In my day job as a coach I frequently hear of people’s struggles.
I hear tales of the difficulties experienced in trying to carve out better lives.
I hear of the challenges in implementing and sustaining personal change like losing weight or getting in shape or quitting smoking or drinking.
I hear of situations that bring stress into many lives like job loss, dealing with illness and relationship terminations.
If there is one common theme that I hear in almost all of the stories it is the unspoken challenge of bringing mental toughness into one’s life.
Mental toughness simply means doing what you know you should be doing when you absolutely don’t feel like doing it and not doing what you know you shouldn’t be doing when the urge to do it is almost overwhelming.
It is the determination to get out of bed at 4:30 in the morning, strap on your running shoes and hit the road when the temptation to hit the snooze button to go back to sleep is all you really wish to do.
It is saying no to that chocolate cake rather than paying attention to that ridiculous voice in your head rationalizing why it is okay to have “a tiny slice” right now.
It is that desire to give everything you are capable of giving during rehab sessions when recovering from a debilitating accident rather than crying uncle at the first sign of pain or discomfort.
It is continuing to send out your resume when your wastebasket is overflowing with rejection letters.
Mental toughness is the elusive secret sauce that prevents so many of us from ever truly realizing our dreams and its absence is the cause of our giving up when we should be moving up.
And for many of us this absence of mental toughness has come about after a lifetime of repeated half-efforts at change. The experience of repeatedly not achieving our desired successes has led us to believe that the happiness we desire will always remain nothing more than an illusion.
Many of us simply quit trying.
And yet nothing could be further from the truth. Over the course of our lives we have created a series of stories that we repeatedly tell ourselves. The stories describe who we are and how we expect our lives to unfold. Quite often the message in the stories is one of self-criticism and negative expectation.
To become mentally tough the essential first step for all is to change our story. It is to begin flooding our brains, our mind and every cell in our bodies with a story of our strengths and our magnificence.
And repeat that story over and over and over again.
And force ourselves to act as if every word of that story represented truth.
For by doing so, in a surprisingly short period of time, we will become mentally tougher and we will begin to experience a taste of the successes we have long hoped for.
At the outset this may seem like a formidable task but the real formidable task is continuing with what we have been doing while naïvely hoping for miraculous change.
Einstein reputedly said that the definition of insanity is to do the same things over and over and expect the results to be different.
If we want different results we must do different things and those things must be congruent and consistent with the results we strive to achieve.
If you want to be mentally tough we must act mentally tough. We must tell ourselves stories of how mentally tough we are and we must work our tails off to make this happen.
Someone once said that success is ten percent inspiration and ninety percent perspiration. Perspiration means pushing ourselves to discover new limits.
We cannot allow ourselves to succumb to the habits of the past for that simply means we have reverted to telling ourselves the same old stories of the past.
I share this with you after having heard the story of a 20-year-old man whose life was turned upside down by the selfish, inconsiderate and outright stupid actions of a drunk driver.
This young man was so severely injured that there was doubt he would ever walk again and just last week his mother phoned me to tell me how proud she was of how far he had come in the fifteen months since his accident.
He achieved the impossible by exhibiting a level of determination and mental toughness that few of us will match.
She told me he spent countless time pushing himself through painful, tear-producing, excruciating exercises and did them over and over again and would only stop when he felt he could measure tangible progress.
Against the advice of his physicians and therapists he pushed himself beyond any conceivable limit and just last week walked out of hospital, unassisted, on his own two feet.
I have known his parents a long time and have been well aware of their sons struggle and while they did ask me to withhold their names they also thought his story to be one worth telling.
This young man is a role model for all of us. He has proven that with indomitable will the impossible is possible and the unreachable is attainable.
His mom shared with me three words that her son said over and over to himself “millions and millions of times” as he fought to rebuild his story.
Those words, “Yes I can” propelled her son through walls of inconceivable pain to improbable victory.
Yes I can!
Yes, we all can.
Till we read again.