When it comes to high-performance, what matters isn’t so much learning something new but building on who you are.
Despite the challenges that executives face, work must still go forth. From shutdowns to continued stay at home orders to working under unflattering circumstances, these uncertainties can cause a lot of anxiety and stress. Business disruptions like these also challenge your mental strength, wellbeing and can stall performance, making it difficult to maintain effectiveness and growth.
Perhaps those with greater levels of leadership responsibility may be far better at working through problems than others. Whatever your level, being closely aware of your innate signature strengths is what puts you over. Research Psychologists have backed-up the positive impact of understanding our strengths. However, it’s not enough to know what your strengths are, but to also know when and how to use them.
In his book, Developing Mental Toughness, Professor Peter Clough defines mental strength as the capacity to deal with various stressors or challenges when they arise and still perform to the best of your ability and personal strengths. Mental strength is then a core foundation of effective high-performing leaders. The good news is with practice, it can be developed over time.
Developing Mental Strength
Mental strength starts with the right behavioral choices. It follows then that developing mental strength especially in high-risk situations requires establishing new behaviors or mental habits that frees you to perform at your best. You must choose to pay attention to what’s passing through your mind without personally identifying and attaching yourself to trigger thoughts or feelings. The strategy is to keep practicing and exercising your mental muscles in the same way you would build physical strength. Keep your focus, determination, and performance growth despite the difficulties you encounter beginning with these three attributes.
Adaptability. Mentally strong leaders aren’t fickle. You tend to quickly adapt to change and remain rational while in a challenging or unpredicted situation. Struggles are your opportunities. When life hands you a bowl of lemons, it’s not difficult to turn it into lemonade because you have confidence in your ability to adapt. There’s no need to obsess or worry knowing you can handle the things as they happen. Adaptability is one of the most helpful character traits to have.
Endurance. Your strength and firmness of mind helps you to focus and overcome challenging situations. Mentally strong leaders know there will be rocks in the road. You are not a victim but understand which of your character strengths is needed to pull on at will. Because you are mindful of your emotions, thoughts, and motives, you can make decisions about your behavior based on your authentic emotions and reality.
Steadfastness. Because you are naturally motivated and not easily pushed by others, you cannot be swayed. A performance challenge is an opportunity to learn and grow instead of a threat of exposing your weaknesses. In place of a problem-focused approach, you use mental strength to respond to stress, pressure, and challenge. Your steadfastness is what helps you stay flexible, get through the hard times and learn from the experience.
Mental Strength Exercises
Create thinker moments. In her book, Think, Learn and Succeed, Dr. Carolyn Leaf suggests taking mental breaks to give your brain time to rest, allowing it to reboot and rebuild, which can increase your clarity of thought, help you deal with stress and help improve your wellbeing. She suggests to:
- Allot times throughout the day for thinker moments. Put it on your calendar as a reminder.
- Meditate and breathe deeply to get into thinker moments and improve your mood.
- Doodle to wander away from cares and concerns. How you use your mind will determine how successful you are in life.
Build fortitude of character. On purpose begin identifying and focusing on your innate strengths. Focusing on your character strengths assists you in overcoming challenging situations that weakens your performance and growth. A great way to focus on your strengths is to list them alongside of your weaknesses. To help with this exercise, I suggest you take the free VIA character strength inventory (www.via.com). Listing your strengths opens you to a range of cognitive behavior changes like building self-awareness, understanding other perspectives, increasing positive self-talk., and identifying where you can improve.
Raise resilience. Resilience is more about bouncing forward than bouncing back. Visualize performing at your best. See yourself growing as a leader. Imagine bouncing forward, successfully moving through each aspect of your challenging situation. Close your eyes with this self-image in mind and picture making realistic plans and actionable steps to carry them out.
If you want consistent high-performance growth and ascend in your leadership or business roles, commit to building on who you are — your mental strength — to get you there.