Mental toughness. It’s a phrase often bandied about these days when people discuss how to get ahead and be successful. You need to have mental toughness, they say. What exactly is it? Most people would probably say that it includes some measure of perseverance and resilience, a willingness to face adversity.

Here are some tips on how to develop these qualities.

1. Using willpower judiciously

There is a school of thought that willpower is a limited resource. But more recent research has shown this is not true. It is limited only if we think it is.

Many people think of willpower in terms of denial – abstaining from unhealthy foods or alcohol, for example, or adhering to a strict, military-style regimen – rising very early, exercising strenuously, and eating only certain foods.

But if all this effort has no clear purpose that you really want to achieve, it will be difficult to maintain for any length of time. Willpower works most effectively when we feel good about using it because it is helping us toward some important goal.

We can sustain our willpower when we are using if for something we really want. We are willing to take whatever discomfort that involves to reach our goal. We need our willpower to overcome our weaknesses, and this can be very uncomfortable. But our discomfort is now meaningful because it has a larger purpose attached to it.

2. Thinking positive

It is important to recognize that this is not the same thing as being an optimist. Thinking positive is believing in yourself, that you have what it takes to overcome obstacles and so change your circumstances. An optimist, however, believes that the circumstances themselves will change to a more favorable condition regardless of our effort.

Positive thinkers acknowledge that they are going to face adversity, and they prepare for it, adapt, and stay positive so that they can work toward a solution.

3. Having grit

Grit is a combination of perseverance and determination. Developing grit involves changing your perspective toward failure. Our society teaches us to avoid failure. We want to avoid failure because it is a painful feeling. But people with grit understand that failure is a necessary part of life and ultimately being successful – it tells us what is essential to succeed.

Facing our fears helps us to develop the qualities of perseverance and determination that make grit.

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