4 key elements of mental fortitude

The people we call the “Greatest Generation” went through some of America’s toughest times. They grew up during the Great Depression. They fought in World War II. And those experiences gave them mental strength unlike any other generation.

Today we might think of celebrity icons who overcame great adversity when we consider mental toughness: Oprah had a painful childhood. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz grew up in the projects. J.K. Rowling was a poor single mother when she wrote Harry Potter. All of them found the mental fortitude to build extraordinary lives.

Mental fortitude is a form of emotional mastery – and it’s a skill you can develop.

In his book Developing Mental Toughness: Improving Performance, Wellbeing and Positive Behaviour in Others, psychologist Dr. Peter Clough developed the 4Cs model: Challenge, Confidence, Control and Commit. Using Tony’s proven strategies, you can develop each of these qualities and leverage them to learn how to build mental toughness.

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Challenge: Seeing hardships as opportunities

why journaling is important

The ability to find the opportunity in any challenge is a hallmark of mental fortitude. Getting laid off from your job could be the catalyst you need for a career change. Heartbreak can teach you lessons about what to look for in a partner – and about forgiveness. Nearly any challenge is an opportunity for personal growth. When you see setbacks as a chance to regroup, learn from your mistakes and forge ahead, you’ll be ignited toward action.

How to develop it: Transforming your mindset from one of scarcity to one of abundance is the key to developing this aspect of mental fortitude. Gratitude is more than thanking your grocery checkout person – it’s an entire way of life. Write in a journal. Practice priming or other mindfulness exercises. Be kind to others. Appreciate what you have. When you begin to see the good that’s all around you, you’ll realize that challenges are also good.

Confidence: Eliminating self-doubt

Great leaders have many traits, but confidence is one of the most essential. With unassailable confidence, leaders have the ability to bring certainty to uncertain situations. They’re decisive. They take action. They never let fear hold them back. It’s not that they’re always sure of themselves, but they have a deep belief that even when they make mistakes – even when they fail – they will always come out on top. That’s the ultimate mental fortitude.

How to develop it: Becoming confident is about two things: Changing your limiting beliefs and facing your fears. Confident people know that fear and self-doubt are products of our limiting beliefs – and if those beliefs don’t serve them, they develop empowering beliefs that can. These empowering beliefs take them from “I can’t do this” to “I can do this. I just need to embrace my fears and dance with them.” The more you do things that scare you, the more you will build mental strength.

mental fortitude I can do this

Commitment: Never giving up

mental strength

Many successful people trace their achievements back to one single theme: focus. They don’t allow anything – or anyone – to derail them from their goals. The goal could be financial freedom. It could be giving back to others. But the true, underlying goal is always fulfillment. People with mental fortitude know that they are on a path that will bring them fulfillment and allow them to create an extraordinary life. When you live with that much purpose, it’s impossible to give up.

How to develop it: Answer the question, “Why do I need to be strong right now?” To do that, you must discover your ultimate purpose in life. Once you’re able to create a vision for your life – a happy family, a fulfilling career – and connect it to your actions, you’ll be able to dig deep and find the ability to refocus and recommit to that vision.

Control: Taking ownership of your destiny

The concept of a “locus of control” profoundly affects mental fortitude. People with an internal locus of control attribute their success to their own actions – they see their life as a result of their choices. People with an external locus of control believe they don’t control their lives – they blame their feelings and experiences on others. It should come as no surprise that those with an internal locus of control have more mental strength than those who let life control them, instead of the other way around.

How to develop it: Realize that life doesn’t happen to you, it happens for you. All the pain you’ve experienced. All of the unfair things that have happened to you. All of the people who have hurt you. You decide the meaning that you give these experiences. You decide whether they’re going to fuel anger, hurt and bad decisions or drive you to push harder, be better and discover how to build mental toughness.

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