Recently I’ve been asked what mental strength is anyway and what’s the difference between mental strength and mental toughness?
The answer is…it depends.
Mental strength is an interesting concept and one needs a different perspective to understand. Mental strength can mean many things to many people, depending what the context and content of the situation is in.
To a mountaineer it means pushing to the top when you think you’re too exhausted.
To Lance Armstrong it’s a bit different, to him “The important thing is to do the physical work on the road and live a life that is congruent with his purpose of winning the Tour de France.”
To a mother it might be staying calm when getting the kids off to school
Let’s take a closer look at the words toughens and strength. According to Dictionary.com here are a few definitions.
- Hard to bear
- Difficult to perform, accomplish, or deal with
- The quality or state of being strong
- Mental power
- The capability to exert power
Stop for a moment and feel what these definitions do to you, what are the feelings and thoughts that come to you.
Doesn’t ‘toughness’ sound more burdensome and ‘strength’ more empowering?
If you’re like me, I get a sense that toughness is more like “putting up with” and strength is more self-empowering and self-control.
In addition I would offer that the key part of the definition for ‘strength’ is the word ‘power’. To add to our understanding of what strength is, we’ll need now to define the word ‘power’.
Again, according to dictionary.com defines power as ‘the ability to cause things to happen‘. We can now define strength as ‘the capability to cause things to happen’.
For strength to manifest itself there is always has to be resistance and this resistance has to be overcome. The key here is that the resistance has to be overcome. With toughness, the resistance doesn’t necessarily have to be overcome, just endured.
A weightlifter can’t apply his strength without some weights to lift; the swimmer can’t apply his speed without a time, or someone, to beat…there has to be resistance to get stronger.
This seems to be big issue theses days, people are not looking for resistance in their life, and they’re actually avoiding it!
How can anyone expect to get ‘stronger’ in life if they don’t meet up with resistance?
Unfortunately, when a person does meet with resistance in their life as part of their training, by default, they use toughens. Then they don’t become stronger for the next time they meet resistance, they become insensitive. Think about a callus. It developed but the skin getting tough to the resistance. Pretty soon you can’t even feel that area any more, and worse yet, the callus begins to cause pain.
Becoming tough ultimately leads to more pain!
Becoming mentaly strong leads to power!
So, we can say that mental strength is the ability to overcome mental resistance and consciously cause things to happen. The ‘things’ are worthwhile goals that you either consciously decide upon or are based in your core values.
Mental strength is:
- Being calm, centered and focused on YOUR goal in the midst of chaos
- Being strong enough to say you were wrong, but only if you were
- Having a big enough vision to move through “the dip”
- Is knowing that you “teach” people wither you teach them or not and acting accordingly
- And most of all, mental strength is creating a life worth dying for
This last item may seem morbid and if you look Bushido (The Way of The Samurai) this is the foundation of their philosophy. If you are living your life’s mission then you take action today for tomorrow you might not be here. This is creating a life worth dying for.
In my experience, mental strength is more empowering then mental toughness, all though many people might use the terms interchangeably. I’d like to ask a powerful request and intentionally focus on being mentally strong. And whenever you meet some sort of mental resistance that life throws at you, just say to yourself, “Great, bring it on…it’s time to train!”
If you do this you will experience amazing shifts in your life!
Please let me know your personal experiences with using mental strength in the comments below.
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