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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

14 Ways Strong-Minded People Think Differently

14 Ways Strong-Minded People Think Differently

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[1] and only then bounce back, stronger and smarter.

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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.

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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.

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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.[2] 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.

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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.

Final Thoughts

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 Tips for Becoming Mentally Stronger

Featured photo credit: Adrien King via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Oxana Kunets

Explorer of all things meaningful living, confidence, and courage

14 Ways Strong-Minded People Think Differently How to Turn a Bad Attitude into a Positive One How to Answer the Interview Question “What Motivates You?” 7 Reminders on Building Strong Family Relationships

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Last Updated on January 21, 2021

10 Willpower Hacks to Help Achieve Your Goals

10 Willpower Hacks to Help Achieve Your Goals

“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” – Mahatma Gandhi

“Willpower is essential to the accomplishment of anything worthwhile.” – Brian Tracy

“Just do it.” – Nike

The most important and satisfying things in life usually aren’t the easiest ones.

The good news: In today’s hyper-connected world, we have access to all the information we could want to help us achieve our future goals. We know what foods will make us healthier (would kale or quinoa be as popular without the internet and Dr. Oz? I think not). We can also estimate for ourselves the benefits of starting retirement savings early – and the implications for the lifestyles of our future selves (that boat at 65 means fewer vacations in your 20’s).

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We almost always know what we should do thanks to endless knowledge at our fingertips. But actually doing it is an entirely different kind of challenge. Most of us can relate to that feeling of inertia at the start of a big project, or the struggle to consistently make good, long-term choices for our health, or saving for the future. This mental tug-of-war we experience has evolutionary roots. While knowing this might bring comfort, it doesn’t help solve the problem at hand:

How can we flex our willpower to become better, faster, smarter, and stronger?

The bad news: you can’t Google your way out of this one.

Or can you? A fascinating body of research (much of which you can turn up online through popular press and academic articles) sheds light on how to hack your willpower for better, easier results in all areas of your life. The Willpower Instinct, a great book by Stanford prof Kelly McGonigal, provides a deep dive into these and more topics for anyone keenly interested.

Here’s the short version: we can make the most of our willpower through two types of hacks. First, there are ways to turbo boost your willpower. Second, there are ways to hack the system so you make the best use of whatever (sometimes infinitely modest) willpower you have.

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The following 10 tips draw on both of these toolkits.

1. Slow the heck down.

Most regrettable decisions (the splurge at the mall, the procrastination on the project, the snacks in the break room) happen when one part of our brain effectively hijacks the other. We go into automatic pilot (and unfortunately the pilot in question has a penchant for shoes, Facebook and cookies!). Researchers suggest that we can override this system by charging up the other. That is, slow down and focus on the moment at hand. Think about your breathing. Bring yourself back to this moment in time, feel the compulsion but don’t act on it yet. Try telling yourself, “If this feeling is still just as uncomfortable in 10 minutes, I’ll act on it.” Take a little time to be mindful – then make your decision.

2. Dream of ‘done.’

Imagine yourself handing in the big project, soaking up the appreciation from your colleagues or boss. Or crossing the finish line for the half-marathon you’ve always wanted to run. The rush, the aliveness, the wind on your face, the medal …

That’s a lot more fun and motivating to think about than how much work it is to get out of bed for your long, Sunday morning run!

Re-orient your brain by summoning more motivating feelings than just “not running this morning is more enjoyable than running this morning.” If your goals are meaningful, this will help.

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3. Make your toughest choices first.

Scientists have found that willpower is like a full bathtub that’s drained throughout the day. So, why not start your toughest challenges when you have a full reserve? Get that project started or fit that workout in before you even check your email or have breakfast. Bonus: the high you’ll get from crossing off your hardest ‘to-do’ will help you sail through the rest of your day.

4. Progress = commitment, not a license to backslide.

A lot of times people will ‘cheat’ right after taking positive steps towards their goals. (A common version of this trap is, “I worked out three days in a row, so I deserve this cookie.”) Most of us can relate to this thinking – but it’s totally irrational! We’ll often trick ourselves into setbacks because we think we deserve them, even if we don’t really want them and deep down we know they’ll work against us in the long-run.

How can you counteract this effect? Research finds that if you use your positive streak to recommit (“If I worked out three days this week, I must be really committed to my health and fitness goal!”) rather than an excuse for wiggle room, we don’t take the same cheat options. Cool, right?

5. Meditate.

Meditation is an expressway to better willpower. Bringing your attention to your breathing for 15 minutes, or even five, flexes your willpower muscles by applying discipline to your thinking. It does this by working two mental ‘muscle groups’: first, the set of muscles that notice when your attention is drifting, and second, the set of muscles that bring you back to your task at hand. Over time, even small amounts of meditation will help you build the discipline to easily do what was once hard – like pushing through a long stretch at work.

6. Set mini-goals.

Which seems more doable: committing to three 20 minute runs this week or a half-marathon? Mini-goals are brilliant because they’re easier to achieve and boost your commitment to continuing. When we size them up, we see them as achievable rather than daunting. Each time you succeed at one, it boosts your sense of efficacy and personal integrity: not only are you capable of doing what you set out to do, but you followed through on it. Nice.

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The beauty of mini-goals is that over time, mini-goals – and the momentum you’ve built by doing them – can quickly turn into super-goals. So that half marathon might be more likely to happen, and sooner and more easily than you think!

7. Eat.

Low blood sugar decreases your ability to make tough decisions. If you’re running on empty physically, you’ll also be running on empty mentally. (Yes, this one’s somewhat ironic if your goal involves changing food patterns – but even so, letting your blood sugar drop too far will only sabotage you over time.)

8. Sleep.

Research shows people who don’t get enough sleep have a tough time exercising their willpower. Sleep is critical for a healthy brain – along with just about everything else. So to optimize your willpower muscle, make sure you’re catching your zzz’s.

9. Nix the self-sabotage.

Making yourself feel bad hurts, rather than helps, your willpower efforts. Researchers have found that compassion is a far better strategy than tough love – telling yourself “It’s OK, everyone has setbacks sometimes,” will help you bounce back more quickly than negative self-talk.

10. Take the first hard step.

As a new behavior becomes a habit, it is more natural. You have to use less and less willpower to ‘make it so.’ When you’re starting a new pattern that feels hard, remind yourself that the first steps are truly the hardest. It will probably never feel harder than it does in those first few choices. In the case of repeated behaviors, like exercise or saving money, it takes weeks for new habits to take hold. By that point, the habit will be so ingrained, you’d have to try hard not to do it.

Featured photo credit: Kym Ellis via unsplash.com

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