What’s the secret behind unstoppable mental strength?
How do some people persevere through adversity while others crumble and lose hope? Many people desire mental strength without understanding what exactly they’re looking for. Mental strength has a variety of applications, but at its core, it can be summed up in a single word, resilience. It would be best if you had the strength to overcome stressors, resist distractions, and pursue lofty goals. It would help if you had the stability to bear your failures’ burden and seek a better version of yourself. But where does strength come from?
Imagine this after years of hard work, your dream, which you believed in with every fibre of your being, falls to pieces, leaving you feeling like a spectacular failure. No matter how tough you claim to be, a loss like this devastates your mind and motivation. Your plans, goals, and dreams were ripped out from under you, leaving you without a purpose or a sense of direction. Everything you counted on, everything you worked for, is gone. Now, you’re unsure where your life is headed. This vicious, downward spiral has claimed millions of dreamers.
One mistake quickly devolves into a sizeable rough patch from which they never escape. Buried under the weight of their failures, they have lost hope and confidence. In many cases, they’ve come to believe success is no longer an option—that they’ve squandered their last chance to find happiness. But a resilient mind never stays down for long. People with mental strength experience sadness, regret, and frustration, just like everyone else, but against all odds, they summon their courage and willpower and steer their life in a new direction.
In the wake of every failure, they discover confidence and a new purpose, challenging them to dream more significant than ever before. Of course, shedding the weight of your losses isn’t easy. When you’ve lost your place and purpose, you become trapped under a mountain of your creation, built out of your doubts, insecurities, and fears.
How do you find your way out? and how do you survive and prosper?
When failure interrupts your success and changes your expectations, how do you survive and prosper? How do you set yourself free? Like any skill set, mental strength requires time, practice, and experience. There’s no way around that. There are, however, techniques you can use to improve your mindset and strengthen your resilience before failure strikes. Peter Clough and Doug Strycharczyk, two psychologists, specializing in mental strength, discuss several powerful techniques to improve your mind. According to Clough and Strycharczyk, these techniques revolve around cognitive control. Before you can bounce back from failure or persevere through adversity, you need to control how you think.
That means eliminating negativity, soothing your anxiety, and transforming self-deprecating narratives. Each of these skills relies on your ability to filter information, also known as attention control. Imagine you’re sitting down at your desk, getting ready to work. You’re exercising attentional control each time you open your computer, fill out a spreadsheet, or sift through emails. You’re creating a mental filter that lets valuable information in and keeps useless information out. For example, when working on a spreadsheet, your brain chooses to ignore irrelevant stimuli, like your dog barking in the backyard or your neighbours chatting outside your window. But, at any time, you can choose to shift your focus.
Maybe you want to eavesdrop on your neighbours’ conversation. Even though you’re still looking at your computer, you’re filtering in and out different sets of stimuli. Your brain exercises attentional control every day, but it’s often unconscious. Or out of your control. Many people have trouble working in noisy or crowded rooms because they can’t ignore or filter out unnecessary information. Resilient people, on the other hand, possess strong, attentional filters. Even in a room full of distractions, they can tune out useless information and perform at their best. Think about professional athletes who play and perform in high-pressure, highly publicized situations. Irrelevant, distracting stimuli constantly bombard them.
Fans are booing from the stands. Opponents are trying to get under their skin. If they reacted to every inference, they’d never be able to perform the way they do. That’s why coaches and trainers teach attentional control to their athletes. They’re building mental resilience by sharpening their cognitive filters. Professional athletes block out everything but one central goal when it’s game time. They must perform. At that moment, nothing else matters. You may not be a professional athlete. You may not be surrounded by lights, music, and roaring fans every day of your life, but you do have distractors standing in the way of your performance and productivity.
Like a professional athlete, your performance depends on your ability to filter unnecessary information. When a project fails, a relationship ends, or an opportunity disappears, you will encounter mental obstacles threatening to derail your success.
How do you remove distractions?
Self-defeating mindsets, Petrifying fears, Pessimistic narratives. Like the crowd booing you from the stands, each of these distracters makes it harder for you to improve or recover. If you pay attention to these vicious distractors, your failures may overwhelm you, crushing you, pushing you closer to rock bottom. But attention control, and a strong filter, can rescue you from the lowest points in your life. You can reorient your thoughts toward success, redemption, and self-improvement by silencing your fears. In other words, you’re changing your narrative, replacing a destructive story with one positive and empowering.
You can transform every catastrophic failure into a priceless learning experience with the practice. We’ve covered a lot of ground already, so let’s review. Mental strength, or mental resilience, describes your ability to persevere through difficult situations, like professional failures and missed opportunities. To overcome those obstacles, you need to exercise attentional control. How?
How do you exercise attentional control?
By developing a filter for useless information and unhelpful ideas. This filter tunes out distractors and dispels negativity, but more importantly, it gives you a light at the end of the tunnel. A reason to persevere through hardship and pursue your dreams. But how do you exercise control over your thoughts? What habits and techniques can you use to build mental resilience? There are various tools at your disposal, ranging from quick, daily exercises to significant lifestyle shifts. While we don’t have time to introduce each one in this blog, let’s discuss two simple and exciting techniques which anyone can weave into their daily routine.
The first exercise was developed for a 1935 experiment by psychologist John Ridley. The test, known as the Stroop Test, explored the brain’s interpretation of congruent and incongruent sensory information. For example, imagine the word “green” written in green and red letters. When stimuli are congruent or matching, your brain reacts quickly and efficiently; but when stimuli are incongruent, your brain gets confused.
It struggles to make sense of those contrasting stimuli, slowing your reaction speed and increasing the likelihood of error. But there’s another process at work here. To complete the Stroop Test, your brain must exercise attentional control. You must shift your attention from the colours of the words to the meaning of the words. In other words, you must block out confusing stimuli, like incongruent colours, to improve your reaction time. The Stroop Test is a short and simple exercise that eats up only a few minutes of your time, but this brief experiment can sharpen your attentional control with practice.
As your reaction time improves, your cognitive filter will, too, provide more and more power to your psychological state. The following technique takes an entirely different approach to mental resilience. Instead of training your brain with testable, scientific exercises, this technique builds mental strength by transforming your perspective. When you feel defeated, lost, or insecure, it’s tempting to complain about your bad luck. Most people wallow in their losses, swimming in a pool of self-pity, but there’s an easy way to get your life back on track.
There’s a reason you wallow and complain. It’s because failure teaches you to despise your shortcomings. You criticize your work, your environment, and your misfortunes. You attack your weaknesses and daydream about being someone new. But it’s this negative mentality that empowers