11 habits of people with remarkable mental toughness

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You probably know someone who stays positive despite dealing with adversity and disappointment.

What’s their secret? 

Did they chug a magic potion that grants them an endless zeal for life?

The explanation is much simpler: they’re mentally tough.

That means they deal well with pressure and can bounce back quicker after they experience a setback.

The good news? This isn’t a trait you’re born with, but one you can continually improve.

Here are 11 habits of people with remarkable mental toughness to add to your routine.

Spoiler alert: the results may amaze you.

1) They set SMART goals…

There’s a good chance you already have a list of goals you would like to tackle… one day.

But here’s the thing: making your goals vague and unattainable only sets you up for failure.

Instead, make it a habit to set SMART goals, which are easier to track and accomplish.

As you might have gathered by now, SMART is an acronym. It stands for:

  • Specific: the goals are concise
  • Measurable: you can quantify them
  • Achievable: you have a shot of succeeding
  • Relevant: achieving the goal will make your life better
  • Time-bound: you have a deadline in mind

People with remarkable mental toughness know that getting as detailed as possible when setting goals is critical to reaching them.

Let’s say you want to increase your savings.

“Save more” is an ambiguous objective. What does more mean? And will you ever be 100% satisfied with the amount of money you set aside?

This type of approach to goal-setting leaves you unmotivated and less likely to follow through.  

A goal like “Save $300 over the next 3 months,” on the other hand, gives you a deadline and clear target.

Here are more examples of SMART goals:

  • I want to get healthy – I want to be able to run a semi-marathon by next winter
  • I want to learn a new language – I want to be able to read a children’s book in that language in 6 months
  • I want to get ahead at work – I want to earn a promotion at my following performance review
  • I want to find love – I want to go on one date/week over the next 2 months

2) … and commit to them

Setting goals isn’t enough. Mentally tough people don’t give up until they see their dreams come true.

Once you have a SMART goal in mind, list all the steps you need to take to complete your mission.

If you want to save $300 over the next 3 months, you need to put aside $100 from your next 3 paychecks.

What expenses can you cut to do that?

Will you have to say no to outings with friends? 

Do you have to skip your daily Starbucks? 

Cancel your gym membership and work out at home?

Once you have a plan, you know exactly what you need to do to complete it, increasing your chances of success.

This brings us to our next point.

3) They accumulate small wins

Chasing a big goal can be draining, especially when it’s so tempting to succumb to instant gratification.

It’s easier to scroll TikTok than to put on your sneakers and go for a run. 

Or to binge-watch another episode than to get out of bed and do something productive.

Going for instant gratification releases dopamine, so you feel good. 

The downside is that the more you entertain this behavior, the harder it is to break the vicious cycle.

That’s why it’s important to celebrate every success along the way.

Did you manage to save $100 in the first month? Have a dance party in your underwear.

Did you run a 5K? Treat yourself to a spa day.

No win is too small to be acknowledged.

Once you internalize this, you can also cross the next point from the list.   

4) They build self-confidence

People with remarkable mental toughness know that they can rely on themselves to overcome hardship.

That’s because they built self-confidence. The more goals you achieve, the more you’ll realize there’s not much you can’t survive.

I don’t excel at being kind to myself, so I keep a running list on my phone of every win, big or small:

  • I got a nice email from someone who resonated with an article I wrote
  • I survived a break-up, despite feeling like it was the end of the world
  • I was diligent about finding a new gig after I was laid off
  • I remembered to buy toilet paper before I ran out

Whenever I feel discouraged or not good enough, I go through the list and remind myself of everything I already managed to accomplish.

It makes a world of difference.   

5) They work on their emotional intelligence

People with remarkable mental toughness are also emotionally intelligent.

They can identify and manage positive and negative emotions, so they rarely get overwhelmed.

Luckily, this is another skill you can improve with time, especially if you add these habits to your roster:

  • Be more mindful of how you feel
  • Reflect on your behavior to identify triggers that set you off
  • Practice deep breathing when emotions get too intense
  • Journal
  • Meditate

6) They keep things in perspective

If you want to become mentally tough, you need to learn how to keep things in perspective.

When you make a blunder, life throws you a curveball, or you fail at something, don’t dwell on it.

While it’s normal to feel dispirited, ask yourself: will I remember this moment 5 years from now?

If the answer is no, then dust yourself off and try again.   

Of course, there are things that you can’t bounce back from quickly, like losing a loved one, seeing a lifelong dream crumble, or dealing with a difficult diagnosis.

But even a significant crisis becomes more manageable if you prioritize the next habit on the list.

7) They cultivate gratitude

People with remarkable mental toughness count their blessings.

Striving for more is impressive, but being grateful for what you already have is just as crucial.

Whenever you have to deal with a tough situation, think of everything that is going right.

You can always find something, from a friend willing to lend a helping hand to a stranger who lets you cut in line at the pharmacy.

The world isn’t quite as terrible as doom-scrolling would have you believe.

Even better, start writing down 3 things you’re grateful for every morning.

Dealing with the many indignities of life will become easier in no time.

8) They challenge themselves

You can’t build resilience if you’re unwilling to exit your comfort zone.

People with remarkable mental toughness know this, so they regularly challenge themselves.

I follow a YouTuber who takes on these wild challenges for 30 days: cold showers, intermittent fasting, quitting social media, and so on.

Come up with your own challenge. Perhaps you can wake up just an hour earlier every day for a month. Or give up coffee for the next 4 weeks (gasp!).

Once you survive it, you’ll feel like you can do anything.

9) They seek constructive criticism…

We all have blind spots. That’s where constructive criticism comes in.  

A vital habit of people with remarkable mental toughness is asking for feedback.

As a writer, I know first-hand that criticism feels like a kick in the shin. I also know that it helps you build thicker skin and become better.

Don’t be afraid to ask managers for a fair assessment of where you’re at and tips on how to get to the next level.

To improve your relationships, ask loved ones for their opinion on the areas where you’re falling short.

You’d be surprised by how useful this feedback can prove to be.

10) … but tune out the haters

Unfortunately, not everyone has your best interest at heart. When the criticism comes from haters, tune it out.

Return to that list of wins and let the positive outweigh the negative.

Life is short. 

If you listen to everyone who thinks you’re too much or too little, you’ll never get anything done.

11) They only compete with themselves

Finally, people with remarkable mental toughness know that the only person you should compete with is yourself.

There’s a quote I often see circulating on social media: “Don’t compare your rough draft to someone else’s final product.”

I couldn’t agree with it more.

If you just took up running, you can’t compare yourself to a professional athlete. 

But you’re already better than past you, who didn’t even get up from the couch.

Focus on progress. Future you will appreciate it.

Final thoughts

Becoming mentally tough takes a bit of patience and a whole lot of discipline.

On the bright side, putting in the effort is 100% worth it.   

Adopt the habits above, and you’ll be off to a great start.

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