Mental toughness is not a trait that we either have or don’t have. We can all learn and develop skills to increase our ability to thrive.
The first step to growing mental toughness is to cultivate awareness of our thoughts. To understand awareness it is important that you know about the brain’s autopilot.
Our brains are ingenious at automating our life habits. Think back to when you last drove your car or washed the dishes. Did you have to think through each and every step? No, and that is because the brain learned these activities through repetition. Where once you wondered if you were ever going to come to grips with learning to drive a manual car, now you do it without conscious effort. Remember that time when you were driving down the road and you suddenly realised that you had absolutely no recollection of the last few blocks you had just driven? That’s the autopilot in action. Autopilot does everyday life for us – it is a brilliant and necessary function of the brain.
However there is a downside, and this comes when we cede too much control to the autopilot and we end up thinking, feeling and doing life with very little conscious awareness of what we are thinking, feeling and doing.
When we switch off the autopilot, we become more aware of our thoughts, emotions and behaviours. It brings us into the present moment where we have the power to choose what we want to think, feel and do.
To grow mental toughness, it is important to cultivate awareness of our thoughts and emotions because when we know what we are thinking, we have the power to make changes – especially to those thinking patterns that might not be serving us so well.