Talent is overrated and the mentally tough are more likely to succeed in business and life. Resilience and robustness are preconditions to achievement. Most people are now aware of this fact but are unclear about how to take things from the realm of interesting information to practical benefit.
The good news for those who aspire to greater things is that mental toughness can be increased. It’s something that sports and military psychologists have known for years. There are an increasing array of mental conditioning processes that have been validated by Neuroscience and can make the mentally weak strong and the strong, stronger.
One of the simplest ways to increase your mental toughness is by conditioning your brain to accept and embrace discomfort on a regular basis. By pushing boundaries and introducing new daily and weekly challenges, your nervous system will adapt and you will grow stronger.
These “challenges” can be minor tweaks, like walking up the stairs instead of taking the elevator, doing 50 push-ups instead of 25, waiting that bit longer for your next meal or going without, giving social media a miss for a week or anything else that causes you discomfort on some level. The objective of this is to be comfortable outside of your comfort zone.
Taking cold showers is one way of bringing instant discomfort as well as providing many health benefits (increasing testosterone, boosting the immune system and decreasing inflammation to name a few). I have been taking cold showers for a few years now and no longer enjoy a hot shower (perhaps I need to mix things up and push myself by taking hot showers).
Taking it one step further, there are an increasing number of world-class athletes who take regular ice baths for 30 minutes or more. Take my word for it; this is not a practice for the faint hearted.
The Spartans, who didn’t know the meaning of “comfort zone” and despised weakness of any kind, used cold water to develop their toughness, bathing in freezing water on a regular basis.
If you decide to use physical challenges (including cold showers) as a tool for developing your mental toughness, then take things gradually (if you have any health conditions or are infirm in any way, then consult your doctor). Push your boundaries by increments, like changing the water temperature slightly every day.
Stick with your daily discomforts for a month, and soon you’ll start to embrace challenges as your brain makes the link between challenges leading to mental toughness.
Image credit: CC by Edwin Martinez