Overcome what’s holding you back and live the life you dream of
Do you have a dream of starting a company or writing a novel? Could you start today, but feel that something’s holding you back? Do you dream of becoming more assertive, but find yourself ignored or walked over by every new group of people you meet?
There is a way to break the cycle of non-achievement and live the life you want. We’ll explore critical ways to improve your mental strength, conquer your fears and be the powerful person you know you can be.
Don’t waste energy trying to change things beyond your control. Instead, control yourself!
You can’t escape misfortune in life. But you can change how you respond to it. Let’s say you were hit by a bus and ended up in the hospital. Your injuries are bad enough — don’t make things worse by feeling sorry for yourself!
Self-pity is destructive. It leads to all kinds of negative emotions, and prevents you from moving forward. Think of your hypothetical bus accident. Here, you have two options: You can summon all your energy and channel it into getting better (such as working hard at physiotherapy). Or, you can dwell on your bad luck and become stuck in a cycle of bitterness.
Trying to control everything is another impulse that can hold you back. Even though we know that many things in life are beyond our personal control, we often cling to the illusion that it’s possible to control many of life’s outcomes. Although this belief is a common way of managing anxiety, it’s also an impulse that can damage your relationships.
After a divorce, James was terrified that his ex-wife was trying to turn their daughter against him by buying her expensive gifts that James himself couldn’t afford. But instead of spending time with his daughter and showing how much he loved her, he wasted his energy trying to control his ex-wife’s behavior. In the end, his actions damaged his relationship with his daughter.
The point is, complaining that you’re not getting something you think you deserve is a waste of energy. The world doesn’t owe you anything – but if you allow yourself to believe that it does, you’ll just end up angry and bitter.
And as a consequence, you’ll be less motivated in life and at work, which will undermine your performance and potentially start a vicious circle. If your work suffers and you’re denied a raise, for example, that will only make you angrier, damaging your performance even more.
Mentally strong individuals don’t focus too much on other people’s thoughts and feelings.
Do you care about what other people think of you? Of course, it’s natural to care a little, but when you care too much, you let others define your self-worth – which gives them power over you.
Look at it this way – if you allow other people to dictate your behavior, you make yourself vulnerable to manipulation.
To understand this principle, consider the pressures surrounding a small child. Children depend on what the adults in their lives think and say; parents often leverage this dependence to make children behave a certain way.
A mother might tell her daughter that “big girls” don’t climb trees wearing their best dress. Since the child wants to be seen as a “big girl,” she alters her behavior.
On the other hand, mentally strong adults take control of their actions and emotions, refusing to give other people the power to make them feel bad or inferior.
The key is to stop trying to please people. If someone near you is upset, take a deep breath and remember that it’s not your responsibility to make her happy. (And don’t worry; she won’t abandon you just because you don’t immediately rush to her assistance.)
Of course, past experiences may paint a different picture. Children of alcoholics, for example, often grow up to become “people pleasers,” because this sort of behavior was the only way they could manage a parent’s unpredictable behavior under the influence.
Remember that taking care of yourself isn’t selfish. The Bible, for example, doesn’t say you have to put others first – it just says you have to treat your neighbor as you would treat yourself. In other words, it’s just fine to take care of yourself!
Fear prevents you from taking risks, changing your daily routine and moving forward.
Change can be scary, whereas stability is comforting. Even when your daily routines are unhealthy, they are still familiar and thus feel safe. Such comforting familiarity can make you overestimate the amount of hassle that a change might bring. And as a result, you shy away from taking any action.
Just think how easy it would be to implement a few small changes to improve your health, for example. You could start by eating fewer sweets, and perhaps take a walk each day after work. That’s not too scary, is it?
Richard has for ages put off starting a weight-loss program. Why? Because he’s afraid of making so many big changes at once. He’s convinced that he’ll need to eliminate all junk food and all sweets and spend all his free time at the gym. And that makes it much harder to get started.
Overestimating the amount of risk involved in making a change can be equally limiting. Dale, who works as a teacher, dreamed of founding his own company. But he feared quitting and taking the jump, afraid that he’d end up with no income. But after exploring his possibilities, Dale realized that he’d overestimated the risk involved. He decided to keep his safe teaching job on a part-time basis, and try his luck as an entrepreneur on the side.
As you can see, methodically analyzing a situation can eliminate fear and encourage you to take a leap toward your dreams.
Many people also avoid moving forward by dwelling too much on mistakes. Instead of looking for new things to accomplish, we often focus on things that went wrong in the past. But if you want to move on, you have to forgive yourself for your past mistakes and stop worrying that you’ll repeat them in the future.
Small bad habits, like giving up early or seeking immediate results, may be holding you back.
From a child’s perspective, lying has its upsides. If you don’t fess up to a mistake, you might avoid mocking classmates or a scolding parent. But unfortunately, we often carry this attitude into adulthood. When we avoid facing the consequences of our actions, it prevents us from learning from our mistakes. As a result, we can end up making the same mistakes, over and over again.
Let’s pretend you’re a hairdresser’s apprentice, and you’ve botched your first dye job, with your client’s hair a terrible green hue. Fortunately, she agrees to not say a word, in exchange for $200 and your favorite beanie to wear on the ride home.
Now you can relax, right? Your boss won’t fire you. But it’s very possible that if you don’t learn from your mistake, the same thing will happen next time you have to dye a client’s hair!
Giving up at the first sign of failure is another bad habit that can hold you back. Failure does sting – but even champions fail, again and again, before they finally achieve their dreams.
Do you think tennis superstar Serena Williams would treat a small setback, like one lost match, as a sign that she lacked the talent to master her field? Of course not. Persevering in the face of failure is what separates the champions from the pack.
Straight-up failure too isn’t the only setback you’ll encounter on the path to success. People also tend to give up when they don’t get immediate results.
Granted, this attitude is understandable in a world of two-minute microwave meals and prefab houses. Not to mention the endless media stories of people who achieve “overnight” success.
The modern world encourages us to seek instant gratification and immediate results. But most of the time, achieving your goals won’t be easy. You’d better prepare for the long run and use your time and energy wisely – or you’ll just run out of steam!
Log off Facebook and seek some solitude from the envy and resentment that only hold you back.
How often do you find yourself scanning Facebook posts, seething with envy for what other people have or are doing? By doing so, you’re poisoning your own well. Competing with other people for success in life or for more “stuff” will only lead to resentment. And feeling resentful makes us forget about the things in life that we truly need and value.
If you’re feeling insecure, you’re more likely to define your self-worth by comparing yourself to others. And this impulse may suck you into a rat-race, working around the clock to buy that expensive car or own that fancy house.
We need deep, loving relationships more than we need anything else. But if you’re spending all your time at the office, you’ll miss out on quality time with your friends and family.
What’s more, it’s impossible to have true friendships if you spend all your time envying what your friends have or what they do with their time. Envy also leads people to lie or sabotage others to get ahead – not the sort of behavior that makes for good relationships.
But the thing is, it’s far too easy to lose touch with the values you hold dear if you never experience moments of peace and solitude. We all need quiet time to relax, work through our problems and feel whole.
Unfortunately, being alone and doing “nothing” is frowned upon in society. (Of course, many of us avoid true solitude even when we’re alone, by surfing the internet or watching TV.)
There’s a ton of pressure for people today to be active all the time. Isn’t it terrible to be at home and sick while everyone’s out on a Saturday night, having fun?
Well, what if you stayed home alone simply because you wanted to think about a personal problem? Finding the strength to be comfortable being alone is something we can cultivate.
Learn how to manage your negative emotions to increase your mental strength every day.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, mental strength isn’t about burying your emotions. It’s about harnessing your inner power to deal with pain and weakness. And you can learn to do this by becoming your own coach!
Start by taking a close, honest look at your behavior to identify every bad habit that undermines your goals. Consider all the things mentally strong people don’t do and find out which ones are present in your own behavior. Then become a stronger person by changing those habits, one by one.
To start, if you allow negative feelings to hold you back, try to train yourself to shift negative emotions when you experience them.
For instance, when you notice that you’re comparing yourself to others (such as on Facebook) or craving things that friends have, step back for a moment. Remind yourself that doing so is not the right way to measure your self-worth. You have your own skills, talents and experiences.
Instead, make a list of your goals and values. Then create a personal definition of success. That way, next time you’re feeling jealous, you can read through the list to remind yourself that your journey is different – and unique.
Pay attention to whether your thoughts are realistic. Do they contribute to your well-being? Many people allow their past to sabotage the present, thinking that anything else would be living in denial. But in fact, refusing to dwell on the past is evidence that you’ve made peace with that period, learned your lessons and have started living your life in the present.
And that’s it! Once you start paying more attention to your emotions and how they influence your thoughts and behavior, you’ll be well on your way to improved mental strength!
To become stronger mentally, you have to develop a better understanding of your thoughts, behavior and emotions. Learning to control your emotions and reducing negative feelings will help change your mind-set, allowing you to make decisions which you’ll feel good about.