We have all heard the adage ‘mind over matter’. In fact, this was a staple on which I was reared. When a final exam or a sports ‘try-out’ or any other challenge presented itself when we were growing up – one of the first things my parents offered as advice was ‘mind over matter’. This sounds easier than it is in actuality. Yet, one thing I know for sure is that our MIND and our THOUGHTS absolutely create our reality. So, what are a few exercises we can embrace to strengthen our mental muscles?
- Goals are key. There is a reason we set goals in life. When we set a goal – and we achieve that goal – this gives us energy and fuel to continue going forward. When we set SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based) – we plant the flag. We have a direction and an ‘end game’ defined….so that we have something to pursue. And, I also find it helpful to split BIG goals into smaller goals….so that I feel I am making progress. For example, a friend and I are training for a marathon. If I had made the goal of running the full marathon the only goal, I may have (probably would have) tuckered out before achieving it. Yet, if I made the goal to attend training every Saturday at 7am for the next 9 weeks, that made it more doable and not unrealistic.
- Make it easier to keep those goals. Let’s face it, life is full of temptations. On more than one Saturday, for example, the weather was nasty and cold, and it would have been very easy to sleep in and not go to training. However, my friend and I were committed to each other; and we planned ahead. We had our clothes laid out, and the coffee ready to perk the night before; so when that 6:30am alarm went off – we could more easily get up and get rolling. The same is true for every challenge. For example, I make my list and plan my work day the night before; so that when I get to the office, I am ready to go. These little (and very basic) practices make all the difference.
- Change your frame. Last month I wrote a blog on “What’s Next?” and the importance of our thoughts in creating our reality. Never underestimate the power of our thoughts. By simply replacing our more pessimistic thoughts with positive ones, we shift the dynamic entirely. For example, to continue with the marathon example, if I had said: “I am so out of shape, I will never be able to finish this marathon”….odds are that will become true. However, if I simply shifted the narrative to: “If I stay committed, I will get there.”…….then my chances for success are greatly improved!
- Keep in touch with your WHY and strive to fulfill it. Simon Sinek’s powerful TED talk on the power of your WHY has gone viral. Our WHY is the bedrock for our lives and how we wish to contribute. It is very hard to stay committed to any endeavor if it is not tied to and ALIGNED with our overall purpose, ‘mission’ in life…..our WHY we do what we do. For example, if I just simply wanted to run a marathon to ‘run a marathon’ the odds of me completing this are slim. Yet, if my WHY was to become healthy so that I can live fully and fulfill my overall purpose and destiny in life – then when I want to give up….my WHY drives me to keep plugging. BIG difference.
- Do one thing hard every single day…just for TODAY…do it! At the end of the day, nothing happens without sweat equity. Whether this be writing a book, losing weight, running a marathon, or achieving some professional goal. We have to challenge ourselves every single day to do something that is not easy for us….this helps to strengthen our mental toughness. Like with any muscle, if it does not get used, it will atrophy. Our ‘mental muscles’ are no exception. Again, if we tie ‘doing something hard’ and possibly even uncomfortable to our ‘greater purpose’ or WHY…..we get tough. For example, if we want to get out of debt – we forfeit some luxuries in the short-term to achieve that longer term goal. Or if we want to run the marathon, we go to training even if we are sore and tired…..so that we will achieve the ultimate goal.
Is this easy? No. Is it worth it? Yes. And what I believe is that with a conscious effort and daily dedication to these 5 little tips….our mental muscle and mindset will be strengthened……and thus our lives will also be strengthened.