Mentally strong people know that the only things we can control in life are our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and that everything else is outside of their control. Therefore, they focus on learning about and improving their thought, feeling, and behavior patterns. They know that success in life will follow.
I wish I was taught that in school! It I was a real go-getter, trying to get ahead in life. Yet I was putting in so much unneeded effort because I was working hard, not smart. Worse than that, I was sabotaging myself, as I wasn’t listening to my own emotions and what I really needed in life. While I was doing alright in my career, internally I was anxious and depressed, and didn’t know how to fix it.
The solution came from finding out about science-based strategies for growing mentally stronger. I learned to be aware of and improve the only things I can control in life – my thought, feeling, and behavior patterns. I grew much happier and mentally healthier, and gained much more success in my career than I had previously. I also became passionate about sharing these science-based strategies, and hope you can benefit from learning about them.
Knowledge is power! Be intentional and figure out the truth about your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. I remember how I journaled about all aspects of myself, a science-based strategy for self-understanding. It wasn’t easy, and I noticed myself flinching away from certain aspects of the truth about myself. However I knew that the things I tried to flinch away from, the truths I didn’t want to acknowledge to myself, were most likely to be the ones that sabotaged my ability to control my thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in the long run. It was so worth it, as I discovered so many aspects of myself I didn’t know I had! This self-understanding was the key to gaining control over my thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and I continue to journal daily in order to keep on learning about and improving them.
Understand Your Emotional Self
Intuitively, we feel our mind to be a cohesive whole, and perceive ourselves as intentional and rational thinkers. Yet research shows that in reality, the intentional part of our mind is like a little rider on top of a huge elephant of emotions. The emotional self is the most important one to explore, as it shapes our thoughts and behaviors in ways we don’t realize. For example, I learned that I had a strong anxiety response when people don’t respond to my emails quickly, and my mind started to spin in circles, figuring out what was wrong. By learning about that unhealthy pattern, I managed to start to notice and control it, and now am much better with emails.
Self-Empathy, Self-Love, and Self-Care
Mentally strong people take the time for self-empathy and self-care. They listen to their emotional self, and make it feel heard, validated, and loved, thus providing themselves with self-empathy and self-love. They also take the time for appropriate self-care, knowing that if they take care of themselves, they will have capacity to control their thought, feeling, and behavior patterns, and thus succeed in life. This was a particularly tough area for me, as my emotional self does not intuitively place a high importance on myself. I had to convince myself that by taking good care of myself, I can take better care of others in my life, just like in airplanes, you need to put your own mask on first before taking care of others.
Be authentic in who you are! Mentally strong people let people in their lives know about themselves and their needs, goals, and challenges. When I came out of the closet about my mental illness to people around me, I lost some relationships. However, I was much better off overall, as it would not have been good for me in the long term to keep relationships with people who did not support me. In return, I had much better support from the large majority of people who remained close to me because they knew about my challenges. I also gained new friends who were proud of and admired my decision to be authentic about who I am.
Life the Life You Want
To grow mentally stronger, be confident that you know best what is good for your life. Listen to advice from others, consider their perspectives, and then make your own choices. I had a tough time making a choice about my career, as I got pushback from my parents about my decision. They wanted me to pursue a career that would make money, but I wanted to pursue my passion. Well, I’m so glad that I made the choice that was right for me, and did not follow their advice. I would have been miserable, as I am really not suited for a traditional nine-to-five track.
Commit to Growing Mentally Stronger
Perhaps most important of all, mentally strong people are committed always to growing mentally stronger. They use research-based strategies such as making a plan to improve their thinking, feeling, and behavior patterns and set physical reminders for themselves, such as t-shirts that say “Growing Mentally Stronger.” I got that t-shirt, and made a plan. I now devote more than ten percent of my weekly activities to growing mentally stronger, such as by doing meditation, journaling, reading Lifehack and Less Wrong, and attending a Rationality Dojo.
I hope these science-based hacks help you grow mentally stronger!