Mental toughness is something worth having. But as with many other great things in life, desiring it is not going to make you have it. There has to be an effort towards its realization.

Other words which could be used as synonyms of mental toughness are resilience and tenacity. These two synonyms are really what distinguishes between mentally tough people and those who are not. The mentally tough achieve their goals while those who are not, can only dream and desire.

Which category are you in?

This article seeks to encourage you to know that mental toughness is not a preserve of the elite few. Those seemingly few mentally tough people just developed the skill.

It may be that they started early, maybe with the help of their parents, thus you never saw them struggle. Maybe, as is usually the case with many successful people, they struggled but you just never got to know about it.

The thing about building yourself up is that it most certainly distances you from the company you used to keep. Therefore, some people may just “disappear” then “re-appear” later basking in success and you wonder what happened.

Unless it is a story involving criminal activities, you can bet that those people were away working on themselves and their businesses. That is why successful people offer much advice that seems difficult to those yet to decide that they will do what needs to be done.

Make the right choice today. Do not just listen to inspiring stories of success and remain the same. Do something about it. Start by doing things differently as described below and go up the ladder.


1. Be in control

If you are to become mentally tough, then you need to learn how to be in control. In this case, you’re being in control mainly of yourself.

Control is a critical ingredient for mental toughness and general success. Controlling how you think ranks highest among the important things to learn how to do. When you can control your thoughts, many other things flow quite smoothly.

The very nature of life makes sure that being in control is not easy. This happens through the many uncertainties which constitute of life. Still, there will always be something you can control. And most of the variables are within your abilities.

For example, there may be news that the economy is about to go down. This will automatically make many people be filled with fear, become stressed and even probably take measures like selling some of their property. But did you know that there is another option? There will always be other options.

You could decide to simply cut down on your expenses and hold on to your property just in case things get better. If you have a family, you can communicate this with them and you all agree on cost cutting measures.

So, while many are stressed and glued to their TV screens for updates on when the economy will finally crash, you are planning for those hard times ahead. This planning will keep you in much control over the situation because you thought ahead of time.

2. Stop thinking about things you cannot change

When you’re in control of yourself, you will know that you can only change matters to do with yourself. Other things can potentially be changed but it’s never a guarantee.

Most situations come up as problems which need to be solved and solutions are usually in the form of changing the situation. However, there are situations which cannot really change yet they are a bother to you. A hindrance to your success. What do you do about them?

You are the one to change. You might need to change your perspective towards that situation. This way, you put your efforts and thinking energy to proper use. On the other hand, if you think of the unchangeable situation as it currently is, then you simply waste time and energy.

Whenever you come across situations which you cannot change, just change your view of them. Look at them from a different perspective and you will soon see how to tackle them. Or how to turn them around for your good.

3. See failures as training ground

You will never be able to avoid failure, at least not if you are going to achieve anything in life. Before you succeed, you have to fail. The earlier you realize this truth the better it will be for you.

With that knowledge, it is therefore of great importance that you learn how to see failures in the right perspective. It is imperative for you to understand that when you fail, it is not a sign that you are headed for total defeat. Rather, it is a sign that you are working towards a goal.

The correct way of looking at failure is as vital training ground. When you fail, take it as a great opportunity to learn an important lesson. Avoid the perspective held by many that failure is bad and should not happen. This is a lie based on a misunderstanding of failure.

Such lines of thinking also tend to be pursuing perfectionism in some way. Even if it is in small, almost undetectable amounts. Any time you pursue perfectionism, you are bound to get frustrated because that is one goal you will never achieve.

But when you fail and realize that it is not the end, it becomes easy for you to bounce back onto the field and play on. Failure is therefore not an enemy but a friendly stepping stone. Just have the right perspective towards it.

4. Celebrate others (don’t resent others’ success)

What do you do when you see your competitor succeed and you are still failing? If you are like many people, you will start hating them. This hatred works like a boomerang. You send it to others and it comes right back where it started and it affects you. How?

When you resent those who are doing better than you are, you become jealous. More than that, you lose much sleep worrying that they are better than you are. You forget and under-value your strengths and unique abilities. You only see yourself as not good enough.

This causes negative thinking which has a direct negative effect on your chances of succeeding in any endeavor.

On the other hand, when you celebrate those who succeed and respect those who show mental toughness, you get inspired. You get inspired to work harder and become successful too. This inspiration will lead you to research and learn whatever needs to be learned so that you can achieve your goal.

Celebrating other people’s success also proves to you that success is possible. This is crucial because it is possible that you have a very big goal that you want to achieve. The size of this goal may have scared you or your friends at some point and doubt may have crippled you.

But when you see other people achieving their goals, then you get encouraged to push forward to achieve yours too. You reason that if so and so were able to do it, then so can you. And indeed you will.

5. Don’t complain; provide a solutions

Weak-minded people are always complaining about everything. They are quick to spot errors and make them known. But at the heart of their talk is nothing but an attempt to show how bad things are.

Complainers usually blow things out of proportion. This is one reason why such people rarely succeed in anything big.

To be mentally tough, you have to desist from being a complainer. And the best way to do it is by cultivating a habit of working towards providing solutions. Seek those who are like-minded among your friends and work with them.

If you can’t find anyone, prepare to work on a solution by yourself. This will really set you apart and may even put you in conflict with some people. That should however be the least of your worries. Just remember that you are developing mental toughness—a trait not common among complainers.

6. Don’t seek to impress others

If you want to become mentally tough, don’t try to develop a fan base. If you seek to have many fans—people who love you—then you will not be able to stand on your own. Those fans will always, or at least to a very large extent, determine how far you can go.

Be comfortable with yourself and your abilities. The world around you is constantly seeking to pull you in to its mediocrity. Though unfortunate, it is true that there are way more mediocre people than those operating in excellence.

Naturally, we all want and need approval. But the problem is that everyone is busy doing their own things that they don’t have time for you. Parents don’t have time for children; spouses don’t have time for one another etc. So people seek attention and approval from elsewhere.

But the problem is that if you need approval from someone, then you must do what that person demands you do. And you must do it the way he wants it. Then he will say you’re “Ok.” If you want him to praise you then you have to exceed his expectations.

The question is: just when will you live your life if you’re constantly trying to please someone else? When will you develop yourself enough to become a consultant in your field? When will you implement that business idea, grow it, become an employer of many and help alleviate poverty?

The person or people demanding that you do something their way, are just seeking glory without having to work for it. They will be the ones labeled as successful. Yet it will be their vision you are building and not yours.

If you have a vision or any goal you want to achieve, just be sure about it then pursue it. Relentlessly.

7. Take responsibility

This is key if you are to become or achieve anything in life. As long as as you feel like the world owes you something, then you are bound to remain downtrodden. If you decide that just because you pay taxes that your government owes you a good life, then you have missed it.

Continue along this line and you will soon think that someone should be keeping your backyard clean yet you live alone. As much as you can hire someone, you will be developing a very dangerous trait called laziness. With that trait, mental toughness remains a mirage.

When you take responsibility, you recognize that you are the one on whom success depends. You therefore have to take action so as to achieve it. You will see the urgency of the matter because we have all wasted so much time in our past.

Taking responsibility goes on to help you redeem some time. When problems arise and people are talking about it and passing blame, you are already thinking of a solution. And you will definitely come up with one and go ahead to implement it. Even if you will do it alone, you will still do it.

Taking responsibility starts small and grows over time. You will need to develop some discipline and make it a habit.

You may start with something small like your own office. Keep your desk neat and orderly. Check your computer desktop. Is it cluttered? It may be hampering your productivity by making it difficult to locate files saved on your desktop. Why not create folders and save documents in the relevant folders?

Taking responsibility simple means that you know it’s your job. When you face a difficult situation, you will know that it is your job to come up with a solution. You will share it with others and work with them to implement. If you are alone, you will go ahead and implement it.

Soon enough, others will see the sense of what you are doing and join you. This is how great leadership develops. Great leaders see a problem and decide to be the solution. They commit themselves to it then others celebrate them, knowing little of the struggles that go on behind the scenes.

8. Overcome fear

Fear may be an emotion or a feeling. But that’s just as far as science goes. When you are pursuing a vision, you will realize that fear is a serious obstacle. It’s not a mere feeling that comes and goes.

Fear stands in front of you and says, “You can’t go past this point,” and stays put. If you challenge it hard enough, it changes to “You won’t go past this point.”

Most people stop at the first statement. Others are able to get to the second one. But considering the effort involved, very few still push to the point of going past the second statement. To be mentally tough, you need to decide that you want to become one of these very few who push further.

Fighting and overcoming fear is not a single event but an ongoing process. And as with many other ways of building mental toughness, you will do best to start small then build up capacity gradually.

Identify your everyday small fears. Are you afraid that making dinner will waste you a lot of time? Cleaning up your home will leave your back aching? Working an extra hour will make you lose a lot of sleep? Addressing the fight between two employees will make you lose their friendship?

Whatever your fear is, remember it is an obstacle that proudly declares that you cannot remove it from it’s established position. Don’t you want to become a conqueror? Don’t you want to be a winner?

Decide to challenge fear and take it down. You will then have what it takes to take on more difficult obstacles because you will be having a record of successes. This will also be a big confidence boost—something that naturally strengthens you.

Watch the below video for some motivation to overcome fear.

9. Make winning your goal

There can only be two outcomes: winning or losing. Nothing lies between these two. Both winning and losing are absolutes, so there are no scales of 1 to 10 or other similar ways of looking at them.

Of course, success is gradual and building it means you will lose some things and gain others. The losing we are talking about here is the one that comes from giving up. Stopping the work towards your goals.

Making winning your goal is about first of all setting a goal. You may for example decide that you want to make one hundred bucks in two months. In that case, then you make up your mind that you won’t settle for anything less.

Winning is never easy. So you will have to wake up early enough. Probably earlier than usual. Prepare yourself and leave for your business. Diligently work on the plans you set. Ensuring that you remove all forms of distractions from your mind regardless of how much fun some of them bring you.

The same advice applies here: start small. If you want to build a big house and the calculations say that you need one hundred bucks every two months, then check if you can really manage it with your current lifestyle or habits.

If the adjustment required is too much, then you better adjust your dream otherwise you will end up frustrated. If your idea of a big house cannot be reduced, then increase the time you will need to build it. Whatever the case, change something but keep the goal.

Breaking things down ensures your goals are realistic to your current abilities. After breaking things down, set the small daily and weekly goals then run with those. Don’t think too much of the big dream but be consistent with the everyday goals. They will quickly add up to the ultimate goal.

10. Check your company

They say you are what you eat. It is also true that you are who your friends are.

Since not many people are mentally strong and it takes a lot of effort to develop this ability, you can be sure you will stand out. But that’s just the beautiful result of fighting to the very end. Are you aware that there are potential pitfalls along the way?

Never underestimate the friends you keep. They determine a lot. From your level of knowledge, your reasoning patterns, style of talking and dressing etc. In fact, your friends largely affect how much success you attain in life.

Hanging around the same people you used to hang around and expecting to become mentally tough? That won’t happen. This is serious work that you must invest in. It is a result that needs work in order to be achieved.

The moment you embark on this journey, you will arouse jealousy from some of your friends. Some will become angry because they can sense that you will become better than them. They certainly know that the journey you are taking will land you where they cannot reach you.

If you start this process, you will soon have no time for your friends. Are you ready for that? Are you willing to have fewer friends, or no friends at all in the mean time so as to develop this ability?

You are essentially making them uncomfortable because they would rather you keep them company as consolation that mediocrity is universal. But woe unto you if you give in to their pressure. You would rather lose them and as soon as you achieve mental toughness, you will gain others who are at the same level as you are.

You just have to make a choice: your current friends (and your mental weakness) versus mental toughness (and new friends who will make you more mentally tough).

11. Practice delayed gratification

Rarely will you gain any success if you satisfy all your desires immediately they show up. Delayed gratification is necessary as it ensures you maintain focus in what you want to achieve.

There is a famous experiment done on kids to show delayed gratification. These kids were to either eat a marshmallow which they have been given or wait for some minutes then receive another one so they can have two.

You may refer to the things that come to get you out of your way to success as distractions. You may even call them temptations. Whichever way, they need to be ignored or removed. Mental toughness dictates that you should restrain yourself for whatever duration necessary so that you enjoy the best results later.

This does not mean that life will become boring and uneventful. Developing mental toughness means that you will be able to make sound judgment. When presented with a situation, you will be able to better assess it and decide what you want to achieve.

You can have all the fun you want. In fact, if you have developed mental toughness and you decide to indulge, you will never feel guilty. Why? You know that you are the one controlling the situation and not the other way round.

You know that if you wanted, you could have said “No.” Moreover, the current indulgence may as well be a reward you are giving yourself for achieving your goals. In that case, go ahead and indulge, just don’t lose the control you have developed. Losing it is easier than developing it.

12. Be optimistic

Do you always see the possibilities or impossibilities? If you say both, then which is more often?

Optimism is important if you are to attain mental toughness. When you are optimistic, it simply means that the situation you are facing can be dealt with. As long as it is possible, then you can come up with a solution. But if you see it as an impossibility, then there won’t even be a need to try.

That makes you disappointed that you are facing an impossibility and more so, you feel that you are stuck. If you feel, and soon thereafter believe that you are stuck, you are bound to give up. And mentally strong people don’t give up.

Your journey towards mental strength is going to be like climbing a hill. It is a hill and not a mountain first of all because you are starting small. Secondly, because you have to be optimistic. Even if it is a mountain, just see it as a big hill or a very tall hill.

How you see it matters a lot. Tell a friend that you are going to climb some hills and he may excitedly join you. Tell him that you are going to climb a mountain and the response will be very different.

You may get questions about how fit you are, whether you have any experience, fully equipped with a first aid kit etc. As important as those considerations are, that is rarely what is of utmost importance. Do you think you can climb the mountain? If your answer is “Yes,” then you’re good to go.

13. Control your emotions

Emotions are a part of you. You don’t have to be a woman to be in touch with your emotions. Those who say that men should not show any emotion are ignorantly plotting the ruin of men.

Of course men should not be cry babies, but they should definitely not hide their emotions. Those emotions are there to help them connect with other people. It is a basic part of being human.

The important thing to note about emotions is that you need to first of all be aware of them. Then know how to keep them in check. In view of this, it will also be crucial to know that other people may not be able to do the same. And those form the bulk of the society.

For example, the people who burst out in anger because someone did something wrong are not in control of their emotions. This control is so vital that it forms one of the most important ingredients of great leadership. It is more commonly referred to as emotional intelligence.

When you are emotionally intelligent, you are aware of what you feel and can tell what other people feel. You can restrain your responses so as to prevent a bad situation from getting worse. How is this important?

For example, you may be working on something and you suddenly get into an argument with a friend or colleague. You r colleague throws some hurtful words your way and you obviously start boiling in anger. Up to that point, all is quite OK because anger is a normal feeling.

However, what matters most is your response. If you respond in kind, you may get physical and lose an entire day of productivity. You may also lose a couple of teeth and some money in settling hospital bills. Not to mention your job.

What if you restrained yourself and even apologized? The results will be amazing. You will of course avoid the above and more importantly, get time to continue with your work. With that, you will more likely finish your work on time and celebrate your own victory.

Do you see how you got success from the better response? Your mind was strong enough to resist an emotional outburst which could have caused a lot of unforeseen problems.

It is also possible that you will make your colleague see the sense of your apology and reciprocate. It will therefore be a win-win situation for both of you. Believe it or not, you will also gain some respect from your colleague and anyone else who witnessed the situation.

Watch the below video for some insight on how to handle people who irritate you.

14. Be calm under pressure

Life is full of pressure from all directions and the more you have on your plate of responsibilities, the more this is the case. And what happens when you are under pressure? You get stressed.

A little stress is usually good as it powers you through tasks but when it is in large amounts, it becomes dangerous. It is even more dangerous when it becomes chronic as it could lead to anxiety and depression. Prevention is always better than cure. But what if you cannot prevent stress?

Stress is something that cannot be avoided but has to be managed. The best way to get started with managing stress is to practise staying calm when pressure mounts around you. Whether it is pending bills or incomplete tasks, you just have to practise staying calm.

When you develop this ability, you will realize some very quick benefits. First of all, you will be able to avoid much stress because you have not allowed it inside you. As long as you haven’t allowed worry to take over your thinking, you stay objective in your reasoning.

This is the basis of solving problems in stressful situations. When everyone else is pulling their hair and becoming angry, you will be able to think through the situation with relative peace of mind. Maintain this mode of operation and you will become immune to the effects of stress.

With low levels of stress, you will be better at solving problems, calming storms and putting out fires in the office. These are some of the qualities of great leaders. They are also some of the tell-tale signs that someone is good enough for a higher position.

Did you know that those who occupy higher positions work less (physically) but earn more?They get paid for their abilities to give strategic advice and solve difficult problems. These same people are highly diplomatic and rarely lose their cool. They have simply developed mental toughness.

15. Exercise your mind

Just as your body’s muscles grow, so does your brain, only that your brain’s growth is slightly different. Your brain grows by increasing in the number of neurons. This happens especially when you learn new things.

When you exercise your mind, you improve your ability to do many things. These include remembering more clearly. For mental toughness, brain exercises help you learn how to solve problems through various ways.

Exercising your mind essentially teaches you how to consider different angles to a situation, how to anticipate otherwise unexpected turns etc. This way, you will be more prepared to handle the unexpected situations which are a normal part of life.

These exercises improve the core functioning of your brain. As such, you become able to concentrate for longer without coffee, remember more clearly, perform calculations without a calculator etc.

These seemingly small benefits are what make you capable of handling more demanding tasks when everyone else has given up. When other people’s strength is gone, you remain to be the only one standing. This is the one defining characteristic of mental toughness.

By the way, some of the brain exercises come in the form of games so you can have fun as you learn.

16. Be determined

Determination is the ability to stay on course despite the circumstances not being favorable. It is the fuel that drives winning. You can never win if you are not determined. One way to develop determination is by knowing the value of what you want to achieve.

Once the value of your goal is clear in your mind, then you can fix your eyes on it. Allowing no distraction to come between you and your goal, you will push right through every obstacle that shows up. You will do everything that needs to be done so as to get past the challenges.

This resolve is very powerful as it carries many other aspects of mental toughness with it. For example, when you are determined, you will always be optimistic that what you want to achieve is possible.

You will also not complain about the situation. You know that you will remove the obstacle, go through it, around it or whichever other way possible. The important thing is that nothing will stop you. This is what brought about the below quote:

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” Martin Luther King Jr.

17. Be flexible

Change is the only constant. Although on the surface this statement is an oxymoron, it paints the picture that change will always be happening. So how are you to respond to it especially considering that change often reduces your plans to nothing?

Flexibility or adaptability is the answer. When you are flexible, you know that you may be required to change your plans any time. You may have come up with the best plans but the situation changes and your plan is no longer valid. This will happen many times in your life.

If you are able to make adjustments and make them quickly, then you stand a better chance of succeeding. This becomes very important for those situations in which you made a decision without the privilege of having all the information.

As events unfold and new information becomes available, you soon realize that you cannot continue with your current plan. So, what do you do?

You quickly make amends on your plans and determine what previously-taken actions need to be changed and which ones can be left as they are. If you have this trait, you will have less struggles with making necessary changes in your life.

This means that you will save yourself some time as you make new decisions quickly and move to implement them accordingly.

18. Stay focused

Every work needs undivided attention if it is to be done well and completed quickly. For this to happen, you have to be focused on the job you are working on.

Although multi-tasking is often praised as a great ability that proves your prowess, it really isn’t. Multi-tasking is a great distraction, especially if you are working on something that requires concentration.

As long as your focus is divided between two or more tasks, your mind will not be able to perform to its optimum. Multi-tasking can be fun and enjoyable. It can even seem to make work get finished faster. But that is only true in computers and not in human beings.

When you are not focused, you are likely to make mistakes in the work you are doing. Mistakes are usually costly to reverse and some are so big that they can cause massive losses to businesses. These are the kind of mistakes which bring about the recalling of products and big PR campaigns to pacify angry customers.

But when you stay focused on the current task and your goals, you avoid unnecessary distractions and save time by achieving goals faster.


Few things in life can be compared in value to possessing mental toughness. Despite the effort that you may have to put in, this is a worthy investment. Follow the above ways to develop this important attribute that is necessary for success.

18 Powerful Ways to Build Your Mental Toughness

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