Student’s Mental Toughness and How to Maintain It
It often happens that way: a person or a group of people under psychological pressure start doing things a lot worse than they could do if there was no pressure. For instance, a soccer team that misses the first goal of a game starts playing a bit worse while opponents gain additional motivation.
You can see the lack of mental toughness in sports most often. Saying more correctly, it can be seen much better there. You see the results presented by time left, goals, and any other statistical data. In everyday life, it is more difficult to see such results, but it is still possible. A boss can see how the performance of a recently criticized worker decreases. Parents can notice their children make more mistakes in essay writing when kids feel pressure.
It is not easy to notice such features in your own behavior, but you can do that too. You surely know how mentally stable you are if you analyze your behavior and situations when you lose control or when people drive you mad.
Let’s get deeper into the definition of mental toughness.
What Is Mental Toughness?
According to Wikipedia, mental toughness is a measure of individual stability and confidence that can predict one’s personal success in sports, education, and job. It is a set of attributes allowing a person to reach goals and to deal with tough psychological situations in the process without losses of personal self-confidence. Coaches, sports psychologists, and business leaders use this term more and more widely throughout recent years.
It is a well-known fact that hidden mental toughness tests are held in job recruiting. For instance, Google uses them. It is thought that nowadays people feel it difficult to do their job if they can’t deal with psychical pressure and stress. You can have good skills and competences but lose control and do tons of mistakes after the first difficulty appears.
Four Aspects of Mental Toughness
Scientific research showed four levels of mental toughness:
- Hope: unbreakable personal self-confidence and knowledge that one has all necessary skills and abilities required to reach one’s goals (“I can find many different solutions for difficult situations”);
- Optimism: the expectation of things to be all good as a result (“In uncertain situations, I usually expect the best”);
- Persistence: consequent steps to reach the goal; not giving up when meeting difficulties (“I often go on working hard in cases when others give up”);
- Adaptability: the ability to adapt to problems in the environment (“I do not concentrate on things I can’t change”).
To make your mental toughness level high, you need to improve all four aspects. What is interesting, sportsmen usually get two times more points in toughness tests than non-sportsmen.
Researchers could also discover that mental toughness increase with age: depending on practice and experience.
What Makes People with High Mental Toughness Level Different?
To get deeper into this difficult topic, we should find out what beliefs, worldviews, and thinking mentally tough people develop for themselves.
Decisions you make and actions you do consequently are direct results of beliefs you cultivate throughout your life. These beliefs either help you move further or prevent you from progressing.
Things you believe in become your personal truths. They are often unreal and not connected to reality. And this is the feature making belief systems so powerful. They can help you overcome even the most difficult life problems.
People with a high level of mental toughness have their own systems of beliefs that help them deal with difficulties and get back on their track after they suffer a crushing defeat. These systems may seem to be strange or silly, but they actually work.
In fact, these beliefs are certain affirmations you should repeat to yourself during months or even years. Of course, this does not mean you can get carried away by them completely and avoid challenging yourself in reality.
Here are these beliefs:
- I think that failures don’t exist. A failure is only a part of success and nothing but a learning process. It provides me with feedback helping me to move forward;
- I think problems are temporary things I can overcome;
- I believe difficulties to strengthen my character, my spirit, and my body;
- I think that my confidence grows because I take actions to achieve my goals;
- I believe everything has its sense and meaning. Things never happen without reason. Maybe, I don’t know yet where my way leads me, but I’m sure it leads me where I need to come;
- I believe I can do many things because I put into them the maximum of my strength, energy, and time. That is why I don’t give up. Great success can expect me round every corner, and I’m always ready to meet it;
- I believe I can summon my luck when reacting to a difficulty with confidence. I can adjust to any situation.
You know these phrases, don’t you? Maybe, you’ve heard them from Mohammad Ali, Bruce Lee, Cristiano Ronaldo, or Connor McGregor. All great sportsmen are used to say phrases like those above. You hear and read about that every day, and that is why you think these phrases are typical and not worth a penny. But these successful people think exactly in this way.
Look for interviews of the best sportsmen and write out similar phrases. Create a big list of such affirmations and start practicing. Most people think these words to be pointless, and that is why they are never going to reach their greatest potential.
The system of beliefs is just a part of a puzzle. It is equally important to develop your worldview correctly, to change your thoughts, to pay attention to your speaking templates and habits.
People with high mental toughness take complete responsibility for their problems. They don’t blame anyone, don’t complain, and don’t look for excuses. And what is more important, they can’t think negatively. They do everything they can to get out of a difficult situation instead.
Yes, it is pleasant to blame someone and to complain, if we are speaking about short-term perspectives. But if we look at the long-term consequence, you’ll find a victim syndrome there. Mentally tough people understand this, accept things they can’t change, and move forward.
Here are the questions they ask themselves:
- How can I use this?
- How useful is it?
- What is curious about this?
- Where can it lead me?
- What possibilities are hidden here?
Such people know that when one door gets closed, another one becomes open. They know there are many possibilities in the world, and all that they need is to have the right worldview.
While weak people spend time blaming others, strong ones act. They win time and find better solutions. They rarely wait for the right moment before doing something.
Mentally tough people use their thoughts as a fuel to increase their self-confidence and motivation. They think positively, no matter how usual this phrase seems to be.
Their typical thoughts are:
- I can do it;
- I believe in myself;
- I just go on moving forward;
- Just keep going, no matter what happens;
- I will find the way to overcome that;
Compare them with your thoughts when troubles appear. Then start to change your thinking if needed.
Emotionally stable people can make themselves concentrated and motivated. Their thoughts help them, there is no special magic.
Still, statements are not enough. You should ask yourself correct questions that can inspire you and direct your thoughts to the right way:
- How can I make it better?
- What can I learn from this experience?
- How can I use my difficulties with maximal profits?
- What can I find in my mistake?
- What else can I do?
Such questions expand your abilities and make you look for alternative ways to solve any problems.
Taking everything described above into consideration, pay attention to your thoughts first. Don’t be afraid of thinking confidently. Of course, you need to support your words with deeds, but there can’t be any deeds if doubts dominate your mind.
How to Develop Mental Toughness
What is needed to develop your mental toughness? What are the requirements that can help you do that? The answer is not that simple because there are lots of components.
Mental toughness development requires you to do conscious work on yourself in many aspects. Effects won’t get obvious in a week or even month here.
Let’s consider all requirements.
High Self-Discipline and Self-Motivation
It may seem that these two skills do not have much in common with mental toughness, but that is not true. You won’t even have a wish to move forward and to change things if you have no motivation. And all achievements will be destroyed by your laziness in some time if there is no discipline. Keep in mind that you need to climb that mountain for several weeks or even months in a row.
You need clear goals that help you move forward and do not make you run in place. They need to inspire you to act and make difficult choices, not to tire and stress you. Be careful with setting goals, avoid getting too much (or not enough) of them at a time.
High mental stability level requires you to learn how to take responsibility for your achievements. This means you need to cultivate persistence and learn to avoid temptations.
Ability to Go Through Discomfort
Not many employers can hire a person who starts whining and complaining their difficult life as soon as the first and only obstacle appears. They prefer to offer job positions to those who can deal with problems.
If you are not able to overcome discomfort, you are more likely to make bad decisions and to spread negativity. Or you can get emotionally distant from discomfort and give out the greatest result despite everything.
Discomfort appears when you meet failures and mistakes too. Someone is going to worry about them for long and to lose valuable time. Others adjust instantly, find the root of the problem and start looking for better solutions.
Don’t let external factors influence your decisions and thoughts negatively.
A typical example: one decides to visit the gym every day. He or she is decisive, so buys an entry card for the whole upcoming year in advance. Two weeks of a great motivation expire, and apathy comes. This is a normal process everyone comes through. But if one didn’t know about the regress, he or she could quit training because of low mental toughness.
Additionally, this person could not predict it all to find 2-3 hours per day for sports activities. This is the case when expectations are too high. One didn’t know that the most important thing was to prepare mentally and to go in for sports even when motivation and willpower reached “zero”.
People often set unrealistic goals and expect too much from themselves without having any reasons. At a certain moment, they read an inspiring book, decide to change their life, and forget motivation is a very changeable lady.
Careful planning and preparation: here are your chances to reach long-term goals. And you need to prepare for the worst possible result. For instance, when you decide to learn any foreign language, think about the answers to the following questions:
- What am I supposed to do with my behavior and thoughts when there will be no wish to learn a language?
- What can I do when I have thoughts like “It is impossible to learn that language” or “I don’t understand a thing in their tenses”?
- If I had a bad sleep, what should I do to get fit and go to class?
- How to behave when my motivation expires?
- How should I organize the process of studying when guests come to visit me?
- Will I be able to learn a language after coming home from the gym?
These are only some of the questions you should ask yourself. In fact, there can be dozens of them, if not hundreds. And if you don’t plan it all, you are guaranteed to fall back after the first difficulty appears. You need to adjust your mind first.
Keeping up with the Right Habits
Your mental toughness is nothing but a habit you can gain and develop. The difficulty is that you need to create a complete chain of supporting habits. This requires you to put a lot of efforts and practice.
First, you need to place yourself into problematic situations on purpose and to analyze your behavior. Learn to do personal experiments.
The main enemy of your mental stability is a low level of stress.
It is not worth getting into the most complicated situations at once: learn to deal with something new first. Discomfort and a certain level of a metaphoric pain are good signs. Just find more complicated conditions each time you want to test your mental toughness.