The One Attribute That Will Double Your Success

Mental Toughness

 

If you can keep your head when all about you   

    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

    But make allowance for their doubting too;   

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise: Rudyard Kipling

 Rudyard Kipling

What separates the world class performers from the merely successful?

Mental toughness: the ability to withstand stress and control your mind.

Are you cool under pressure?

A minister I know was praised for how he led his church .  “He might be up to his knees in the fires of controversy and criticism, but you’d never know it when you heard him preach, he was cool as a cucumber no matter the pressure he was under.”  That’s mental toughness.

Are you cool under pressure?

Mental toughness is more important than talent or education. The real battlefield for success is in the mind.  Talent cannot save you if you cave under pressure.  Education will provide information of what to do in a crisis, but it cannot save you if you fold in stressful situations.  One of the arenas where you see this truth played out is professional golf.  You may not like the sport, but take some time to watch it carefully, and you’ll see mental toughness displayed in every tournament.  The pressure of having to summon up a relaxed and graceful putt on the final hole of a championship, with hundreds of thousands of dollars riding on the stroke, is determined more by the mental toughness of the player than by his hours of practice and natural skill.  Watching a player, who has just had a disastrous hole that put him behind in the score, put the bad strokes out of his mind and perform at championship level on the next hole, is a primer for mental toughness.

Examples of mentally tough people:

  • Winston Churchill withstanding the pressures of the near disasters of the early part of the World War II
  • American prisoners of war surviving years of abuse and imprisonment in Vietnam
  • American gymnast Kerri Strug working through the pain of an ankle injury to help her team win a gold medal in the 1996  Olympics 

What does it take to grow mental toughness in your life?

Over the next several blogs I’m going to examine five attributes of the mentally tough and give you tips for strengthening each one in your life.

Here are the attributes we’ll be studying:

  • Rigorous commitment to reality
  • Refusal to dwell on past failures\regrets
  • Relentless optimism rooted in faith
  • Refusal to define self by the opinion of others
  • Regular review of past successes

This will be a series of blogs that can take you to “next level”  success in your life.

How have you developed mental toughness in your life?  I’d love to hear your stories.  Please leave a comment and if you haven’t subscribed to my blog yet, please do so.

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO

Cue the music…. Enter the sweet tenor voice of Neil Sedaka  1967


Down dooby doo down down
Comma, comma, down dooby doo down down
Comma, comma, down dooby doo down down
Breaking up is hard to do

Don’t take your love away from me
Don’t you leave my heart in misery
If you go then I’ll be blue
‘Cause breaking up is hard to do

This blog is not about romance or a trip down memory lane to my misspent youth, it’s about making difficult choices about successful disciplines.   A surprising trap for goal oriented people is getting stuck in disciplines that are no longer productive.   Have you had this experience?  You set a goal to lose some weight, and then you start a particular exercise routine.  You spend some money and get some excellent support and direction and it works for you.  You lose the weight and shape up and so you continue the program.  But, time creeps on and you find yourself a couple of years later and for varied reasons the discipline is no longer working for you, but you just keep following and paying for it.   New ideas catch your attention and you think about trying them, but you just can’t bring yourself to break up with your old discipline.  What’s going on?

Some of the very strengths that make you successful in life can cause you to get stuck in routines:

  • Successful people are loyal
  • Successful people are not quitters
  • Successful people know the value of positive habits

But let’s look at those traits again and apply them realistically to an unproductive discipline:

  • Loyalty should be to your ultimate goal, not the current technique you are following
  • Quitting can be a wise choice if you are merely switching techniques or programs
  • Habits are only valuable when they are positive, and they are only positive when you are getting results.

Breaking up is hard to do.   But, it can be productive and in many cases it will lead to greater success.  If you find yourself stuck in a routine, reexamine your ultimate goal and make the choices that will bring you success rather than pander to your habits.  Never underestimate the jumpstart that a new beginning can bring to your goals.  A new workout program, a new career coach or accountability partner, or a new morning routine could breathe fresh life into your career and personal success.   So go ahead, break up…. After all, you’re not Neil Sedaka and it’s not 1967.

 

 

 

Rats

Combatting the Power of a Negative Comment

I recently watched Morgan Spurlock’s disturbing new documentary, “Rats.” The most unsettling part of the film was not the videos of hundreds of rats scurrying around or even the view of a man drinking out a pan of milk that rats had been drinking from and crawling around in, but the worst part was Spurlock’s evidence of the almost indestructible nature of the species.   He made a strong case for how rats as a species might still be flourishing when man has long vanished from the earth. The resiliency of the furry and almost universally disgusting creatures reminded me of the potency of negative comments in our lives.

Most us have had the weird experience of having one negative comment outweigh dozens of positive ones in our lives. It could be a comment about a new article of clothing you purchased, some creative piece of work you put out in the world, or some new direction where you led your organization.   You have dozens of affirming statements about your work and then you receive a single negative e-mail or phone call. In an amazing quirk of human nature, most people will begin to focus on the single negative comment and almost ignore the larger number of positive statements.

The behavior makes no sense:

  • Why don’t we embrace the sheer weight of numbers and focus on the positive?
  • Why would we let one statement carry more weight than dozens of others?
  • Why do we care so much about complaints that often come from strangers?
  • How in the world did rats and negative comments become so resilient?

I’m not saying people who disagree with our art or work are rats. I am lamenting the fact that negative comments have an amazing ability to survive the counterattacks of our rational minds and our most balanced analysis.

I have a few guesses as to why and one observation for moving forward.

Guesses:

  • We are wired to be sensitive to the negative, hence the famous news media policy, “if it bleeds it leads.”
  • We are usually so in love with our ideas, “after all we birthed them,” that we naively assume everyone else will love them too, hence the “every baby is beautiful” fallacy.
  • We are spoiled to people’s polite silence about our ideas and taste. Hence the shock when someone tells us our amazingly cute new shoes are ugly.
  • We are not wired to consider the negative. Differing opinions are a natural part of the environment and hence they should not surprise us like a rat bounding out of an alley.

Observation:

If you want to live a bold and creative life you will be noticed and draw comments. Not all of them are going to be positive. Treat them like the rats of the comment world. Don’t be shocked by them. Don’t think that they are out of the ordinary, because they are not. They just usually remain hidden. Work to put their limited appearance in perspective against the overriding positive support you receive. Most of all, keep working and creating.

Mr. Spurlock, I disagree, rats will never rule the world.

Overcoming the “UGH” day.

Ugh Day

“Some days are diamonds, some days are stones, and sometimes the bad times just won’t leave you alone.” John Denver

You know what an UGH day is don’t you?  I first heard this phrase from Jim Fixx the author of “Running.”  Jim was a devoted runner, racer, and compulsive marathoner.  Most days he couldn’t wait to strap on his running shoes and hit the pavement.  But some days he said were UGH days.   Nothing felt good.  He never seemed to hit his stride and he never got into a comfortable zone.  From start to finish his usually joyful run was just one disciplined stride after the other.  He called a tough run like that an UGH day.

Have you ever had an UGH day?  I know I sometimes encounter them.   UGH days are     those days when you don’t have any drive.  Your motivation has deserted you and you are filled with negative thoughts and general malaise.  You waste precious time rethinking your career choices and trying to remember why you ever wanted to do the work you do.  Some time an UGH day can continue more than 24 hours although, I’ve personally never had an UGH week.

What causes an UGH day?  Here are a few ideas:

  • Physical exhaustion
  • Mental stress
  • Hormonal fluctuation
  • Uncompleted tasks
  • High tide or low tide or the phases of the moon

It really doesn’t matter what causes these days, what matters is that UGH days do happen and you need a strategy to get through them as quickly as possible.

How does a goal oriented, positive thinking, hard charging, worker get through an UGH day?

  • Exercise
  • Change your scenery even if only to walk around the block
  • Give yourself a good talking to….  “Kim, you are better than this, Snap out of it!”
  • Review your goals
  • Take some action on a task no matter how small.  Actions lead to shifts in your emotions.

You can’t avoid having UGH days, but you can shorten their duration.  Just lace up your “running shoes” and get going.  If you don’t enjoy this one run, well take hope and remind yourself that tomorrow is coming.

 

 

Protecting Yourself From Panic

Panic in stormDangerous storms containing high winds and heavy rain passed over our neighborhood last night.  Thankfully we were blessed and had no real damage to person or property.  The media coverage of this storm got me thinking about how the media and others like to scare us into paying attention to their programs.  As I considered that idea I generated some questions:

 

 

Is it really necessary when trying to warn people to totally fixate on the worst-case scenarios?  Have we become so callused to media hype that we ignore even the most stringent of warnings?  What kind of impact is this constant use of scare tactics having on our lives?  What other warning signs do we ignore in our lives because we have been over exposed to fearful forecasts?

 

My first exposure to panic broadcasting came during the Arab oil embargo of the 1970’s,  I remember how the doom and gloom forecasters had us headed for complete worldwide financial meltdown.  It didn’t happen. Forty years later we are still moving on.   Some of the people who broadcast woe and anguish over every approaching danger are well meaning and truly see difficult times ahead.  But some of the panic mongers are just shrewd marketers who know that fear sells and people can be stampeded into buying or investing if you sufficiently tweak their insecurities.  What is the proper balance?   I know it’s foolish to plan a picnic in the middle of a tornado warning, but I am sick of having my emotions jerked around for benefit of marketers and broadcasters.

 

Truth- Times are hard and can be dangerous- we need to pay attention.

Balancing Truth- Times have always been hard and people have survived worse than what we face now.

Truth- Storms are real and can be dangerous- we should take adequate precautions.

Balancing Truth- People have experienced tornados, tsunamis,  and earthquakes before and not only survived but many are prospering.

Truth- Financial markets change, you can loose money if you don’t pay attention.

Balancing Truth- Some people make money in every kind of market.

Truth- Storms cause damage and you could suffer loss and your community could be affected.

Balancing Truth- Somebody has to rebuild those homes, so more jobs will be created.

Truth- There will always be storms and struggles in life

Balancing Truth- I can prepare and protect myself if I remember the most important step is not to panic.

As a people we are a lot more resilient than we think and we need to balance the fear and panic of the media with realities that with God’s help, hard work, and good friends and family we can survive what’s coming and maybe even prosper.

Working Through Mind Terrors

Macra_Terror

WORKING THROUGH MIND TERRORS

I am not talking about the nightmares that from which we awaken trembling and drenched in sweat.  That is the mostly harmless and rare occurrence that most of us experience from time to time.  Those kinds of terrors appear to be the stuff of the unconscious struggles of our mind and for which we seem to have no control. I am talking about the damaging and limiting experience of our imaginations spinning out of control.  Perhaps you have had this kind of terror. You make an error, maybe in business, maybe in your social life, maybe in your relationships.  You are aware that you have messed up and you logically count the cost of your mistake and realistically understand that it is probably no big deal and you simply determine not to do the same again.  But, here’s where the terror begins.  Suddenly, your mind is taking your error and calculating it’s possible ramifications on your life.  Ignoring all practical sense your imagination begins racing along a path of devastation and drama.  You see this mistake as taking on life changing implications that deal irreparable damage to your reputation, finances, and family.   You are gripped in a limiting and locked down mindset and begin loosing the zest you have for life.  You start second-guessing all of your recent decisions and start to question your motives in an unkind and unfair manner. Basically, you blow everything “way out of proportion” and you start living in a nightmare of foolish yet terrifying repercussions for your mistake.  You know you are being irrational but your mind just keeps racing ahead in its fears and you cannot seem to get back on track with your dreams. How do you stop such an event?

  • Talk the issue over with a wise and uninvolved party who can help you see the mistake more realistically.
  • Force your attention onto a positive alternative
  • Play  a round of golf or some sets of tennis or just go work out at the gym
  • Revisit some previous errors you made and honestly reflect on how they were frightening at the time, but certainly manageable
  • Remind yourself that every one is a  “Jerk “ sometimes, and cut yourself some slack. (I borrowed this one from an old “FastTrack” book.)

Make the decision right now to shorten the duration of your next Mind Terror.  You have too much important work to do to let a runaway imagination sap you of your creative energy and zest for life.  Save the “terrors” for the horror writers and get on with your life.

The Snowball Effect

I just finished serving on a jury for a criminal trial where the charge was the solicitation of a minor via the internet.  I won’t write anything about the details, but one of my “take-aways” from my two day immersion in the justice system is the sad snowball effect of parental selfishness.  I didn’t know the families involved, but it was easy to see from the testimonies given, that a young child had been made extremely vulnerable to the predators of this world by the emotional turmoil in her home.  As I listened to a confused teenage girl explain her dangerously unwise actions that had placed her in that courtroom, it was plain to see that she was desperately insecure and felt unloved.  My heart broke for her as she described her broken home, which included illegal drug use and promiscuity on the part of her parents.  Let me just take this moment to cry out for the children of our world whose voices are seldom heard.  Children need stability, they need security, and they need to know their parents cherish them just because they are their offspring.  Come on all you parents out there, let’s invest in our children.  Let’s deny ourselves in favor of the next generation.  Let’s put the hopes and dreams of our children above our passing hungers and dissatisfactions.

How can you make sure your children know they are deeply cherished?

  • One easy way is to write them a letter or card declaring your love.
  • Display discipline in your personal life by coming home every night, sober, and clear-headed.
  • Deepen their security by demonstrating faithful love for your wife or your husband.
  • Work wisely and with integrity to provide financial stability for your home.

You can help your children feel secure in this crazy world. Remember that secure children become well-adjusted adults.  There are too many teenagers who find themselves in the courtrooms of America.  Why not work hard to ensure your child won’t become one of them?  If you are going to have a snowball affecting your family let it be the accumulated success of one generation of dedicated parents after another positively impacting their children.

Handling Vacationitus

I am probably guilty here of making up a word, but I think every goal oriented person has suffered from this ailment.  Vacationitus- is the depression and grief we feel when we return from a vacation five or ten pounds over our normal body weight and suffering the pain of having to try to reconnect with the pre-vacation disciplines of eating and exercise.  Vacationitus is a setback, a reversal, a loss of ground toward our significant goals, and even worse a feeling of being unable to re-establish the good routines we once were on.  Having just recently gone through this crisis myself, I wanted to share five techniques that helped me over come Vacationitus and shed the excessive weight and get back to work.  Here they are.

1. Remind yourself of how successfully you have been in the past

For instance in the area of weight loss your thinking would go like this:

You lost 35 pounds in the last two years! People were walking up to you and  saying “Boy you’ve lost weight.”   Remind yourself how good those comments felt and remind yourself you have the power to deal with this issue.  The fact is       that since you have already done it once, you can do it again.  Your pep talk  should be,  “You know you can do this… you already have, just get your mind around it and start today.

2.  What are you about?   What are you up to?

It’s time to review your goals. A reversal is a great time to remind yourself of what you really want out of life and why you want it.  Again if the concern is vacation pounds, here are some good questions to ask yourself:

“Why is it necessary to lose the weight? “

“What are the benefits of staying in shape?”

My answers revolve around Self esteem.  I just feel so much better about myself when I am at my goal weight.  It is boost to my sense of personal worth    to control my weight rather than to be controlled by my eating.

I remind myself of that confidence is necessary to reach my goals, and that I am so much more confident when I am working out and my weight is under control.

3.  Start today

Every vacation ends, yours is over, you had a great time, and you ate what you wanted, now’s the time to get back to the real world.  Vacations are not the real world. They are meant to give us a break from reality and to free us from our disciplines long enough to relax, and that’s why we love them.  But vacations are meant to be temporary so grow up, get tough, and get back to the routines that have been bringing you success.

4.  Dealing with a setback.

There are other kinds of reversals than simple weight gain on vacation, but many of the same principles still apply. Maybe you have had an injury that is hindering your physical workouts. This can be very frustrating when you are pursuing physical training goals, but we have to be careful not to let it cause us to simply give up our pursuit of fitness.

I recently have been dealing with a knee injury that has slowed by workouts and led to much frustration on my part.  Here a couple questions I asked myself to get me going again in physical activity.

All right my leg is hindering exercise, but is it eliminating it?

Be honest, Kim, are there some things you can do physically?

Where can I get some good advice?  An injury is the time to invest in the cost of  getting good advice from qualified professionals.  Don’t quibble over spending  a few hundred dollars now, which might save you thousands in medical costs in  years to come.

5.  Others have done this, look to them.

This is the final technique and it’s an “oldie but goody.”  Success leave clues, and if others have overcome vactionitus and reversals in their lives they no doubt  have written or blogged about it.  Find them, read them, and copy them when they make sense.

Vacationitus happens to us all.  Reversals are part of life.  You can get back on track and reach goals.  So put down that doughnut and get out your workout gear and get started again on your dreams.