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What J.K. Rowling can teach us about mental toughness

Life rarely goes to plan.

Whether it’s difficult relationships, toxic people, health issues, or loss, there are always things that have the potential to tear us down.

Yet countless people succeed in life despite the challenges they face.

Have you ever wondered why seemingly ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things? How they stare down their challenges and overcome adversity?

The answer is mental toughness.

And mental toughness is something we can all cultivate and develop. Anyone can become mentally tough⁠—including you, and including me.

In this article, I want to help you develop your mental toughness. I’ll share with you what I think mental toughness really is, a simple formula I use to assess someone’s mental toughness, and the 3 common traits of mentally tough people.

But first I want to tell the inspiring story of Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling. Apart from being the wildly successful author of the Harry Potter series, she also has an even more important feather in her cap.

What is it?

JK Rowling is one of the most mentally tough people on the planet.

But first…

…What is mental toughness, exactly?

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

We’ve all heard this saying at some point, and although it’s a bit cliche, it sums up what it means to be mentally tough.

Mental toughness is about being mentally ready for whatever challenge comes your way and persevering through the adversities you face.

The simple truth is that peace, happiness, and success in life require mental toughness and resilience. In fact, research is starting to reveal that your mental toughness plays a more important role than anything else for achieving your goals in work and life.

In other words, talent and intelligence will only get you so far.

Mental toughness is the key attribute you need to possess to assure that you live life marked with greater levels of success, however you define it.

Take J.K. Rowling, for example

You might know J.K. Rowling as the mastermind behind the billion dollar Harry Potter book series. No doubt she is one of the most successful authors of all time.

But you may be less familiar with her inspiring back story.

Have you ever wondered how she became so famous? So successful?

Maybe you think she was born with an exceptionally gifted imagination and writing talent that paved the way for her to make it big. Maybe her parents put her in the best schools. Or maybe she knew all the right people.

The truth is that before Rowling showed up on the scene with stories about Harry Potter, she only had pennies in her pocket. The reality is that before she published her novels, she was a single mother desperately trying to make ends meet.

Depressed, down, and at her wits end.

Rowling grew up with a love for reading and writing. She had a fairly normal childhood, went to college at the University of Exeter, and worked a job as a teacher for a while.

Life seemed to be going well for her as a young woman. However, in the span of just seven years, she faced significant challenges. Her mother died, she got married and divorced, and found herself unemployed, depressed, and struggling to make ends meet.

She admits being diagnosed with clinical depression and having no idea how she was going to make it.

Have you ever experienced some of these issues? Lack of finances? Relationship problems? Depression?

If so, you’re certainly not alone.

Everyone⁠—including the most successful people on earth⁠—are forced to deal with extreme challenges from time to time. But it’s how we deal with those challenges that determines our success and happiness.

Despite her dire circumstances, JK Rowling never gave up.

Rather than let life’s curve balls strike her out, she constantly rose up to create forward momentum. Even when others thought she was down for the count, she was doing what she knew to do to keep dreaming; keep going.

J.K. Rowling had mental toughness.

How J.K. Rowling turned her life around

Somewhere within her, J.K. Rowling had a dream that she wouldn’t give up on.

Some women might have called it quits, humiliated having to sit with a social worker asking for public assistance. Some women may have succumbed to the depression, grief, and fear.

But Rowling kept writing the whole time.

She’d take her daughter out for walks and stop in a small coffee shop to write while her child took naps. It was her writing that helped lift her out of her depression. She says she felt better when she was losing herself in her story.

When she got several chapters of the first Harry Potter series completed, she sent them out to twelve publishers with hope and prayers. She took that leap of faith.

All of them rejected the manuscript.

Rejection is a tough pill to swallow for most people. Rowling could have given up, but her mental toughness kept her going.

The result? In 1997, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published. The hard work finally paid off, and this was a huge turning point for Rowling.

Since then, Rowling has become one of the wealthiest women in the UK and her Harry Potter series has sold well over 500 million copies. In fact, it’s the best selling book series in history and has been converted into films.

J.K. Rowling is a wonderful example of how anyone can turn struggles into opportunities through hope, perseverance, and dedication.

She is incredibly tough mentally. She could have given up on life and lived miserable and depressed, but she resolved to use her talent to make an exceptional life for herself.

Assessing Your Own Mental Toughness

The good news is that mental toughness and resilience can be developed deliberately and carefully by anyone.

How mentally tough do you think you are right now?

Let’s do an assessment.

Psychologists use several different resilience scales to assess how resilient their clients are. They all measure similar things to do with how you deal with the world and how you interact with it.

But you don’t need to see a psychologist to assess your own mental toughness.

I’ve put together a list of practical questions, using the various scales, my own knowledge of mental toughness and the approaches to mental toughness taught in eastern philosophy, to help you gauge how resilient you are.

Here are 6 questions for you to ask yourself to help you understand your own reactions and your levels of resilience to the challenges you face in life.

  • Are you generally a positive person? Do you tend to make a concerted effort to see the good in situations and in people?
  • Are you able to deal with stress well? Do you have strategies for dealing with stressful situations?
  • Are you comfortable asking for help from others?
  • Can you talk about your emotions?
  • Do you have a clear set of goals for the future, and a plan in place for achieving them?
  • Do you feel you’re able to deal with new situations or unexpected changes well?

If you often feel frustrated that you haven’t achieved all the things you want to, or you’re not at the place in life you could be, it might well be that your resilience (or lack of it) is the reason.

Because if you really want to be able to take the whole of life head-on, achieve everything you’re capable of and beat the self-doubt demons, mental toughness is a must.

But remember this.

There aren’t two categories of people: resilient and not. Most of us will find that our levels of resilience change over time.

J.K. Rowling was not lacking resilience and then magically received it one day. She used life’s circumstances to dig deep and cultivate mental toughness and faith along her journey.

The thing is, everyone can take active steps to increase their own resilience at any stage of their life.

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 several years myself.

Like everyone, I’ve had times when I haven’t been resilient. Career setbacks, health issues and difficult relationshipsthese 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 20’s 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 practical lessons. 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 online platforms on mindfulness and 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.

Three Traits Of Mental Tough People

Studying eastern philosophy has taught me that there are three key traits of mentally tough people.

Although there are many ways to be resilient, I believe mental toughness boils down to these three key things:

1. Having a generally positive outlook

Mentally tough people have the experience of getting through difficulties, so they are confident that they can do so again. They see bad events as temporary, not permanent.

2. Being able to manage emotions

Mentally tough people may feel things just as strongly as anyone else, but they can deal with those feelings. They’ve learned how to feel, heal, and deal with them in healthy ways.

3. Having clear goals and a plan for achieving them

Mentally tough people know that they can deal with challenges. They aren’t afraid to make plans for the future knowing they can deal with changes to those plans confidently.

The simple truth is that even the most mentally tough people in the word have worked on their mental toughness.

A resilience-building life strategy

Once you begin to think of resilience-building as part of a strategy for life, as I do, it becomes something you weave into your life without even really thinking about it.

I think my new eBook can help you do just that.

If you want a practical, down-to-earth guide to boosting your mental toughness, check out 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 withthey have to be learned and developed.

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

About this eBook

Every day we’re challenged by people, situations, and conditions which, given the chance, will drag you down and keep you there. These include:

  • Difficult family relationships
  • Disappointing romantic relationships
  • Being surrounded by toxic people
  • Health issues
  • Financial and existential crises
  • Grief over loved ones

But you’re not alone.

Everyoneincluding the most successful people on earthare forced to deal with extreme challenges.

The difference between those people who overcome their challenges and achieve success and happiness, versus those who get defeated, is mental toughness.

Mental toughness is a weapon you can carry at all times to be better equipped for life than most others.

Make no mistake, mentally tough people are the highest-achieving people in our society.

And to put it at a more personal level, the mentally tough and resilient live happier, more satisfying lives.

In The Art of Resilience: A Practical Guide to Mental Toughness, I demonstrate the key traits of 20 of history’s toughest people – including JK Rowling. I also show you how to discover what your current level of resilience really is, andmost importantlyprovide 10 easy-to-follow resilience-building exercises so that you can boost your own mental toughness.

Who is this eBook for?

This eBook is perfect for ANYONE who wants to become mentally tougherand ultimately live a more successful and satisfying life.

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.

Mental toughness is your best weapon for living a constructive, focused, and happy life.

Check out The Art of Resilience: A Practical Guide to Mental Toughness here and discover how you can become mentally tougher, starting today.

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Lachlan Brown

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 6 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.
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