The 13 Things Mentally Strong People Avoid Doing

Cheryl Conner, contributor for Forbes magazine, wrote “Mentally Strong People: The 13 Things They Avoid” and while I enjoyed the article, I needed to do a lot of draining mental gymnastics to keep it in order because of the title she chose. Since I like the article, I’m going to rewrite the sub heading using the positive vs. the negative.

For the record, I’ve changed the way I write recently to make sure I say as many things in the affirmative phrasing as possible e.g. “13 things mentally strong people do” instead of “13 things mentally strong people avoid doing”. The reason I made this change is because we have no choice but to consider affirmative first when dealing with sentences that contain an eventual negative.

So, on to Cheryl’s list of 13 things mentally strong people do:

1) They spend time feeling good about themselves and seeing the power they have in every situation.

2) They maintain their sense of self and see themselves as the cause of their successes and the lessons they learn.

3) They embrace change, adapting to it quickly and with enthusiasm.

4) They realize that they cannot control everything and focus their effort on changing the course of the things that they can and want to alter.

5) They live with absolute authenticity based on a code of ethics / morals that is compatible with those who seek to do no harm and leave the world no worse but possibly better than how they find it.

6) They do their due-diligence and take strategic risks to move themselves towards the things that are important to them.

7) They understand that the past was exactly as it was and they work to create the life they want to live today.

8) They learn from everything they do and learn each lesson only once.

9) They interpret other peoples successes as validation that success is the outcome of the habit of hard work.

work needed to move them towards their goals and objectives.

11) They enjoy their alone time because they understand that time is as valuable as what you do with it.

12) They understand that life has no universal meaning, that a big part of it is suffering and that we need to earn everything that we have.

13) They understand that each small step is a small reward but that sustained and long term effort is needed to achieve the huge leaps forward.

How I Changed My Life – Part One

One of my clients asked me how I changed. Slightly puzzled I asked her exactly what she meant. Turns out she was referring to the transformation after my father died when I made the decision to stop engaging in the escapist compulsive behavior and start living a more purposeful life. My answer was a little scattered because there were many reason why I changed but below is a list of the things that lined-up for me in order to begin living a life that I was a cause for:

Making the decision to do new things – regardless of what they were or what I thought about them (how scary they may be) I knew that I needed to do different things to have a different life. But knowing wasn’t enough, I needed to actually do them. I made a decision one moment and that was when things began to change.

Noticing that I have everything in my life that I believe I need to have and realizing that if I started to believe that I needed other things, I would do whatever I needed to do to get them.

Seeing my life as being a part of something bigger that involved other people. Some would call this spirituality or a sense of community or interconnectedness, but by realizing that everyone is part of the same thing, my role changed immediately. Instead of being a floater, wandering the earth, I was able to see the impact that I had on other people and the impact that they could have on me.

Realizing that there was more to the experience of life than what I had been getting. The compulsive behaviors created a predictable state change and I liked the certainty of that. But it was boring because I was doing the same things over and over again. After almost 20 years I was getting tired of it and I was becoming increasingly aware that other people were doing some pretty cool things.

Honoring my dad’s final requests of me. When I asked my dad if there was anything he wanted me to do with my life he said “look after your mother” and “figure-out what I love doing and make a life out of those things.” Looking after my mom was a no brainer, she has always been amazing so I was going to do this anyway, but the other part of it took sometime to process. The truth was that I wasn’t sure exactly what I loved doing because I spend a lot of my time out of my head. But behind all the fog and compulsions were a few things that I did often in a natural state. Those were the things that I spent more time of as a result of his recommendation and they have proven to bring me a lot of joy and gratification.

Examine my thoughts and internal dialogue to uncover generalizations, errors and negative patterns. Thoughts impact feelings that shape behaviors. These unworkable thoughts lead to behaviors that make them real. When I made a list of these things and a list of the possible outcomes of what would happen if I was to stop them, the loop was complete. My behavior was obvious and what I needed to do to get different results was equally clear.

Take a disassociated inventory of my life, my behaviors and my beliefs to bring to light any incongruities between my internal understanding of who and what I am and an external view of what I am. People said things to me that didn’t connect with how I viewed myself. I asked the question “what if they are correct and I am not correct?” and then tired-on how life could be if I decided to let them be right and just let go of what I believed. It became funny after a few minutes because I realized that both sides were right and that it didn’t matter anyway. I was telling myself a story, a rather elaborate and convincing one and at any moment, I was free to tell myself a different story. The reality is that human beings are animals that possess a keen ability to interact with their environment and make predictions about that environment based on past experiences. The other stuff I had been telling myself about it was unnecessary and was only serving an antiquated identity.

Road Blocks To Transformation – Part One – Lack Of A “Must”

It is estimated that about 20% of the population get the recommended amount of daily exercise which is about 2.5 hours per week. An estimated 15% of people have gym memberships and of these, only about 30% will ever use the gym on a regular basis. These numbers are depressingly low given that inactivity leads to a reduction in the quality of life.

Of the ~5% of the general population who use a gym regularly, less than half of those people do anything other than maintain; that is they go to the gym with a stated intention that is different than their actual outcome. For example, a lot of people join a gym to lose weight or gain muscle but never lose the weight or gain the muscle, they just stay as they were when they joined. This maintenance is a success in that they are not getting worse, but they do not achieve their goal so they do not get the result that they were looking for.

I tend to work with the general population because it is more challenging – while it is fun to train athletes, there are many strength coaches out there who have a real passion for working with them. Athletes LOVE training and don’t need what I bring to the training relationship. I’m more curious about why people won’t workout, eat reasonably, and display the success behaviors that are natural for the athlete.

I have found that there are four things that are critical indicators that someone is going to be part of the 2% that is going to transform:

  1. They or someone they know is sick due to the consequences from a lack of exercise and poor eating.
  2. They are newly single and wish to exact revenge on their ex by getting into great shape.
  3. They wish to regain their peak shape after having a child.
  4. A life event or experiences has altered how they view themselves.

When someone lists one of these reasons as their motivation for joining a gym and connecting with a trainer, their success is almost a forgone conclusion.

I like working with these people, but in many ways it’s a dispassionate experience with few break-throughs as we blaze a trail that has been traveled countless times before. There are no roadblocks in their path to success because they have uncovered a very compelling reason why they need to be successful. They have transcended the “wants” and created a “must” and everything about them moves them towards this.

All of the people that join gyms who end-up not being successful are seeking something that they want to have, not something that they must have. The absence of a compelling must is a major road block of transformation.