Most of us experience the same fears, regardless of our origin, profession, or our social status. Uncertainty, rejection, and judgment are the things we all wrestle with in life, with no exception. In that way, we are very similar to each other. Yet, what sets strong-minded people apart is how they make decisions to navigate those fears.
The list below explores the distinct ways in which strong-minded people think. On the one hand, it paints a general personality portrait of such people. On the other hand, it also helps to evaluate a specific decision you might have in mind.
A clear disclosure is important, however. If you are reading this, likely you are, for the most part, a strong-minded person. Otherwise you would not have been here!
Overachievers, we can easily get carried away with checking every box and barraging ourselves with criticism, unable to be perfect on all fronts. But this is not a place where you need to check every box at the same time. These are not strict prescriptions, but rather gentle reminders. The list is not a demonstration of who you are not, but rather an invitation for you to embody who you already are. With a comfort of this thought, let us proceed.
1. Strong-Minded People Go First
From starting a simple conversation with a person we like to proposing a new initiative at work, we often prefer somebody else to make the first step. The reason we default to waiting for a green light from the other side is simple – fear of rejection.
Strong-minded people accept the possibility of rejection and welcome the uncertainty that comes with them going first. It is a natural price to pay for not seeking permissions to act in their own interests.
Learning to go first starts with understanding of what imaginary boxes you’ve placed yourself in. Seeking permissions in the areas of personal growth is an example of that box. Perhaps, you do not need a green light to come out because you don’t even have to stay in.
2. Strong-Minded People Experiment
Most of our lives, we prefer playing it safe by taking a path others have already succeeded in multiple times. Education and career are good examples. We prefer to avoid experiments, afraid of irreversible damage the uncertain results that an experiment can bring. Quitting work for self-discovery may sound appealing, but what if we run out of money and won’t be able to get that job back? So we never do it.
Strong-minded people know how to set up an experiment, be that a year-long sabbatical or simply a new sales strategy at work. They understand that doing something differently for the next specified period of time may not bring the expected results but will definitely create experiences that cannot be acquired by any other way. And, if an experiment goes wrong, they are prepared to make a few steps back to reverse it.
Experimenting requires acceptance that the straight upward-sloping life trajectory is a myth. It’s a twisted path whether we want it or not. Instead of mindlessly stumbling through those twists, you might as well create them by experiments, however small they are at the start.
3. Strong-Minded People Appreciate Failures
Through upbringing and education, most of us are strongly conditioned to think that failures are bad. Punished for mistakes at school, we hide them at all costs in our adult lives. A failure, we think, is a judgment of our character. So, after one, we do our best to bounce right back and move on to the next thing.
Strong-minded people are not immune to experiencing pain from failure. They, however, move past the discomfort of being in the same space with negative emotions that decomposing a failure might bring. The lessons of it are too valuable to skip! So they take their time to go through uncomfortable retrospection and only then bounce back, stronger and smarter.
When you place a failure into a remote mental box to never access it, you are moving on uninformed and prone to making the same mistakes again. Instead, go for a brave stare-down with a failure you’ve tried hard to let go off. What superpowers it offers you? See the unique wisdom behind the uncomfortable emotional facade, and, maybe for the first time, appreciate your failure for that wisdom. Here’re more reasons why you should appreciate failures: 6 Reasons It’s Okay To Fail
4. Strong-Minded People Do Not Chase Immediate Gratification
In today’s fast-paced world, we train ourselves to achieve things fast. When access to people and resources is at our fingertips, we chase immediate gratification, be that receiving a dress from Italy within 24 hours, getting feedback from the team in a different time zone, or accumulating the higher views on a new blog post.
Strong-minded people understand that chasing immediate gratification is a road to a lot of anxiety and disappointment. Wanting things right now feeds inferiority complex, as there’s always somebody who got it faster, bigger, and better.
Deferred gratification, on the other hand, does not facilitate comparisons. It cultivates patience in strong-minded people, regardless whether they are marathoners, who evenly spread their energy, or sprinters, who calmly wait for the time to start running at full speed.
Noticing where you seek immediate gratification allows you to pinpoint the sources of your daily anxiety doze. Limiting how many times you check social media and how often you communicate with people over messengers may be a good place to start fostering patience. Hearing “ding” from devices surrounding you may feel satisfying, but it can be just an illusion of actually getting things done.
5. Strong-Minded People Think in Terms of Opportunities, Not Limitations
Pragmatic people, we have a tendency of finding problems in everything. A self-protection mechanism we’ve developed, it is amazing for as long as it allows us to notice hidden dangers when we go forward. However, more often than not, finding problems simply prevents us from acting altogether.
Strong-minded people think in terms of opportunities, not problems. So, when they embark on something new, they understand that limitations are imminent, but they do not make them a center of their interest. Opportunities, which exist both with limitations and because of limitations, is what drives them forward.
Every time you leave a familiar zone to find new opportunities, notice whether you invent constraints that are not there and focus on limitations as reasons to return back. That’s you traveling with your brakes on! Only by releasing your grip on those brakes can you truly go into uncharted territories where a lot of things become possible.
6. Strong-Minded People Deal with Others in a Flexible Way
When we deal with other people, to establish our importance, we often choose to take an uncompromising position and fight until we are the last one standing. It shows in negotiations, in our team work, and in our relationships. We think it makes us strong, but fail to notice how this desire to always win suffocates us.
Strong-minded people choose to be flexible over immovable when dealing with others. They know that being rigid closes off a lot of opportunities for them. Moreover, being opened to opportunities, they do not think in terms of zero-sum-game, where one has to lose for the other to win. They compromise to seek ways for everyone to improve in the long-term.
Being flexible starts with loosening a grip on the need to always be right, always know it all, always be in control. Think of the times you feel the urge to reach for these weapons. More often than not, you are inflexible not because of the subject of negotiations itself, but because you want to prove that you matter.
Recognize that you do matter, regardless of the outcome of dealing with anyone, – and you are on the way to see more opportunities that being flexible opens.
7. Strong-Minded People Are Firm on Their Values
Our values are the guideposts for our decisions. But oftentimes, we find ourselves in situations where these values are compromised. It can be a partner, who uses marketing that is borderline deceptive; a client, who disregards our commercial interests by changing terms on the go; a teammate, who guilt-trips us for better preparing for a meeting than he was. Being afraid to lose these people’s respect or trust, we choose to tolerate.
Strong-minded people are flexible in dealing with people, but they are also firm on their values. They know the difference between the two. Strong-minded people are willing to lose a relationship that does not uphold their values. They know that compromising values is a form of self-deception. No matter how enticing an opportunity may seem from the start, without strong values in the foundation, it will inevitably crumble.
Whenever you find yourself enduring a relationship where your values are disregarded, answer yourself whether tolerating it is worth it. Is a brief uncertainty caused by walking away really scarier and more damaging than the resentment that you house inside when you’ve chosen to stay?
8. Strong-Minded People Say “No” to a Lot of Things
Oftentimes, we confuse openness to opportunities with saying “Yes” to as much as possible. We are grabbing whatever is coming our way, just to find ourselves stretched when something we really want shows up. Fear of missing out is powerful!
Strong-minded people prioritize and focus. And that requires saying “No” to a lot of things, while overcoming the scarcity mindset. Instead of operating from a place of fear that a new opportunity might never present itself, strong-minded people trust that a better one will arrive when they are ready.
If you think of life in terms of addition, it’s easy to aim for grabbing as many experiences as possible. That, however, only elevates a distress caused by possibly missing other potentially rewarding experiences. If instead, you think of life as a product (multiplication) of things you do, where everything affects everything else, adding more may suddenly decrease the overall result. Removing something, on the other hand, may improve the overall quality of live. With that mindset, saying “No” becomes much easier.
Leo Babauta has some unique advice on The Gentle Art of Saying No.
9. Strong-Minded People Are Excited About Everything They Undertake
Whenever something good happens to us, we are used to telling ourselves “Don’t get too excited.” As if excitement makes it somehow vulnerable to an imminent threat. In a fear that something bad is bound to kill our joy, we reserve elevated emotional states to rare occasions only.
Strong-minded people use excitement as a general attitude towards everything they do. It becomes a source of energy to turn a daily routine into an experiment.
Excitement is natural, because, while saying “No” to a lot of stuff, only exciting things get to stay. And it is not about faking joy for others. For strong-minded people, excitement is an expression of their true authentic selves.
Instead of the usual mantra “Don’t get too excited!”, try telling yourself the opposite next time. This enthusiasm will not only let you appreciate more what you already enjoy, it may also help you turn an otherwise dull day into an exciting adventure.
10. Strong-Minded People Do Things with Purpose
In the current culture, we cultivate busyness as an indicator of our importance. No other complaint gets more understanding in a group of overachievers than “I am so busy these days!” No wonder, we have an urge to fill up our schedules just to feel like we are not missing a beat. And we rarely question the purpose of what we do.
Strong-minded people put the purpose of an activity above the need to be busy. They understand that the continuous movement between tasks may give a false sense of progress. What may seem like an advancement is really a meaningless gyration in an attempt to silence uncomfortable thoughts and sense of no direction.
Strong-minded people do not use busyness as a remedy for self-doubt. There is a purpose, rooted in their values behind every action, or even inaction they choose.
Whenever you feel the urge to be busy, question the reason behind it. A full calendar is a poor indicator of your worth. While a day with one thing that gives it a meaning, is definitely worth your while.
11. Strong-Minded People Don’t Need to Prove
The need to prove is one the most powerful motivational drivers out there. It touches a lot of aspects of our lives: from how we select our careers to how we present ourselves in social media. The problem is that it makes us easily manipulable. Challenge us with “Do you have what it takes?”, and we will run to there full speed just to prove that we are capable, deserving, and relevant.
Strong-minded people do not chase a goal just for the sake of proving. They are not concerned with other people’s opinions of them. And though wanting to be seen in a good light is a natural desire, “proving them wrong” is an outcome, not a goal, for a strong-minded person.
Next time your need to be acknowledged makes you jump through hoops just to show others what you can, recognize that other’s opinion of you is not who you really are. Forget who you need to prove wrong, and remember that you are already enough.
12. Strong-Minded People Allow Themselves to Be Different
Through our life, we are strongly incentivized to fit in. In school, this is how we make friends. At companies, this is how we gain positions. Fitting in helps us connect. Our uniquenesses, on the other hand, are what get fingers pointed at us. So we learn to hide them.
Strong-minded people are comfortable with being different. They do not hide, justify, or make up believable stories to explain the uniquenesses away. They simply embody them.
Free of the need to prove, strong-minded people do not look at the differences as an obstacle to their progress; they use them as a source to create their own path.
Allowing yourself to be different does not require shaving your head bald and protesting topless on the main square of your town (unless that’s what you want!) It rather requires a level of self-awareness to know how your unique background translates into your superpowers. Leaning to connect with others applying those superpowers, you may discover that, to find a place you belong, you do not really need to fit in.
13. Strong-Minded People Listen and Ask Questions
Anywhere we go, we like to bring a know-it-all personality with us. It boosts our ego and helps us feel superior to others. We cannot wait to show off our sophistication and politely skip the topics we know nothing about. We’d rather spend hours figuring things out, than look weak not having anything to contribute.
Strong-minded people are okay with not being an expert in everything. They listen to understand, not to respond. In their mind, trying to know it all is fighting a fight they cannot win. So, instead of feeling inferior, they ask good questions and gather the information. A question for them is not a sign of weakness but rather a tool they feed their curiosity with.
Next time you feel like moving a conversation to a topic that allows you to shine, simply try to stay and listen. Instead of reminding yourself of what you are lacking, appreciate the opportunity to learn something new right there and then.
14. Strong-Minded People Are Honest with Themselves
With the speed of life today, taking time to reflect on our feelings is a prohibitive luxury. Because we are so busy, hiding our emotions becomes a way to optimize our performance. We’d rather suppress our feelings inside to continue “business as usual” than allow something we are not prepared to deal with to come out.
Strong-minded people do not ignore their feelings in an attempt to make themselves appear more resilient. Just the opposite, vulnerability can be the great power for them.
Strong-minded people listen to others, and they also listen to themselves. They spend time analyzing their emotions and cultivating self-acceptance. Self-awareness is a big component of their intelligence.
Whenever you feel like suppressing a feeling as an unnecessary distraction, inquire into a source of this feeling. Only when you really know your weaknesses, you can bet on your strengths. Only when you understand your fears, you will know how to be brave.
Aside from small daily practices you can do whenever you wish, there are plenty of resources available to facilitate a strong-minded approach to decision-making.
Need an inspiration about experimenting with the lifestyle design? Dive into the work of Tim Ferris!
Feel like you need to examine your daily decisions and overcome a scarcity mindset? Check out the blog of Khe Hy.
Want to eavesdrop how today’s leaders work through their fears? Listen to the thought-provoking Reboot Podcast .
The good news is, being strong-minded is not about faking it or making sacrifices that no one is going to appreciate. It is also not a quality that you have to be born with.
Being strong-minded is about the attitude you can choose to have towards anything in life, small or large. And choosing that attitude can only be achieved by being able to listen to yourself and having the courage to interact with the world from the position of who you really are.
More About Mental Strength
- 12 Rules for Self-Management
- What Is Self Actualization? 13 Traits of a Self-Actualized Person
- How Self-Reflection Gives You a Happier and More Successful Life
Featured photo credit: Adrien King via unsplash.com
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