If anyone has ever gotten into conversation with me for longer than five minutes, I will probably bring up Navy SEALs at some point. I have huge respect for those who serve our country. So, when I was in the airport grabbing some seltzer water and almonds and saw Jocko Willink – the ultimate SEAL – on the cover of Success Magazine, I had to grab it. There was a killer article about Jocko’s training routine, mindset, schedule, and business ventures. And it got me thinking about how important mental strength and emotional fitness are to success. In fact, it’s everything. All success hinges on overcoming the voice inside your head that is trying to hold you back and hold you down. Though, I wouldn’t mind having Jocko’s voice inside my head every day. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Go check out his podcast. It’s good.
When you master that voice, you win.
You’ve probably all heard the term self-mastery before. Self-mastery is nothing but overcoming that voice inside your head that says “No,” or “I can’t,” or “I’m too tired,” or “I shouldn’t have to,” or “I’m not good enough.” Life is about setting goals that cause us to push through challenges and obstacles. That’s where growth comes from. The interesting thing about setting big goals and finding a way to conquer them is that most of the time the grind of business building or the grind of training for an Ironman isn’t fun. It’s just not. It’s boring. It’s requires sacrifice. It’s hard. But when you grow, you build mental strength.
Here are 3 things you can do to build mental strength:
- Get up early. Which means you have to go to bed early. Nothing good happens after 8pm anyway. But the key is that you have to have a purpose to get up early. If you have a reason to get up in the morning, you go to bed. So, when your opportunity clock goes off in the morning do you hit the snooze button or do you choose victory? When you choose victory first thing in the morning, your building mental strength. Every time you hit the snooze button you are training yourself to break your promises. And the crazy thing is, these are promises you’ve made to yourself! Set the stage for your day and get up early. Get up early and read, meditate, go for a walk, journal, or exercise. It doesn’t really matter what you do. It’s about that victory in the morning that sets the stage for future success. Getting up early allows you to have time for you. No demands. No distractions. You get to set the course for your day.
- Implement small daily disciplines. Discipline is freedom. This is a gem I borrowed from Jocko. The more disciplined you are the better habits you create and ultimately the more freedom you end up experiencing. The discipline to get up early gives you the freedom of more time later in the day. The discipline to not buy the latest iPhone or a new car gives you financial freedom. The discipline to workout every day gives you energy, strength, and physical freedom. Small daily disciplines start creating small daily habits that eventually start leaking into every aspect of your life. If you don’t allow yourself to cheat on your daily discipline of flossing your teeth, then you are training yourself to not cheat on your daily workout, or not cheat on the time you have set aside for your family. But discipline isn’t easy. Discipline is hard. This is where mental strength is forged. Focus on your long-term goals and then the daily habits you can take to get you there. And then take action. When you do what you say you’re going to do – DAILY – you will create a huge life.
- Challenge yourself in a structured environment. Do you want to live a mediocre life? No! I bet you don’t. But it’s easy to get comfortable, especially when you have achieved a certain level of success. So, you have to choose to get outside your comfort zone in order to grow and one of the best ways to do that is to take on a new challenge within a structured environment. For example, join a Toastmasters and start practicing your public speaking, or sign up to run a marathon and get a running coach, or take a course to help you start the business that you’ve wanted to start for years.
When I decided to sign up to complete an Ironman, I had an instant mental shift from exercising to training. Exercise means you get a good sweat on, feel good, and have a decent routine. Exercise is great! But training means you get on your bike, or lace up your running shoes, or get into the pool with the intent of beating your previous pace. You are working on improving yourself but with extreme focus and purpose and with a much higher level of accountability. It’s the difference between reading for fun and reading because you know you will be giving a presentation and graded on it. It’s the difference between going for a jog and training for a Spartan Race with the intention of beating last year’s PR. You are no longer just going through the motions. You have a goal, you have a score card, and you are constantly being pushed by that coach or that program to go beyond what you thought was possible. That is where mental strength is made. Because training gives you purpose, it strengthens your ability to push through when that voice is telling you to slow down or quit. And then that mental strength stays with you when the next obstacle or challenge is thrown at you – and you know there will be some.
Mental strength is built by embracing challenges and pushing through them. Struggles and obstacles are our greatest gifts because they force us to grow. Mental strength comes from believing you can’t do something and then doing it anyway. Do not allow yourself to give yourself an out! Commit to getting up early. Commit to daily disciplines. Commit to a new, structured challenge. You’ll be building mental strength each step of the way.