15 critical secrets of mentally tough people

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Let’s get one thing straight: Mental strength is a process and not an innate quality.

In our everyday lives, our mental and emotional rigor are tested by people we socialize with. It is our reactions to those situations that define who we are as people.

It’s natural to want the best things for ourselves: better friends, a better job, better pay. On the other hand, these things aren’t easy to achieve especially when you feel like you can’t change your life. Breaking the norm and changing your lifestyle to achieve greater things requires qualities that most strong people have.

Instead of looking down at obstacles, they see these as challenges they could use to build up character and skill. Negativity is non-existent because bad forces in life turn out to be potential learning opportunities.

This is just one of the habits strong individuals routinely exercise to keep their head above water.

Below are more personality traits you (and any other strong person) could grow into:

1) They are optimistic

The world is a terrible place, as most news outlets would report. Nonstop famine, war, sadness, and crime are reported from all around the globe.

This barrage of negative vibes makes it hard to have a positive outlook on life, but strong people know better than to let bad events affect them.

The world may be a bad place, but strong-willed individuals understand that getting caught up in these things won’t magically transform all humans into peace-loving creatures.

Instead of trying to change things they can’t control, strong people shift their focus on their individual pursuits instead of worrying about the world.

The good news is, studies show that optimism is about 25 percent inheritable, and then there are other factors that affect our positivity.

“Anyone can learn to be optimistic — the trick is to find purpose in work and life,” says Leah Weiss, Ph.D, a Stanford professor specializing in mindfulness. “When we work with purpose or live with purpose, we feel more fulfilled and better equipped to see the glass ‘half full.’”

2) They don’t need validation

There’s a saying that goes, “If you make enemies in your life that’s when you know you’re doing something right.” People are made differently, which makes it pretty inevitable to get into disagreements with people.

The fact is, you can’t please everyone, so why even bother fitting in every single social circle in the first place?

Social anxiety is one thing, but trying your hardest to get praise and admiration from everyone around you is another. Holding on to these emotions leads to stress and can have dire impacts on your general well-being.

According to Psychology Today, you don’t need validation if you have good self-esteem.

(To learn how to let go of what people think about you, read this brilliant advice from a spiritual master here)

3) They understand the value of rest

Nowadays, we associate all-nighters with success because our culture has changed the way we look at productivity, where more hours automatically means a job well done..

Still, our bodies haven’t changed and we still need enough work to function throughout the day.

Multiple studies have proved time and time again that sleep-deprived individuals are more likely to give in to impulses, have less focus, and make other questionable or risky choices.

People who don’t get enough sleep are literally less mentally tough than people who enjoyed an 8-hour shut eye.

4) They don’t rely on huge amounts of caffeine for energy

Too much caffeine in your system automatically releases adrenaline into your body. This causes you to go into a state of fight-or-flight, in which you make a decision based on speed and quickness rather than rationality.

Yes, caffeine can give you cognitive benefits, but too much caffeine may ruin your concentration.

At some point, your body will hit a wall, and you’ll start to experience irritability.

According to the Mayo Clinic, up to 400 milligrams of caffeine (4 cups of coffee) is a safe amount for most adults who want to avoid side effects.

5) They Don’t Need An Apology to Move Forward

A lot of people concern themselves with grudges; who did what, how they were hurt, what they deserve, and the pain that was caused them.

But this takes a lot of time and emotional turmoil, which brings you down and limits your happiness. It’s stress that you don’t need, stress which can bring you mental and physical consequences. So instead of waiting for an apology, just move forward.

[To learn more about how to move forward in the face of setbacks, check out Hack Spirit’s eBook on the art of resilience here]

6) They Keep Their Bodies Fit

Research suggests that physical stress can relieve mental stress.

Harvard Health Blog says that aerobic exercise is key for your head, just as it is for your heart:

“Regular aerobic exercise will bring remarkable changes to your body, your metabolism, your heart, and your spirits. It has a unique capacity to exhilarate and relax, to provide stimulation and calm, to counter depression and dissipate stress. It’s a common experience among endurance athletes and has been verified in clinical trials that have successfully used exercise to treat anxiety disorders and clinical depression. If athletes and patients can derive psychological benefits from exercise, so can you.”

According to Harvard Health, exercise works because it reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol.

It also stimulates the production of endorphins, which are natural painkillers and mood elevators.

7) They Never Stop Anyone From Having Fun

Being the master of your own happiness means that you don’t care about the joy and experiences of others.

Those who are weak-minded spend too much time dwelling on whether others are experiencing better joys than them.

Research suggests that those who are motivated to please or impress others perform worse than those who set goals for themselves.

Those who have the mental toughness to think about themselves and make their own experiences the best they can be couldn’t care less about what other people are doing.

Jealousy and resentment can sap your own joys in life. Wasting your energies on these negative emotions pulls you down as well, so why do it at all?

8) And They Never Let Anyone Stop Them From Having Fun

Experience life the way you want to experience it. Live life to the fullest, and take advantage of every bit of joy and happiness you have.

Mentally tough people don’t let the thoughts and opinions of others define the way they experience situations; instead, they let themselves be the judge of how they feel and how they act.

Laurence Gonzales, author of SURVIVING SURVIVAL: The Art and Science of Resilience, in an article writes:

Julian Rotter, a professor of psychology at the University of Connecticut, developed the concept of what he calls “locus of control.” Some people, he says, view themselves as essentially in control of the good and bad things they experience — i.e., they have an internal locus of control.

No matter what people think, that will never change the reality of how you are.

9) They Let Themselves Fail

Some of us are terrified of failure. We don’t want to lose and don’t want to be laughed at, to the point that we can’t stand the act of participating at all.

But people who are mentally strong have no fear of failure. In fact, they embrace it: they understand that each failure is a lesson for them, adding value to their overall character.

10) And They Don’t Obsess Over Their Mistakes

With failure comes mistakes. We all make mistakes, but the way we approach mistakes defines our relationship with them.

For some of us, we are intrinsically terrified of mistakes and failure, and we refuse to even try, in the fear of doing something wrong.

But mentally tough people make mistakes, just like the rest of us do; the difference, however, is that they don’t let their mistakes define them. They learn from them and move on.

Journalist Hara Estroff Marano once wrote in a Psychology Today article “The Art of Resilience”:

“Resilience may be an art, the ultimate art of living…

At the heart of resilience is a belief in oneself–yet also a belief in something larger than oneself. Resilient people do not let adversity define them. They find resilience by moving towards a goal beyond themselves, transcending pain and grief by perceiving bad times as a temporary state of affairs.”

[If you’re looking for specific actions you can take to stay in the moment and live a happier life, check out our best-selling eBook on how to use Buddhist teachings for a mindful and happy life here.]

11) They Love Change

Adapting is the favorite thing to do of the mentally tough individual. Being afraid of change can limit what you can achieve in life, so instead of fearing it, they look for every opportunity to unravel it.

12) They Know When To Say No

When your boss asks you to do something, you might have this built-in feeling that you simply can’t say no.

But mentally tough people know that “no” is important. “No” is the affirmation that you care about your own time and space, and you know when to protect your personal wants and needs rather than letting themselves be taken advantage of. Secondly, they also know how to say “no” to vices.

According to an article in Entreprenuer.com, by saying no “they can make sure to complete their own work first and not overextend themselves.”

Sometimes, enough is enough.

13) They Get Rid Of Toxicity

Toxic people are anchors to our lives; their toxicity brings us down, and if we don’t watch out, they can turn us into toxic people as well. Mentally tough people have realized this, and do everything in their power to cut toxic people out.

They don’t allow their anger or frustration to build chaos within themselves and know how to separate the toxicity of others from their own true, healthy feelings.

In fact, according to an 80-year Harvard study, our closest relationships may impact our happiness significantly.

14) They Are Confident No Matter What

“Whether you think you can, or think you can’t—you’re right.” — Henry Ford

Confidence is something that comes and goes for some of us, depending on the day or the compliment we receive.

But mentally tough people create their own confidence, and it’s something that lives with. They also inspire confidence in others, making them better leaders and role models.

A study at the University of Melbourne showed that confident people went on to earn higher wages and get promoted more quickly than others did.

15) And They Have High Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is one of the most important qualities of a mentally tough individual. Knowing how to understand and tolerate the actions and thoughts of others is key towards controlling your own emotions.

And the great thing about EQ is that it is something you can develop and learn. Unfortunately, not many people have strong EQ; it was found in a recent study that just 36% of people can accurately identify their own emotions while they are feeling them.

How mental toughness helped me

A big part of my focus at Hack Spirit is creating content that helps people develop mental toughness and become more resilient.

I do this because mental toughness is something I had to learn and practice over a number of years myself.

Like everyone, I’ve had times when I haven’t been resilient. Career setbacks, health issues and difficult relationships – these were things that I was tempted to put in the ‘too hard’ basket and let them derail my life.

However, I reached a point in my life when I realized I had to take responsibility for everything in my life and become mentally tougher.

Six years ago, I was a ridiculously average guy in my 20s who still lived at home. I worked in a warehouse lifting boxes by day, and lay on the sofa pitying myself by night. Life wasn’t working out as planned.

So I set about studying eastern philosophy and taking in the practical lessons that came from that. I’ve learned real, easy-to-action strategies that mean I’m now equipped to deal with whatever life throws at me.

Developing my mental toughness has allowed me to create one of the world’s leading blogs on practical psychology. Hack Spirit now has two million monthly readers and it’s growing bigger every month.

I wouldn’t be where I am today unless I took deliberate action to develop my mental toughness and become more resilient in the face of my challenges.

Introducing my book

If you want a practical, down-to-earth guide to boosting your mental toughness, check out my new eBook The Art of Resilience: A Practical Guide to Developing Mental Toughness.

Now, the value of mental toughness isn’t exactly a secret. However, mental toughness and resilience aren’t traits we’re simply born with – they have to be learned and developed.

And this eBook will show you exactly how to do just that.

In this eBook, I demonstrate the key traits of 20 of history’s toughest people, show you how to discover what your current level of resilience really is, and – most importantly – provide 10 easy-to-follow resilience-building exercises so that you can boost your own mental toughness.

If you possess the discipline to consistently practice these exercises and embrace responsibility for the events in your life (i.e. stomp out any ‘victim mentality’), I guarantee you will:

  • Develop unshakable confidence
  • ​Be mentally equipped to tackle and conquer any challenge
  • ​Become emotionally ‘bulletproof’ in times of crisis, allowing you to successfully navigate the fallout until you arrive in a better place
  • ​Have the calm confidence to take more chances and finally embrace life.

Here’s a link to my eBook again.


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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

Once I gave up these 21 toxic attachments, I was much happier

Thich Nhat Hanh on love