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Mentally Strong People Do These 5 Things

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You likely spend time thinking about your physical strength, thinking about how you can exercise or eat healthy. But what about your mental strength? Becoming mentally strong, according to psychologist and author Amy Morin, means that you “manage your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in a way that sets you up for success in life.”

The foundation of mental strength is the ability to separate your identity from your emotions or the events in your life. Maybe you’re feeling lonely, or you fail an exam, or you email ten professionals and none of them respond. Experiencing these emotions and events can be challenging, but they don’t mean that you as a person are unworthy or a failure.

Mentally strong people have bad days and experience failure just like everyone else. The difference is in how they respond to these obstacles. The good news is that anyone can develop their mental strength. 

Here are five habits of mentally strong people that you can work on adopting: 

1. Stay grounded in your self-worth.

It’s natural to compare yourself to others. Social media makes this easier than ever. Maybe one of your friends got into an Ivy League college, your other friend is on vacation in Hawaii, and another friend got hired at Google. All while you’re alone in your room struggling to find a job or pass a class.

Know that your self-worth is not defined by the college you attend or a company on your resume or what other people say about you on social media. You are valuable because you are alive, and you are an important part of many different communities. Rather than focusing on what other people think of you, think about your own growth and how you can serve others.  

2. Embrace and adapt to change.

For many people, the years from 18 to 25 are when some of life’s biggest changes happen. Many young people attend college, move to a new city, get their first full-time job, and become mature adults during this life phase.

But change isn’t all positive or easy, as the world collectively experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Change is often painful and disorienting. But it can also be adventurous and exhilarating.

Look for small opportunities to get out of your comfort zone, such as conducting career conversations with professionals you’ve never met, taking up a new creative hobby, or setting a challenging goal for yourself. These small steps will help you build the muscle of being resilient—or even comfortable with—change in all areas of your life.

“Mental toughness is a state of mind. You could call it character in action.” – Vince Lombardi

3. Focus more on the process than on results.

The Career Launch Method is intentionally designed to give you a concrete process for action. Your results—getting an internship or job—are not guaranteed, nor are they fully within your control. But if you change your definition of success from getting a job to following the process and building relationships, you’ll put yourself in the best position to achieve your goals.

This applies in school as well. Rather than worrying about what grade you get on an exam, worry about how well you know the material. This doesn’t mean that goals aren’t important motivators, because they are. But by building positive habits, you will build the resilience for when times are tough and set yourself up for success. You can control your actions. Direct your focus there.

4. Learn from mistakes.

One time in a job interview, I made an inappropriate comment about customers from a poor neighborhood. I was really embarrassed, and obviously didn’t get the job. But that experience taught me a valuable lesson to always speak about others with respect and professionalism.

Mistakes aren’t comfortable, but they are excellent teachers. It’s inevitable that you’ll make mistakes, but you should always ensure you intentionally learn from your mistakes. One way to do this is to develop a habit of journaling, and write down habits you want to practice or lessons you learn.

Many students avoid situations where they might make mistakes to keep failure at a safe distance. However, this habit will prevent you from learning and growing. Mistakes are an important and natural byproduct of taking bold action. You should try to improve when you make mistakes rather than try to avoid them.

You should also do your best to learn from the mistakes of others through your personal relationships and mentors as well as through books, videos, and podcasts. Take advantage of the many life lessons that have been learned and shared by others. 

5. Offer support and gratitude to others.

There’s a powerful quote from Zig Ziglar, “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.”

Adding value to other people’s lives—in school, work, and your personal life—is both the right thing to do and the best way to achieve your goals. When you are just starting out in your career, you might struggle to see how you can be useful to others. But by being curious, kind, grateful, and hard-working, you will soon find just how meaningful and beneficial it is to support others.

Success isn’t achieved alone, and neither is happiness. By trying to actively serve others and downplaying your own ego, you will build positive relationships that will benefit you for the rest of your life. 

Sean O’Keefe is an award-winning professor, respected researcher, and sought-after speaker on creating social capital, career readiness, internships, and jobs. He is the founder and chief impact officer of Career Launch, a social enterprise that partners with colleges and career programs to equitably scale students’ ability to create professional relationships and launch effective job or internship searches in the hidden job market. He earned his BA in communication at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and his MBA from Santa Clara University. He is the author of LAUNCH YOUR CAREER: How ANY Student Can Create Relationships with Professionals and Land the Jobs and Internships They Want (Berrett-Koehler Publishers), written in partnership with The Career Leadership Collective.

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