The most successful people are those who are mentally tough. They choose thoughts that biologically improve their quality of life.
Twenty years ago, I set out to combine what I knew about cognitive neuroscience, brain chemistry, and human performance to create a training method to show people exactly how to develop mental toughness. After years of research with clinical patients and having worked with thousands of people considered “the best,” I developed what I call “Relentless Solution Focus” (RSF). This is a three-step process that I have since used to help people win World Series, Super-Bowls, National Championships, Olympic gold medals, and increase business productivity by up to 30 percent year over year.
Mentally tough people actually choose the thoughts that cause them to take actions that lead to positive outcomes, although this is contrary to the way humans are hardwired. Over millennia, our very survival relied on our ability to be alert to potential dangers. It was important to be able to spot the poisonous berries on the bush or the bear running at us through the woods. That is, we are pre-disposed to look for problems – what I call “Problem-Centric Thought.” Now that our environments are much more stable, and our resources are much more plentiful, this negativity bias significantly limits our potential and increases stress, pressure, and underperformance.
If you develop a Relentless Solution Focus (RSF), you will not only be prepared for adversity, but you will be able to thrive in it. This mind-training regimen – which I’ve taught to tens of thousands of people – makes it possible for you to reframe every problem into an opportunity for positive, productive action. We’ve all seen the amazing feats of human accomplishment by those who seem to have superhuman levels of mental toughness. But what about us mere mortals? You don’t have to be born with abnormally high levels of mental toughness to reap its benefits. Anyone can develop the mentally toughness required to thrive though adversity and achieve high levels of success and happiness. The Relentless Solution Process is simple, and only requires that you commit to training your brain on a consistent basis. Here’s what you need to know about this three-step process:
Recognize – First, recognize when negative thinking has set in. You may be surprised how difficult this is to do without training. Most of us are good at recognizing when other people are stuck in negative thoughts, but we have a much harder time self-assessing. The RSF process teaches you to be alert to negative thoughts, and to use the onset of this thinking to create positive behavior change. This is critical because what anyone focuses on expands. Focusing on problems makes them larger and less manageable.
Replace – Once you recognize your problem-focused thoughts, it is essential to replace the negative thinking with more positive thoughts. The key is to do it quickly—within 60 seconds or less. To do this, you must ask yourself one simple question: “What is one thing I can do right now that could make this better?” This simple question allows you to replace your problem-centric thoughts with a solution. Without it, you will undoubtedly get stuck in the problem. Imagine your brain has a mental chalkboard with a line down the center dividing the problem side and the solution side. When you identify a problem, you must to put a potential solution on your mental chalkboard within 60 seconds using this question. Fortunately, just as focusing on problems causes them to expand, focusing on solutions has the same effect.
Retrain – No muscle becomes strong without training. Developing mental strength requires training, as well. Although negative thinking is hardwired, the brain has the ability to change. It’s a matter of developing new habits – such as the one described above with the mental chalkboard. Make a drawing that represents the mental chalkboard. On a piece of paper, draw a vertical line down the center. On the left side of the line, write “problems,” and on the right side write “solutions.” In the middle of the page, write the question, “What is one thing I can do right now that could make this better?” Leave this piece of paper somewhere in plain sight—on your desk, your nightstand, or somewhere you will see if frequently. Every time you recognize that you are focus on a problem, use this mental chalkboard to replace that focus with a potential solution. When you are relentless about this process, you will see significant improvements in your success and happiness.
Adversity itself isn’t controllable. What is always controllable is what you do about it. The mentally tough relentlessly zero in on what can be done—the solution side of the mental chalkboard.
Written by Dr. Jason Selk.