These are times when we need more than skill, technique, strategies, and knowledge to be successful. We must be ready to face and overcome setbacks. We need to be able to focus, persist, and prevail.
Such behaviors typically are associated with mental toughness. Yet, mental toughness is more than pressing forward single-mindedly, regardless of circumstances, resistance, and environmental feedback. In fact, such a narrow view of mental toughness can lead to stubbornness, repetition of avoidable mistakes, and inability to adjust.
A broader, more insightful understanding of mental toughness is particularly important during times of uncertainty. This perspective improves the odds of success because it positions us to manage the factors that we control. When we focus on these factors, we can evaluate, adjust, and move forward in response to the challenges we face.
Mental toughness is fueled by key drivers that provide energy, confidence, guidance, and persistence. Let’s explore five drivers of mental toughness and how they can empower our efforts during these uncertain times.
The first driver is purpose. Purpose is among the most powerful influencers of behavior. Purpose is reflected in our goals and priorities, even when they are not stated or formal. Purpose defines value and meaning. When we believe deeply in the importance of what we are doing, we can summon the confidence necessary to overcome doubt and fear. Purpose helps us to keep going despite missteps and setbacks. Purpose can help us to press forward even when progress is slow. A sense of purpose can provide compass points for reflection and alignment as we examine our efforts, assess our impact, and focus on where we are headed.
The second driver, hope, is more powerful than most people assume. Hope is not just waiting for life to get better. Hope is persisting even when there is little evidence to support its worthiness. Hope drives us to prepare, work, and persist, even when the outcome remains in doubt and others have given up. Hope is the belief that we will prevail, regardless of whether our circumstances will change. Hope empowers us to rethink, reframe, and reimagine to see new paths and options to achieve success.
The third driver is gratitude. The connection between gratitude and mental toughness is not always obvious. However, people who demonstrate high levels of mental toughness often have suffered a significant loss, endured trying circumstances, and overcome difficult challenges. Despite the difficulties, these experiences have led them to appreciate what they have been given and the importance of giving back. Rather than feeling sorry for themselves, these people use the experience to build their confidence and resilience.
The fourth driver, empathy, may seem surprising because we often think of mental toughness as rugged independence and self-reliance. Yet, empathy can lead to understanding. It also builds relationships that can offer mutual support and reciprocity. Understanding the circumstances and perspectives of others can provide important insights into our experiences and ways of thinking. Further, when we practice empathy, others are more likely to offer it to us. Experiencing empathy can give us psychological strength and lead to mutual support when we need it most.
The fifth driver is integrity. We might think of integrity as doing what is right, even when no one is looking, and no one will know. Integrity frees us from being buffeted and manipulated by those who do not share our values and interests. It keeps our motives pure and our self-respect intact, even when others may doubt our decisions and criticize our commitment.
Mental toughness does not mean that we always have the courage to do the right thing or the insight to make the correct choice. Mental toughness is built step-by-step as we gain clarity about what is important and maintain hope even when the evidence to support it may be slim. Mental toughness grows as we practice gratitude and empathy in our relationships with others. And mental toughness remains on track when we think and act with integrity.