The 2016 Chicago Cubs are a great example of mental toughness. The Cubs defeated the Cleveland Indians in seven games to win the first World Series for the franchise in over 100 years. In fact, this was the longest World Series championship drought in history.
Undoubtedly, they showed the world last year what it means to thrive on adversity. Theo Epstein, the Cub's General Manager, recently did the commencement speech at Yale University and spoke of the fact that adversity and tough times are nothing more than a part of life. Having the odds stacked against you at times is to be expected, and no excuse to roll over.
My official definition for mental toughness is the mind's ability to focus on solutions, especially in the face of adversity. It doesn't take much between the ears to handle life when you are already winning on the scoreboard. When you are down to your last strike, and you are losing by three runs, that's when you really need your mind to be strong and ready. You know you are mentally tough when you can thrive on adversity.
The mentally tough and highly successful thrive on adversity by owning these 2 qualities:
1. They Expect Difficulties. Mentally tough people are not surprised when they experience tough times. They expect them to occur.
You must realize that not all days will be sunny and cloudless. The reality is that there will be storms throughout life, and some of those storms will be major. Don't be afraid or surprised by them. There is an old saying: "Be prepared for the worst. Plan for the best."
When the possibility of trouble arises, allow yourself 60 seconds to think through the worst that could happen. Take another 60 seconds to figure out what you will do to get through the worst if it occurs. After doing so, realize you are prepared.
Now the trick becomes to focus on how you want things to go. Force all thoughts moving forward to remain on the potential positive outcome and result. If trouble shows up, you will deal with it. Otherwise, enjoy life's blessings.
2. They Control What They Can Control. I heard the great coach John Wooden say that one of the most important things he learned was that "true success is defined with effort and process...not with results." Most people get caught up in defining success with things they ultimately can't control.
When faced with adversity, take a moment to make a list of what you can NOT control about the situation. For each item on the list, write down one aspect that you CAN control. Then get to work on these things. Keep your mind and your actions focused on what you can control, no matter how small a piece of the pie that represents.
The mind can only fully focus on one thing at a time. If you are allowing your mind to focus on results, you cannot in the same moment be concentrating on what causes those results. This is known as the "paradox of the product goal." The more you focus on results, typically the further you become from achieving them.
The longtime-losing Cubs had a great excuse to not perform during the 2016 World Series. With the pressure of 100 years on their shoulders, they remained relentless about their journey. Emulate the qualities of the highly success to not just survive adversity, but to THRIVE.