Most people think mental toughness is about positive affirmations or avoiding negative thoughts, but in my experience it’s quite the opposite.
In the Navy, enduring physical hardships and danger were not the factors which made one mentally tough. Everyone around me was enduring the same thing. That part was easy. Mental toughness was about emotional toughness.
Five years ago I pursued a lengthy defense contract in Djibouti, and the place was dangerous and I was afraid, really afraid, but not afraid of physical danger, afraid of being miserable, missing loved ones and all the luxuries of Candy Land. So I had to get my head on straight and this is how I did it and have always done it.
I believe in getting to the heart of the matter, so I think worst case scenario about everything, and I go as deep into that pain as I can – focusing on it – dwelling on it – and feeling every bit of it. And I stay there as long as I can. Then I say to myself, well, if that’s as bad as it gets, I’m going to make it. Yes, it sounds like harsh medicine. But why not deal with it up front? After you’ve felt the worst of it, that pain may linger for a long time, but you know it can’t get any worse. And since it can’t, it’s all down hill from there.
Ultimately, mental toughness is about the acceptance of everything awful. And if I, or anyone else who needs to get mentally tough can’t find this acceptance, then we’re not going to be in the game – not like we need to be. I say dive into the pain!
Like we used to say in the Navy, “That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger!”