Mental Toughness: Wear a Helmet or Develop Resiliency

When we think about the concept of “mental toughness” in our day to day lives, whether it be at work or at home, most of us envision a hard as nails attitude and the façade of a hard hat or helmet to keep us safe and disengaged from the dangers of the world and to lead us into the world of success!

“Mental toughness is a measure of individual resilience and confidence that may predict success in sport, education and the workplace. As a broad concept, it emerged in the context of sports training, in the context of a set of attributes that allow a person to become a better athlete and able to cope in difficult training and difficult competitive situations and emerge without losing confidence. In recent decades, the term has been commonly used by coaches, sport psychologists, sports commentators, and business leaders.” -Wikipedia

Thus, we would gather and ascertain that mental toughness equates to proactivity and confidence. But does it really?

Certainly this concept of and mental and emotional strength would lead us all to handle situations better, respond appropriately, and cope in difficult circumstances. But, is that really “toughness,” or should we term it something a little more positive? Mental Resilience, perhaps? Or even just Mindfulness.

Research has shown that brining our attention to the present moment, mindfulness, leads to a greater ability to cope, more resiliency, and a general level of increased happiness and satisfaction in life. This is a proactive approach to the circumstances in life, rather than the reactive stance that “toughness” can ignite. Mindfulness and resiliency embrace compassion – both for the self and for others – which is a win-win for everyone, really.

So, how do we become more resilient mindful? The answer is practice.

“Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally,” – Kabat-Zinn.

It’s simple, really:

  1. Dedicate a time and place each day for your practice.
  2. Make a conscious effort to focus on the present without judgement.
  3. Allow yourself to do nothing and just be.
  4. Don’t think about the past or plan for the future. Don’t look at the time.
  5. Pay attention to all your thoughts.
  6. Notice your judgements and floundering thoughts. Let them pass.
  7. Return to the present moment.
  8. Return to the present moment.
  9. Return, again, to the present moment.

It really does sound simple enough, and it can be with a little practice. But our minds are mighty, and they like to swirl and dream in every direction. They key is to notice those whips and turns, not judge, and bring the thoughts back to the present. Starting with just three minutes a day, gradually working up to 10-20 minutes over time, has shown remarkable results.

Thus, we no longer need to grab our helmets to get through life, toughening up, but a more practical and successful approach would for us all to be more compassionate, developing resilience through mindfulness.

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