The big secret of mastering Mental Toughness is to thrive, and not just survive when the tide is against you. It means that whatever happens, you should strive to grow, not simply be a cork floating on a stream, says NONA WALIA, author of The Art of Mental Toughness: Survival Lessons from the Pandemic
The pandemic was an eye-opener as well as an emotional roller-coaster ride; but I learnt to sail against the wind. I learnt the art of ‘Mental Toughness’. It isn’t only for athletes as each of us needs to be mentally tough. Even those who think nothing will or can break them.
The year 2020 was a year that shook almost everyone to their core. It forced us to look within and reflect. We realised we needed to develop skills to cope with new and uncertain challenges of life, hitherto unseen. Mental Toughness is believing in yourself and convincing yourself that you will prevail despite your circumstances.
In life, you constantly need to upgrade your skills, so that you can use them as warfare and be resilient to setbacks. I have spoken to psychologists, psychiatrists, life coaches, success coaches, celebrities and innumerable others for tips on how they faced challenges and how the pandemic changed their Mental Toughness Quotient (MTQ). Indeed, Mental Toughness should be taught in schools and in homes from early childhood. Families should discuss rituals that helped them or their ancestors get over bad stretches in life. I spoke to several successful people about how they recovered from major setbacks in life with their Mental Toughness. Diseases, death and hardships teach a lot, but no one tells you how to survive a breakdown. Psychiatrists don’t help beyond a point. Pills don’t always cure. But you expect your personal interface with the outside and inside world to be tough. In that sense, Mental Toughness is more than a coping mechanism.
A key lesson in this book is that there is no ‘going back’ to old ways; you are no more the person you used to be. You need tools of personal warfare: Emotion regulation, Impulse control, Empathy. Toughness means opening up to what is happening, instead of shutting down. A tough person is constantly growing. Toughness is associated with strength. The big lesson is to look at how life isn’t just about hardship, but also about how you can take anything that comes at you, and keep moving. Never stop moving and never stop living.
With the unpredictability, uncertainties, and isolation, financial insecurity and disruption to daily lives caused by COVID-19, millions were left with feelings of deep anxiety. A recent article in Forbes reported that the economic downturn caused by the virus was a significant source of stress for 70 per cent of Americans, compared to 46 per cent last year.
Norwich University is among the first educational institutions to teach the skills associated with Mental Toughness. According to the course, Mental Toughness is a buildable trait and one that organisations, schools and colleges should develop in people as we move forward in a post COVID-19 world. The ‘Keeping Calm’ movement in a shrinking globe felt like an alien concept as it tested everyone’s capacity to handle adversity, rich and poor together, losers and winners together. The year 2020 was a red light in the flow of the human traffic of life.
Everyone’s lives are looking different now. Feelings are unsettling as time passes by. What everyone is looking for mostly is comfort and hope. Some experts suggest, ‘Start watching the movie of your life.’ It’s about having a quiet inner ability to watch ourselves and really pay attention to how we are living daily. Think of your life right now as a movie and you, as the hero or heroine of this tale. Make your setbacks and roadblocks into comebacks. Keep moving forward with inner strength. Retrain your brain to pick the positives. Write the story of your own victory. Only you have the power to do it. Script your own success story.
If you are seriously interested in sharpening your Mental Toughness, you need to read a lot of books, articles or blogs on the subject. You have to follow and learn from motivational mentors. You have to discerningly choose your role models. Those who are tough are often avid learners. They have tough mentors and role models, who are exacting in their own way. If you desire to be tougher, it requires you to push through beyond the physical and emotional limits of everyday routine life.
The big secret of mastering Mental Toughness is to thrive and not just survive when the tide is against you. No matter what happens, you should strive relentlessly to grow, not simply be a cork floating on a stream. Whether you aim to become an elite athlete or the best stay-at-home parent, mental strength is the key to long-term success. After all, you need tremendous determination and tenacity to reach your optimal potential. Tenacity helps you thrive and blossom in life, despite obstacles and challenges that hold you back. Building mental strength helps you develop resilience to overcome those hazards and continue on your journey to fulfil your potential.
Mental fitness is an all-encompassing term encompassing a plethora of factors, such as emotional wellbeing, the ability to cope with difficult situations, respond positively to adverse situations. There are many things that we can do to improve our mental fitness, but there is no quick fix, nor is there a magic wand. How does one just snap out of a bad situation? How do you get over the loss of a loved one quickly? How do you overcome the difficulties of a job loss? There aren’t any quick-fix ways.
Everyone has their own strategies to cope with these things and keep their mind fit.
You won’t feel stuck or depend on others to lift your spirit. Dr Amy Cuddy in The Science of Success says, “The key is to make yourself feel powerful. I’m not talking about power over people, but the power to bring our best foot forward, to believe in ourselves, and to be present in the moment.
“When people feel powerful and mentally tough, it affects their feelings, their thoughts, their behaviours, and even their physiology. You feel more optimistic, happier and more confident. You think more openly, more creatively.
You generally see the world as a place that’s filled with opportunities, not threats.”
At such a stage, you can ask yourself: How tough do you feel? How much choice and ability do you have to move through your world?
Nona Walia is a successful journalist and writer, who is also a motivational expert, passionate about helping people to live their best life. She likes to describe herself both as a Wellness Warrior and Wellness Blogger, who has done a certified online course on the ‘Science of Well-Being’ from Yale University. Nona Walia runs her own Wellness Channel on Youtube. She has worked with the Times of India for 24 years as Senior Assistant Editor. She is also an author for Thrive Global.