others or destiny, those who say “ I can’t”, “easy to say, hard to do”, “it’s too late for me”, are those people who aren’t aware of their own inner strength and they don’t trust they can make their own destiny.
Every person can choose to be the director, the writer and the leading actor of his own life or he can choose to play a secondary role where his behaviors and decisions are guided by the expectations and needs of other people.
When we realize that the responsibility of our own life is entirely ours and we start to make changes to fulfill our dreams, we can face ourselves with various obstacles, fear, insecurity, doubts, loss of confidence. If we don’t have the power to overcome all these things, we won’t really be able to reach our potential. If we don’t strengthen our mind, we will allow it to control us through limiting beliefs, dysfunctional thoughts that take us our power, uncontrolled emotions and irrational fears. These elements are in fact the ones that put up resistance, but once we defeat that resistance and take control over ourselves, we become stronger. Mental strength helps us to continue even when everyone and everything seems to be against us.
Actually, mental strength involves creating a balance between the emotional and the rational side - to become aware of our thoughts and emotions and to make them work in our favor. Thus, the actions and behaviors we choose to manifest are not simply reactions to environmental stimuli, but consciously chosen in agreement with what we want to express, manifest and transmit.
Mentally strong people have developed this ability by forming some habits that help them in this direction. It is more about how you are accustomed to think and relate to yourself, to others and to life, about how you are accustomed to respond to events and circumstances, how you are accustomed to live every day. Do your relationships, your activities, your job, your way of thinking, the emotions that you frequently have, make you feel stronger, more confident? Do they help you in your personal or professional evolution, or on the opposite, they take away the joy of living and they drain you out of energy? To develop your mental strength it’s important to change or to avoid those habits that lead you to negativity and destructive behaviors, and make a habit of thinking and having a positive inner dialogue.
But what are the characteristics of mental strength?
Mentally strong people are persistent in achieving the goals they work for every day and they don’t give up after the first failure, understanding that failure is actually an opportunity to learn and improve. They know their values and priorities, they trust their way, and so they are not afraid that they will "get lost". They develop their frustration tolerance, they don’t yield to pleasures or momentary weaknesses that could jeopardize the attainment of goals, they keep the promises they have made to themselves and continue when they would prefer to choose comfort instead of effort. They are committed to the goals they set, but they don’t expect to get results overnight. They understand that it takes time and effort to see the results. They also calculate their risks and take into account the possible obstacles that may arise along the way.
Mentally strong people don’t allow others to control them and they know the way they feel depends only on them. They choose their emotional reactions and don’t blame others for what they feel. Those who have a weak emotional control get upset and lost when things don’t go out as they expected, when unexpected situations interfere with their plans, and so on and often behave in an infantile manner. Strong people understand that things they can’t control can often arise, but this doesn’t demoralize them, but makes them to change their strategy, continuing their plans they have made from the beginning. They don’t waste their energy trying to control those things that don’t depend on them, instead they focus on what they can control in their life, and they know that often the only thing they can control is their attitude.
Mentally strong people have the ability to adapt to new things and change. They don’t cling to their comfort zone and they don’t avoid change because they know that’s inevitable, therefore they try to improve their flexibility and adaptability.
Mentally strong people don’t victimize themselves and don’t waste their time blaming others, but rather they take responsibility for the role they have in their own life. When you take things personally and you complain asking “Why me?”, “Why did that happened to me?” you diminish your own power by positioning yourself as an aggrieved victim. It is more useful, however, to detach yourself, to start looking for solutions to solve the problems and to focus on those aspects that depend on you and which you can change.
Mentally strong people aren’t afraid to say what they think or to say “No”. They don’t try to always please others, to get their appreciation or approval or to avoid a confrontation.
Mentally strong people don’t live in the past and don’t get stuck in regrets wanting things to be different than they are. They learn from their mistakes to avoid repeating them and to choose wisely in the future, but they don’t endlessly remember the negative experiences or glorify the positive ones. They accept the past as it was and make plans for their future.
Mentally strong people enjoy the time they spend in solitude. They aren’t afraid to remain alone with their thoughts, they enjoy their own company, and they don’t depend on others to feel good or to fill up their time.
Mentally strong people don’t expect others to take care of them, don’t expect others to give them what they need, but they seek to handle it on their own and to create opportunities based on their merits and strength.
Mentally strong people don’t envy those who succeed, but try to learn from them, being willing to work to evolve. They are also grateful and proud of their own achievements and they think of what and how to improve taking by example those who have already managed to get where they want.
Strong people are not those who struggle with others or those who always seem ready to attack, but those whose struggles we don’t see, but where they came out winners.
In conclusion, mental strength helps you succeed in what you want to do more than anything else. It helps you cope with any situation you may face on your way, to manage your daily stress more effectively and also crisis moments, to be more confident and more peaceful, to develop your potential, often blocked by negative beliefs that limit you, fears, lack of confidence and doubt. A less talented but mentally strong person can go a great way than a person with many abilities or talents but lacking this strength. And, as I have written above, the development of this skill requires a lot of practice and a conscious presence in everything you think, feel and do.
Dr. Ursula Sandner