Building a little mental muscle could have a big impact on your life.
If you want to lift heavier objects, you need more physical strength. Large biceps and a strong back will go a long way toward helping you do the heavy lifting.
Well, the same can be said for your mental muscles. If you want to be able to tackle bigger challenges and overcome more obstacles, you need more mental strength.
Like physical muscles, your mental muscles require a good workout. And these 10 exercises can help you start developing the mental strength you need to crush your goals.
1. Reframe negative thoughts.
If you are having catastrophic thoughts like “This will never work,” then replace them with something more realistic, like “If I work hard, I’ll improve my chances of success.”
It’s true that everyone has bad days that lead to negative thoughts. But by searching for positive and realistic expectations, you can eliminate these damaging pessimistic thoughts and better equip yourself to manage the bad days.
2. Create goals.
It’s fun to aim high and dream big. But setting your sights too high will likely lead to disappointment.
Rather than set out to lose 100 pounds, focus on losing five first. When you crush that goal, you’ll be more motivated to lose the next five pounds.
Every goal you achieve gives you confidence in your own ability to be successful. This will also help you identify which goals are not challenging enough and which ones are unrealistically ambitious.
3. Set yourself up for success.
You don’t need to subject yourself to temptations every day to stay mentally strong. Modify your environment from time to time. Make life a little easier.
Put your running sneakers next to the bed if you want to work out in the morning. Remove the junk food from your pantry if your goal is to eat healthier. Little things like this will go a long way toward keeping you from exhausting your own mental energy and setting yourself up for success.
4. Do at least one difficult thing each day.
Improvement doesn’t come about by accident. You need to challenge yourself on purpose. Make sure to analyze your own boundaries, though, since everyone has a different idea of what is challenging.
Have the courage to pick something slightly outside these boundaries. And then take one small step every day.
Enroll in a class you don’t think you qualify for. Speak up for yourself even when it is uncomfortable. Always push yourself to become a little better today than you were yesterday.
5. Tolerate discomfort for a greater purpose.
The feeling of discomfort can often lead people to look for unhealthy shortcuts. Binge TV-watching and overdrinking are common emotional crutches. But these types of short-term solutions more often create bigger long-term problems.
The next time you experience discomfort, remind yourself of the bigger picture. Finish that workout even when you are tired. Balance your budget even when it gives you anxiety. Tolerating uncomfortable emotions can help you gain the confidence you need to crush your goals.
6. Balance your emotions with logic.
If you were to be 100 percent logical all the time, you might live a boring life, devoid of leisure time, pleasure, or even love. But if you base all of your decisions on emotion, you might spend all your money on fun, rather than save for retirement or investments. To make the best decisions, you need to balance your logic and emotion.
So regardless of how minor or major the decision in your life, check yourself to make sure you are balancing your emotions with logic.
Being overly anxious, angry, or excited can cause you to make an emotional decision. So write down a list of pros and cons for each decision you make. Reviewing this list will enhance the logical part of your brain and help balance out your emotions.
7. Fulfill your purpose.
It’s hard to stay the course unless you know your overall purpose. Why is it that you want to hone your craft or to earn more money?
Write out a clear and concise mission statement about what you want to accomplish in life. When you’re struggling to take the next step, remind yourself why it’s important to keep going. Focus on your daily objectives, but make sure those steps you’re taking will get you to a larger goal in the long run.
8. Look for explanations, not excuses.
Did you fall short of your goal? Then examine the reasons. Rather than make excuses for your behavior, look for an explanation than can help you do better next time.
Take on the full responsibility for any shortcomings without placing blame. When you face and acknowledge your mistakes, you can learn from them and avoid repeating them.
9. Use the 10-minute rule.
Mental strength can help you be productive when you don’t feel like it. But it’s not a magic wand that will make you feel motivated all the time.
There is a 10-minute rule that comes in handy when you are tempted to put off something important. If you catch yourself eyeing the couch at the time you planned to go for your mile run, then tell yourself to get moving for just 10 minutes. If your mind is still fighting your body after 10 minutes, then it might be OK to give yourself permission to quit.
But more often than not, once you take that first step, you’ll realize your task is not nearly as tough as you predicted. Getting started is almost always the hardest part, but your other learned skills can help keep you going.
10. Prove yourself wrong.
The next time you think you can’t do something, prove yourself wrong. Commit to topping your sales goal for this month or beating your time in the mile run.
You are more capable than you give yourself credit for, so make it a habit to prove yourself wrong. Over time, your brain will stop underestimating your own potential.
Build Your Mental Muscle
You won’t develop mental strength overnight. It takes time to grow stronger and become better. But with consistent exercise, you can build the mental strength you need to crush your goals and live the life of your dreams.
is a licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist, and the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.