Are You Mentally Tough? 8 Tips to Improve Your Success

A number of years ago, one of my sons tried out for the junior high basketball team. Unfortunately, he did not make the team. He returned home being even more deflated because he was offered a position as the team manager, a position he turned down. Rather than sulk and engage in self-pity, he went to work. He devised a plan to improve his skills, so that he could make the team as a sophomore.

Part of his plan included playing basketball every day. He would come home from school, finish his homework, eat dinner, and then head to the local gym where he would practice until 10:00 every night. He also lifted weights, practiced jumping higher and higher, and ate us out of house and home. When the next tryout rolled around the following year, he made the high school sophomore team and continued from there. Needless to say, we were inspired by his dedication and hard work to achieve something that was important to him.

We often set goals to accomplish things that we desire to achieve both personally and professionally. Sometimes we are able to achieve our goals. While at other times, in spite of our good intentions, we become undisciplined, unfocused, and distracted and then waiver in our desire to achieve what we said we really wanted.

In an attempt to help you to improve your ability to accomplish your goals, here are 8 habits that will help you to achieve success:

1. See where you are. An accurate perspective of where you are and where you want to go is important. We usually know when we are not achieving our desired goals because our frustrations signal that we are not pleased with our current state. You must be candidly honest with yourself about your results and the results that you desire to achieve.

Once you can see where you are and understand how your thinking and acting are creating your results, you are in a position to visualize a different outcome. You cannot achieve what you can’t conceive. Achieving what you want begins by creating a different outcome in your own mind. Recognize the current reality, and then in your mind visualize how things need to change to make that vision a reality.

2. Create a plan. Once you can conceive of where you would like to be or what you want to achieve, create a plan to achieve your goal. This plan needs to be as detailed and specific as you can make it. Next, divide the plan into incremental and achievable steps. Work that plan daily, even if you are just taking a few minutes to do something toward the achievement of your goal.

In college, I had a roommate whose goal it was to eat a bicycle so that he could get into the Guinness Book of World Records. Each night after school, he would sit in front of the TV and take a file and grind a section of the bike until he had a teaspoon of bicycle to put into his hot cereal the next morning. During the eight months that I lived with him, he ate the front tire, the rim, all the spokes, and the forks of the bike all the way up to the handlebars. Unfortunately, I never heard whether he accomplished his ultimate goal. However, I learned one important lesson: you can eat a bicycle one teaspoon at a time. Creating and working your incremental plan is one key to your success.

3. Clean yourself out. Because our success begins in the way that we think about ourselves or the situation, it is important to recognize the thinking that may be holding you back. Someone once said to me, “You can’t put perfume over garbage.” Ask yourself what would happen if you never took the garbage out of your kitchen. You can try to use all the perfume in the world to cover the odor, but the garbage would still remain and have an influence on everyone nearby.

Most of us have some kind of negative, self-defeating thoughts, resentful feelings toward others, or past embarrassments that still may be influencing the way in which you choose to act. The challenge becomes for you to identify the garbage of your past that may still be influencing your behavior. To help “take out the garbage,” you can finish a number of sentences like those below to surface your thoughts, challenge their accuracy, and then bid them a fond farewell.

“I am angry (with the situation or person) because….”

I resent (whatever it may be) because….”

I am embarrassed by (whatever occurred) because….”

“If these negative feelings didn’t run my life, what would I do differently?

In order to really surface your underlying thoughts, choose one sentence that applies to your situation and finish it as many times as you can. I like to do this exercise by writing the sentence out and then finishing the stem until nothing else comes to mind. Some people prefer to say the sentence out loud as many times as they can. Do whatever works for you. What is important is that you make the attempt to surface the thinking, past experiences, and unresolved feelings that may still be running the show. Then examine them for accuracy. Once you have done that, you can decide that you no longer need to be influenced by the negative thoughts you identify.

4. Be positive. Once you have identified the negative thoughts that may be impeding you, identify at least two positive thoughts to replace the negative ones. Write them down and look for opportunities to say them out loud, so that you can reprogram your subconscious mind. Pay close attention to the way you talk about yourself or your situation with others. If you start to notice that negative talk creeping back into the conversation, stop and shift to positive talk about the situation. Don’t get discouraged. Speaking negatively can be a habit that is hard to break, so be patient with yourself. Often we are unrealistically critical of ourselves. Simply learn from your mistakes and move on.

5. Take care of you.In order to optimally perform, you need to eat well and get enough sleep. No one can do their best when they are tired and hungry or running on a poor diet. Also making time for physical activity will sharpen all of your faculties. Build a few minutes into each day for personal introspection and meditation. As you reflect on your day’s activities and identify what went well and what you could do differently, you will enhance your awareness about what needs to change to improve your results.

6. Be flexible. The one thing that is certain is change. When too many changes occur, we often end up feeling stressed. The more stress that we experience the more difficult it becomes to focus and engage in productive activities. Be willing to let go of what you may want to do and focus on what may need to be done in the moment. Reprioritize your tasks, plan accordingly, and execute as quickly as you can. 

7. Learn to say, “No.” Often there is so much going on that it is difficult to stay focused on what matters most, particularly when it feels like people are pulling you in a number of different directions. If you are the type of person that says, “yes,” to everyone, you may not be able to deliver on what you said you would do. This will likely hurt your creditability. Prioritize wisely and then say, “yes,” to what you can realistically do and, “no,” to what you can’t. People will understand and appreciate your honesty.

8. Be persistent. Persevering in the face of challenges and setbacks can be a daunting task. Remember that accomplishment forms the basis for true self-respect. Don’t let hurdles, challenges, negative feelings, or future projections run away with your imagination. Stay focused and use reasonable judgment to guide your actions forward.   

Implementing these habits of success will ensure that you stay focused and disciplined in achieving those goals that matter most. Taking the time to learn and practice these strategies will enable you to accomplish your desired results.


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Join me for my complimentary webinar, "3 Must Know Principles for Increasing Your Emotional Intelligence."

We will walk through practical ways to defuse defensiveness in others as well as yourself. You will learn the 5 values that create the majority of workplace challenges and disruptions.


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