We all know someone who knows how to roll with the punches, who has the resilience to get back up and keep fighting after a setback at work or in their personal lives.
In 2018, that person could be you.
The recruitment landscape is competitive, hard-working, and often stressful, and success in this field requires a mental toughness that can sometimes feel a bit out of reach.
But it’s not out of reach: Far from it.
Mental toughness is a hot topic in the corporate, military, and sporting worlds, and a great deal of research is being poured into discovering what mental toughness is, and more importantly, how it can be built.
What is Mental Toughness?
Mental toughness, often called resilience, is basically your level of ‘grit’. It’s your determination to keep going and reach your goals, even in the face of significant obstacles.
Mental toughness is what often makes the slightly less naturally talented person, that hardworking B-grade student, end up eclipsing the effortlessly straight-A student when they get out into the real world.
In fact, intelligence or raw talent often doesn’t correlate with long-term success.
A great deal of our success is down to sheer, mule-stubborn effort. Mental toughness—perseverance and passion in pursuit of our goals— is what matters in the end.
The ‘Beast Barracks’: Why Grit is the Route to Success
A great example of the power of mental toughness is to be found in the cadet program at West Point, the famous US military school. West Point has a ruthless training regime for its cadets, to test the cadet’s physical, mental and emotional limits. The program is so gruelling that it’s called the ‘Beast Barracks’, and many cadets never reach the end.
When researchers studied the cadets who entered the program, it wasn’t the strongest or the ones with the Best SATS or leadership aptitude that blitzed the field. It was the ones who had scored well on ‘grit’: that is, the ones that displayed strong traits of passion and perseverance for long-term goals.
People who scored highly on ‘grit’ were an astonishing 60% more likely to complete Beast Barracks training.
So, how can you build your Mental Toughness in 2018?
1. You need to care deeply about your goal.
It’s tough to persevere when you don’t have a real passion for your goal. You need to figure out your WHY, that is, why are you doing this job? What does succeeding at this job offer you? Is it a feeling of mastery of your skills, helping others find great careers, or perhaps something more pragmatic, like being able to pay off your mortgage 5 years early, or go on holidays to exotic destinations? Work out your why and use that to fuel your determination.
2. Make no room for excuses.
Set your goals in terms of ‘No matter what’. ‘No matter what, I will call an extra 20 leads each week’. ‘No matter what, I will attend 2 networking events each month.’ Write it down, and religiously track your progress.
Also, notice when you’re making excuses or blaming others for getting in the way of your goals. Regardless of external forces, (even that terrible manager) only you can use your grit to rise above challenges.
3. Turn up.
Make an unbreakable habit of turning up and putting in the effort, even when you really, really can’t be bothered. And attack the problematic thing first- even when you’re feeling run down and beaten down by life. That’s the route to success.
4. Celebrate the little wins.
Mental toughness is just like a muscle. It’s built through a thousand repetitions, getting stronger every time. The brain is extraordinarily malleable and adaptable- each time you force yourself to persevere when something is challenging, the more your mind finds it easier to take the difficult path… because it remembers that you succeeded last time.
Therefore, it’s so important to acknowledge your successes, however small. Give yourself a pat on the back, get yourself a new outfit or a massage or tickets to see your favourite band.
For once, we’re not going to talk about how good exercise is for you, either physically or to reduce stress. This time, we’re going to talk about how character-building it is, and how essential for a habit of mental toughness.
Because exercise hurts, right? And every time you do it, you are overcoming your mental resistance to something challenging. The more you do it, the more it becomes a routine occurrence to ignore the voice in your head that tells you to give up when the muscles start to burn. That is power. That is mental toughness.
Break up your long-term goals.
Remember our gritty cadets in the US? The ones that succeeded were able to maintain their perseverance for long-term goals (after all, most of us can sustain our energy to reach a short-term goal, that’s not so difficult).
Yet long-term motivation isn’t really in the human character; we’re overwhelmingly short-term thinkers. What successful people can do is firmly recognise how their efforts today are short-term wins that move them ever closer to that long-term goal.
So, you need to break up your big goals (for example, become billing manager by next Christmas) into short-term goals: (request performance review/find a mentor/build leadership skill etc.).
Be kind to yourself.
This is perhaps the most important of all. You will find it extremely difficult to succeed over the long-term unless you can find a way to encourage yourself. Notice how you talk to yourself, and about yourself. Do you put yourself down? How can you succeed if you’re your own worst enemy? Give some thought to how you can retrain your brain to be kinder to yourself.
Mental toughness is out there, but you must reach out grab it for yourself. This is something that no-one can help you with. No-one said that building grit would be smooth. After all, how would it build your resilience if it was?
Until next time Cheryl