A reporter once asked me whether the FBI provides textbooks for agents to study so they can become mentally strong. The answer is no; FBI agents become mentally strong by facing their situation head-on—no sugarcoating allowed.
As an FBI agent, I learned that mental strength is not something you are born with. It is something you can learn. If I learned it, so can you, but only if you’re willing to put in the discipline and effort it takes.
You will not become a mentally strong leader if you:
1. HAVEN’T A CLUE ABOUT WHAT BRINGS YOU VALUE AND MEANING IN LIFE
Mentally strong leaders live their life with purpose and meaning. They are an active participant in where their life is going. They have found a direction in life and set overarching goals for what they want to achieve.
Without goals to anchor us, we find ourselves adrift in life. We may think we know what our goals are, but if we aren’t living our life around them, then we’re not living our life on purpose.
2. REMAIN IGNORANT ABOUT YOUR BLIND SPOTS
Mentally strong leaders understand that they need to frequently, and critically, analyze their performance, especially their failures. When they do, they identity those patterns of behavior that are not productive and nip them in the bud. Unfortunately, “teachable moments” are usually accompanied by feelings of frustration, disappointment, and embarrassment.
Psychologists find that we tend to repeat the same mistake, and repeat it in endless variety. That is the definition of a blind spot.
3. BELIEVE YOU WILL ALWAYS LIVE A CHARMED LIFE
Mentally strong leaders accept the fact that life evolves, and are smart enough to not be surprised when it does. It is natural to react with anger and skepticism because these emotions are trying to ensure your survival. But new situations can provide you with opportunities to learn important lessons about yourself such as your reactions, values, vulnerabilities, triggers, and how to take better care of yourself
4. PRETEND TO KNOW EVERYTHING
Mentally strong leaders have a beginner’s mind that does not need to prove or disprove anything. It has the humility to hold “what I do know” with “what I don’t know.” Holding this kind of tension leads to wisdom and not just easy answers.
When we allow ourselves the luxury of trial and error, like a child learning to walk, we experience a feel-good neurological response. Similarly, when tackling new and difficult challenges, we experience a rush of adrenaline, a hormone that makes us feel confident and motivated.
5. AVOID CHALLENGES THAT WILL ULTIMATELY MAKE YOU GROW
Mentally strong leaders have a growth mindset that looks at success as hard work, learning, training, and having the grit to keep moving ahead even when faced with obstacles and roadblocks.
A growth mindset anticipates transitions that come from uncertainty because it interprets failure as nothing more than an opportunity for learning and improvement.
6. REFUSE TO KEEP EGO IN CHECK
Mentally strong leaders know how to keep a tight rein on ego. The ego is always asking “How will this make me look? How will I benefit?” It looks for ways to prove it is right and others are wrong.
When we keep ego in check, there is room for the wisdom of others to get in. We are able to listen more deeply, learn with an open mind, and adapt new skill sets.
7. HAVE A COWARD’S HEART
Mentally strong leaders have the courage to move out of their comfort zone and into their zone of discomfort where they may feel awkward, clumsy, and alone.
When we get into a comfort zone, we often strive to stay right there—where we have found success. But it is the average leader who stops at success, because success and peak performance are often two different things. Whole lives are spent reinforcing mediocre performance.
“Mental toughness is believing you will prevail in your circumstances, rather than believing that your circumstances will change”—LaRae Quy
Are you ready to become a mentally strong leader?
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