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5 Strategies To Develop Mental Toughness At Work

Mental strength can be developed—just like a muscle. Here are five ways to build the kind of mental toughness that will help you overcome almost any workplace challenge.
5 Strategies To Develop Mental Toughness At Work

The Covid-19 pandemic has been a source of great uncertainty for many, if not most, employees. A recent study found that one in four adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression—an increase from one in ten in 2019. For some, the increased stress levels have also been accompanied by poorer sleep and increased alcohol and substance use—exacerbating mental health problems even further. So how can the average worker combat these challenges? Research suggests that mental toughness could be the answer.

But what is mental toughness? As stated by Dr. Peter Clough, co-author of the book Developing Mental Toughness, “mental toughness describes the capacity of an individual to deal effectively with stressors, pressures and challenges, and perform to the best of their ability, irrespective of the circumstances in which they find themselves.” And while genetics does play a part, mental toughness can be developed and strengthened—just like a muscle. Here are five ways to build the kind of mental fortitude that will help you overcome almost any workplace challenge.

Mental toughness means believing in yourself

As Henry Ford once said, “whether you think you can, or think you can’t—you’re right.” Mentally strong people understand that your mindset has a powerful effect on your ability to overcome challenges. In fact, a University of Melbourne study cited self-confidence as a key determinant of workplace success. The study also highlighted that confident employees went on to earn higher wages and got promoted more quickly than their counterparts.

Mental toughness means building habits

Successful leaders don’t wait for motivation to strike. Instead, they build habits so they can focus on what’s important regardless of the distractions and obstacles that might come their way. It’s about doing what you’re supposed to do on a more consistent basis. And it also involves giving up bad habits that hold you back. Mentally strong people manage their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in ways that set them up for success.

Mental toughness means being consistent

Developing mental toughness at work means being focused, goal-oriented and consistent. When we analyze the most mentally tough athletes, we recognize that routine and consistency are what allow those athletes to separate themselves from their peers. According to James Clear, author of Atomic Habits,“mentally tough leaders are more consistent than their peers. They have clear goals that they work towards each day. They don’t let short–term profits, negative feedback, or hectic schedules prevent them from continuing towards their vision. They make a habit of building up the people around them—not just once, but over and over and over again.”

Mental toughness means focusing on strengths

Where focus goes, energy flows. In other words, what you give your attention to, expands. So, when you focus on your weaknesses, you will amplify them. On the other hand, by focusing on your strengths, you will magnify them and feel more confident. Research has shown that people who use their strengths more at work are happier, more energetic, more engaged, and experience faster growth and development. Not only that but managers who focus on people’s strengths experience improved team performance and greater success. Studies have found that leaders who focus on the strengths of employees benefit from lower levels of staff turnover, higher levels of productivity, more satisfied customers, and greater profitability. Overall, a win-win!

Mental toughness means embracing challenge

My favorite analogy when it comes to challenge is that of the butterfly struggling to emerge from its cocoon. In order to escape, she must fight to free herself. Yet, it is this very struggle that builds the strength in her wings. Otherwise, the new butterfly will lack the stamina to fly and embark on her new journey. As Brent Gleeson, author of Embrace the Suck, shares, “mentally tough people view obstacles as a challenge, not as a paralyzing event. They look at their failures and mistakes as lessons to be learned from and opportunities for growth. In other words, they embrace obstacles better than others because they lean in.”

The struggle you’re in today is helping you develop the strength you need for tomorrow. Try not to focus on what you can’t control. Instead, focus on what you can. In the end, your mindset will make all the difference.

The Covid-19 pandemic has been a source of great uncertainty for many, if not most, employees. A recent study found that one in four adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression—an increase from one in ten in 2019. For some, the increased stress levels have also been accompanied by poorer sleep and increased alcohol and substance use—exacerbating mental health problems even further. So how can the average worker combat these challenges? Research suggests that mental toughness could be the answer.

But what is mental toughness? As stated by Dr. Peter Clough, co-author of the book Developing Mental Toughness, “mental toughness describes the capacity of an individual to deal effectively with stressors, pressures and challenges, and perform to the best of their ability, irrespective of the circumstances in which they find themselves.” And while genetics does play a part, mental toughness can be developed and strengthened—just like a muscle. Here are five ways to build the kind of mental fortitude that will help you overcome almost any workplace challenge.

Mental toughness means believing in yourself

As Henry Ford once said, “whether you think you can, or think you can’t—you’re right.” Mentally strong people understand that your mindset has a powerful effect on your ability to overcome challenges. In fact, a University of Melbourne study cited self-confidence as a key determinant of workplace success. The study also highlighted that confident employees went on to earn higher wages and got promoted more quickly than their counterparts.

Mental toughness means building habits

Successful leaders don’t wait for motivation to strike. Instead, they build habits so they can focus on what’s important regardless of the distractions and obstacles that might come their way. It’s about doing what you’re supposed to do on a more consistent basis. And it also involves giving up bad habits that hold you back. Mentally strong people manage their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in ways that set them up for success.

Mental toughness means being consistent

Developing mental toughness at work means being focused, goal-oriented and consistent. When we analyze the most mentally tough athletes, we recognize that routine and consistency are what allow those athletes to separate themselves from their peers. According to James Clear, author of Atomic Habits,“mentally tough leaders are more consistent than their peers. They have clear goals that they work towards each day. They don’t let short–term profits, negative feedback, or hectic schedules prevent them from continuing towards their vision. They make a habit of building up the people around them—not just once, but over and over and over again.”

Mental toughness means focusing on strengths

Where focus goes, energy flows. In other words, what you give your attention to, expands. So, when you focus on your weaknesses, you will amplify them. On the other hand, by focusing on your strengths, you will magnify them and feel more confident. Research has shown that people who use their strengths more at work are happier, more energetic, more engaged, and experience faster growth and development. Not only that but managers who focus on people’s strengths experience improved team performance and greater success. Studies have found that leaders who focus on the strengths of employees benefit from lower levels of staff turnover, higher levels of productivity, more satisfied customers, and greater profitability. Overall, a win-win!

Mental toughness means embracing challenge

My favorite analogy when it comes to challenge is that of the butterfly struggling to emerge from its cocoon. In order to escape, she must fight to free herself. Yet, it is this very struggle that builds the strength in her wings. Otherwise, the new butterfly will lack the stamina to fly and embark on her new journey. As Brent Gleeson, author of Embrace the Suck, shares, “mentally tough people view obstacles as a challenge, not as a paralyzing event. They look at their failures and mistakes as lessons to be learned from and opportunities for growth. In other words, they embrace obstacles better than others because they lean in.”

The struggle you’re in today is helping you develop the strength you need for tomorrow. Try not to focus on what you can’t control. Instead, focus on what you can. In the end, your mindset will make all the difference.


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