Viral blog post “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do” became a cultural phenomenon that inspired two books. Written by a social worker after the death of her husband, the list shows ways most people unconsciously make life more challenging with bad mental habits, fears, and subliminal thought patterns. We thought we’d flip the script with a list of attitudes and behaviors that mentally strong people have cultivated to drive their success.
Below are seven inspiring suggestions of tools and techniques to help you develop the grit and resilience needed to find success at work and in the home.
Focus on what they can control
When something goes wrong, do you grieve the loss, or do you think about the best response? Mentally strong people know very little is actually in their control. Dwelling on what went wrong or who was at fault is not only counterproductive, it can bring up strong emotions of shame, grief, or anger, which won’t help the individual achieve their desired goals. While they aren’t pleased when a setback arises, mentally resilient people tend to focus on what’s in their control — which is usually their reactions, emotions, and actions.
Own their emotions
All too often, people attribute the way they feel to the person who made them feel it. Thus, “You made me feel bad” is a common couple’s argument. What mentally strong people understand is no one can make them feel anything emotionally, since they are in control of their emotions. Instead of telling a coworker “you make me feel bad,” think a bit deeper to try to understand what sparked the negative emotion. By understanding why you have the response of feeling bad to a certain trigger, you can desensitize the emotion and skip the blues next time something similar happens.
Set clear boundaries
Mentally strong people are not people pleasers. They understand boundaries are an essential part of healthy relationships at home and in the workplace. They are able to articulate clear boundaries without being overly prescriptive and using black and white language such as always or never.
Boundaries benefit relationships by opening up communication and setting guidelines for the kind of treatment you expect. People without healthy boundaries may lash out when they feel they’ve been victimized, even though they never communicated their needs to the other party. People without clear boundaries may also experience stress and anxiety because they aren’t getting what they feel they are due, without taking ownership for asking for their needs to be met.
Adopt a flexible mindset
When change comes, do you resist it or embrace it? Change can be scary, even for people who don’t like the status quo. The reality is, change is part of life and people can make change easier or harder through their attitudes. By adopting a flexible attitude, mentally strong people are better able to go with the flow. Their flexibility helps them through the learning curve of change, so they can work through the difficult moments and thrive. In contrast, employees who gripe about a new change drag out the process, negatively affect morale, and complicate the workload for themselves and others.
Manage their stress (in healthy ways)
80 percent of workers feel stress on the job and nearly half admit they need help in learning ways to manage stress, according to the American Institute of Stress. If stress is not adequately managed, employees can turn verbally abusive or cause damage to workplace equipment. The harmful consequences of stress balloon in the workplace, as a stressed and out-of-control employee creates a toxic work environment. Other individuals, who repress their stress, may become physically ill and require time off work; repeat absences create a bottleneck with productivity. The health consequences of failing to manage stress are as severe as a heart attack.
Mentally resilient people take a proactive approach toward managing their stress, because they know how harmful stress can be. They adopt a set of habits that reduce their stress and stick with these habits, even when life gets hectic. Proven stress management techniques include exercise, meditation, yoga, tai chi, journaling, and socialization. Mentally strong people make work-life balance a priority as well, because they know socialization and time with loved ones decreases their stress.
Have a growth mindset
Two basic mindsets, fixed and growth, define the way people think of themselves and their potential. Individuals with a fixed mindset believe their creativity, smarts, and personality is static — and thus unlikely to change. Faced with a challenge, these people often act from a scarcity-based mindset with a goal of conserving their resources (after all, they are finite). These people often shut down in the face of criticism, taking it as an attack on their skills. They may be jealous of others’ successes.
People with a growth mindset believe their personality, skills, and intellect can change over time. With effort, these people believe they can grow smarter and more creative. When a challenging situation arises, someone with a growth mindset tends to respond positively to the challenge because they know, whatever the outcome, they’ll grow as a result. These people hear criticism with an open mind because they know it’s intended to help them become better. They take inspiration from the good that comes to others because they know resources are unlimited, not scarce: Someone else’s promotion doesn’t mean they’ll never get the role they want.
Some mentally strong people may be predisposed with a growth mindset but even if that’s not the case for you, that doesn’t mean you can’t shift your default toward growth. Stop seeking approval from other people and connect with what you value and enjoy about yourself. Rather than focus on the end result, try to connect to the process. Delete the word failure from your vocabulary and instead, celebrate what you learn from every effort. These three behavior changes will set you on track to develop a growth mindset, which may be the key to getting what you want.
Stay the course
Mentally strong people don’t expect immediate results with personal or professional changes. They understand most things take perseverance. Since they grasp this from the outset, mentally resilient people chip away at their goals one day at a time, one step at a time. They tolerate the discomfort that is an inevitable part of progress, whether it’s enduring a grueling workout while training for a marathon or seeing a lengthy research project through, because they know the information will guide their next steps.
The rewards of adopting a mentally resilient approach include greater self-esteem, happiness, personal power, and less stress. When you build your resilience, you will become a happier person, no longer focused on what goes wrong or what you cannot control but on what you have, what you are grateful for, and what motivates you. Approach every day as an opportunity to choose the behaviors and beliefs that will help you get what you want, whether it’s better relationships or a career goal.