C-Suite Advisory

Strong minds: how mental strength impacts performance

A strong mind allows us to maintain focus, keep calm and do our best work; even when times get tough.

Reflect for a moment on the ways in which your mind impacts on your ability to deliver outstanding service to your customers.  How well do you respond to challenging customers or the demands of peak trading periods when your thoughts are positive?  In contrast how is your performance impacted when your thoughts are draining your energy, and zapping your desire to keep striving to deliver?

The Retail industry can be a particularly challenging one.   The strength of our mind unquestionably influences our ability to respond well when issues arise or people get demanding.   Mental strength means more than just being healthy.  While mental health is an essential foundation, mental strength allows us to reach peak standards of performance through the toughest of times.

When our mind is healthy we are more likely to live with a sense of optimism.  When our mind is strong, we are more likely to see opportunities, believe in our ability to overcome challenge, achieve ambitious goals and ultimately reach our potential.  With a strong mind, you will more easily see solutions to inventory problems, respond well to aggressive customer demands and strive for service excellence.

Build mental strength   

Be healthy.  Mental strength begins with your body.  The food you eat, water you drink and sleep you get all impact upon the ability of your mind to function effectively, let alone rise to a challenge.  While it can be tempting with a queue of customers in your shop to skip breaks, it’s essential you take the time to eat.  Keep water close at hand and you’re more likely to maintain the energy you need.

Sleep deprivation is a common cause of mental impairment and poor performance.  The simple truth is if you want your mind to serve you well, take care of the basics and get the fuel and rest you need.

Understand the strength of your mind and emotional intelligence.   Mental strength can be measured through your ability to regulate your emotions, choose your thoughts, and behave in positive ways, despite the circumstances. With mental strength comes the ability to find the courage and will power needed to thrive at work and in life.

Mental strength doesn’t mean an absence of emotion, rather the ability to respond productively despite those emotions.  Acute awareness of your emotions will allow you to make the best choices in responding.

Observe your thoughts.  Observe the ways in which you think and how you allow your thoughts to make you feel.  For most people, the thought patterns that dictate their life are largely unconscious.  Recognising the ways in which our thoughts dictate our emotions and behaviour is fundamental to deliberately creating the life we want to live.

Reflect for a moment on how often you worry unnecessarily and expend valuable ‘brain power’ ruminating about things you can’t control?  Do you wallow in problems rather than getting on with solving them? Or do you choose to see opportunity in challenge and hope in the future?

Choose your thoughts.  Building mental strength begins with mastering your ability to not only observe but also regulate your thoughts, before they become emotions.  Like any skill, learning to control the thoughts you entertain takes practice.

When your mind wonders to unproductive thoughts, make a conscious decision to shift your focus back to more helpful topics. The goal isn’t necessarily to shift your thinking to a place of pure optimism.  Rather focus on a more balance viewpoint that takes into consideration both what is challenging and positive about your circumstances. Choose to focus only on what you can control. The more you practice choosing positive thoughts the more it will become a habit.

Develop resilience.

Resilience is reflected in your ability to at times choose to act contrary to your emotions.  Imagine for example circumstances when you feel like giving up.  Many of us have experienced times when we have felt defeated and yet chose to fight on any way, with success.  At times our emotions lead us to make decisions that hold us back despite our potential.  The key is in the strength of our minds ability to keep those emotions in their place, and choose successful behaviours.

Tolerating uncomfortable emotions, while maintaining our minds focus on the job at hand takes practice.  Identify circumstances in which your emotions are most likely to get the better of you and practice ‘dealing with it’.  For example, if you typically run to the store room while another colleague deals with a repeat offender angry customer, choose instead to work through the situation detached from your emotions.  Remember, practice makes perfect.

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Karen Gately
Karen Gately, founder of Corporate Dojo, is a leadership and people-management specialist. Karen works with leaders and HR teams to drive business results through the talent and energy of people. She is the author of The People Manager’s Toolkit: A Practical guide to getting the best from people (Wiley) and the host of Ticker TV’s Black Belt Leader. Karen Gately is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow her on LinkedIn.