7 habits that separate mentally strong people from everyone else

We’ve all seen people out jogging in near-blizzard conditions at the crack of dawn or refusing to budge at the negotiating table until they get what they think they’re worth.

Just who are these super-humans?

Actually, they’re not superhuman at all, just mentally a lot stronger than the average person out there.

When challenges arise, they’re able to keep themselves composed and rise to meet them.

When they’re challenged by others, they hold their ground and believe in themselves.

Sounds great, right?

Well, like most things in life, it’s possible to take their example and use it to hack your own life. Wouldn’t you want to make yourself mentally stronger?

All you need to do is first study these seven habits that separate mentally strong people from everyone else and then work to cultivate them in your own life.

1) They change their minds.

Uh, what? Isn’t waffling a sign of weakness and lack of confidence?

Sure, but that’s not the kind of mind-changing that I’m referring to here.

I’m referring to a distinguishing feature of mentally strong people whose significance most people aren’t aware of. This is their ability to change their beliefs when they find something that has more logic or evidence. 

Perhaps I should have written “They’re open to new ideas” instead!

So many of us have ideas about how the world works. These could be things we learned in school or through our own experiences, but they’re things we feel absolutely sure of.

But suppose one of these really strong beliefs of yours was challenged by a new idea?

Many people simply cling to their old ideas and refuse to hear anything that contradicts them. Most people, in fact.

However, people who are mentally strong are able to take the new idea apart and analyze its value. They’re not scared of challenging what they think they know, and if they find that the new idea makes way more sense and has more validity, they’ll be quick to adopt it.

This is also how scientific development is supposed to work, by the way. We believe a theory until a more robust theory unseats it.

For many people, this idea is frightening because it introduces uncertainty into their lives. But for the mentally strong, this uncertainty is just a fact of life and nothing to be afraid of.

2) They delay gratification.

Have you heard of the famous Stanford Marshmallow Experiment?

In the 1970s, researchers wanted to know if delaying gratification had any effect on a person’s success in life. And what they found was pretty incredible.

The researchers took one kid at a time and left them alone in a room with a delicious-looking marshmallow. The child was told they could eat the marshmallow if they wanted, but if they waited for a period of time without eating it, they could get a second marshmallow and eat them both.

These studies found that children who were able to delay gratification longer, meaning not eat the marshmallow, had better success in life when they later measured SAT scores, body mass index, and educational attainment.

While there’s a little more to it than that, this shows that delaying gratification is a skill that mentally strong people possess, which gives them a real advantage in life.

3) They maintain strong boundaries.

Imagine you’ve been working your tail off all week, and on Friday, all you can think about is that well-deserved glass of wine and bubble bath you have coming your way.

That’s when your boss decides to hit you with a request to stay late and re-do some extra work that a coworker messed up.

Whether you’re going to capitulate or not depends on the rewards your boss might be offering for sure. But it will also depend on the strength of your boundaries.

If you feel like the reward offered isn’t worth it, but you’re afraid to say no to your boss, you might ignore your own boundaries and do it. But if you know that you need to rest and treat yourself to some you time, you might assert your right to choose to go home.

Mentally strong people handle situations like this. They have clear boundaries, and they don’t let anyone push their way through them. Only they can decide whether to allow other people’s actions to affect them or not.

4) They can say no to peer pressure.

Peer pressure is that invisible hand that pushes you into doing things with your friends that you wouldn’t do on your own.

This could include having another drink when you feel you’ve already had enough or going to an event you’re not really interested in.

Most people go along with peer pressure because they don’t want to appear anti-social. They want to be seen as part of the group, so they do things to keep others happy.

I called this an “invisible hand” earlier because peer pressure isn’t always expressed (“Come on, just try it!”) – it’s often implied or even just imagined. We feel this pressure to go along or join in that is often of our own making.

But people who are mentally strong don’t fall prey to this influence. While they will do things with their friends and work to keep their relationships happy and healthy, they won’t compromise on what they want or need to do for themselves.

If they need to go home early, they’ll do it. If they’re not comfortable joining in with an activity, they won’t.

And very often, they find that the peer pressure didn’t even exist. Most often, their friends are perfectly fine with them making their own choices and don’t hold anything against them anyway.

5) They control their emotions.

Being mentally strong shares something in common with being physically strong.

Physical strength doesn’t just come from our muscles but also from our strong bones and tough tendons and ligaments. Similarly, mental strength also has different components, and one of them is emotional intelligence.

Strong people are able to keep themselves together and keep their heads in tough situations that would send the rest of us reeling.

To be able to do this, they need to have a high level of empathy. They need to not only recognize other’s emotions but their own as well. 

Once they recognize and understand their own emotions, they can regulate them effectively.

They know how to react in different situations and how much emotion is appropriate. They can also hold back their emotional responses when they need to.

This feature of mentally strong people is really interesting and admirable. 

It’s almost as if they can partition their minds and save some emotions in one part to process later while using the other part now.

Think about someone whose house has burned down. Losing everything could devastate most people and leave them hopeless and frozen, not knowing what to do.

Mentally strong people feel the same loss and yet forge on to do what they have to do to get themselves re-established, knowing that they can grieve later.

6) They let go of what they can’t control.

If there’s something in your life that you can’t control, why would you lose a minute of sleep worrying about it?

That’s how mentally strong people view the world.

They know that there are factors that are beyond their control, and they simply don’t give their time and energy to these things.

As an example, let’s go back to the strong person who lost their house in the fire.

One thing that’s certainly out of their control is going back in time and preventing whatever caused the fire. For that reason, while they might be curious to know how it started, they don’t waste much time ruminating on this topic.

It’s done and dusted, and nothing can change what happened in the past. 

Therefore, they simply try to learn from what happened and move forward in their life.

7) They express themselves.

So many of us self-censor and keep ourselves quiet out of fear or embarrassment.

We might have opinions that we feel very strongly about, but when others express contradictory opinions, we shut down and keep ours to ourselves.

We may also have feelings that bubble up, but we try to push back down because we’re embarrassed by them. 

But strong people don’t

If they’re sad and it’s an appropriate time to show it, they will without worrying how other people will perceive them.

If they have an opinion that’s different from what everyone else is saying, they’ll likely speak up so that they can offer a different perspective that everyone could learn from.

They never feel the need to hide their true selves away – instead, they let them shine out into the world. 

Final thoughts

Now that you know about these seven habits that separate mentally strong people from everyone else, they can become goals for your life.

If you try to incorporate them one at a time, you may quickly find that you’ve become mentally stronger as well.

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