The Leadership Blog

What Mentally Strong People Don't Do

anxiety fighting change change management entitlement growth happiness hope leadership mental health progress strength Sep 03, 2023

We growth minded people tend to read a lot.  We like the power that comes from knowledge.  When we read, it often tells us what to do.  Today’s blog explores what NOT to do. It’s a bit of a twist. I learned it listening to a podcast by psychotherapist Amy Morin.  She wrote a book called What Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.

She went through an incredibly difficult time of loss.  Her mom died, her husband died, she remarried and her father-in-law died.   She didn’t know if she would be able to survive all that loss, but then she stopped her pity party, and dug deep inside herself. She created the following list of 13 habits mentally strong people don’t do.

Here’s something we all know but likely don’t pay enough attention to.  It only takes one bad habit to mess up our life and ruin our good habits. So, let’s learn what we need to STOP doing so we can be mentally strong.

  1. Feel sorry for yourself.  I think this may be the most difficult one.  After any great loss or challenge we tend to wallow in our sadness.  I’m guilty of this too sometimes, but I think the key is not staying there for long.  I often give myself 24 hours of misery and then, I’m looking for a way to make things better.  Look for the positive in the situation and don’t say there isn’t one, because there always is.
  2. Give away power.  Don’t allow others to have a negative influence over the way you think, feel and behave.  Perhaps the most common way we give away our power is by letting people get under our skin.  Forbes suggests biting your lip until it bleeds if necessary. That makes me laugh a bit but it’s so true.  Engaging or stewing about what others say or think about you and your work only hurts you and not them.  Keep your power.
  3. Shy away from change. I get it, most people don’t like change because of the uncertainty it brings. However, change is the ONLY constant in life.  We need to bond with it.  Think back over your life at all the changes you’ve made and how they’ve helped you become the person you are today.  A little more change can make us even better.
  4. Focus on things you can’t control. This is super hard for me.  I’m a leader who likes to plan ahead.  I often call myself a PROFESSIONAL PROBLEM SOLVER.  I like to fix things, but sometimes I just have to resign myself to the fact that it’s not my problem to fix.  I try not to waste time worrying about things I have NO control over, but it’s not easy.
  5. Worry about pleasing everyone.  I confess to being a recovering people pleaser.  In my heart of hearts I want to make everybody happy, but that’s not realistic. As a leader I have to do the right thing for the organization and that’s often not what team members prefer. 
  6. Fear taking calculated risks.  This one is like exercise.  The more you do it the more muscle you develop to take calculated risks.  You don’t want to be all over the place in the risk category.  Weigh the pros and cons and take the risks that make sense and can lead to greater outcomes.
  7. Dwell on the past. This one’s often easier said than done, but I have a 24 hour rule that I mentioned earlier.  I can stew on it, be angry about it or hurt by it for just 24 hours and then I need to move on.  It doesn’t do us any good to wallow.  None of us can change the past. We need to learn from it.  That perspective shift is powerful my friend.
  8. Keep repeating the same mistakes.  We’ll repeat the same mistakes over and over again, until we learn from them.  Once we’ve learned the lesson from our mistake, we can move on.  Now, I admit I’m often challenged to learn the lesson and it can take me several times to figure it out before I’m able to move on.  I hope you’re a faster learner than I am. 
  9. Resent other people’s success.  Social media seems to contribute to making this difficult.  When people post it’s usually their highlight reel.  They aren’t showing you the day to day struggles.  This perspective can make you feel bad about YOUR life because you’re comparing it to another person’s highlights.  Comparison is the thief of joy and it often leads to resentment.  Here’s a mindshift exercise.  When you catch yourself getting a bit jealous, choose to see it as encouragement.  Something you can work toward.  If they can do it, you can too, if you’re willing to put in the work to get there.
  10. Give up after the first failure. I’ve often said, “giving up is the only real failure in life.”  Here’s my favorite quote from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. “Never, ever, ever give up.”  It’s my motto.  You never know how close you are to your goal, if you give up after you fail.
  11. Fear alone time.  The younger extrovert in me struggled with this a bit.  I loved being around people but didn’t really know what to do when I was alone.  That all changed when I fell in love with reading and learning in my early 30’s.  I was a professional, wife, and new mom who didn’t have much extra time.  When I found some I wanted it to be productive to refuel me and that’s what reading and growing in my alone time does for me.  Oh yea, I love just curling up in my recliner and watching a good romantic comedy alone too sometimes.
  12. Feel the world owes you anything.  If this one is a tough one for you has these tips.  First, try seeing things from another person’s point of view. Remind yourself that the world doesn’t revolve around you.  Next, think about your goals and make a list of what you’re willing to do to make them happen.  Another helpful tip is to learn not to be discouraged by temporary setbacks. This one can help you too.  That feeling of accomplishment from doing it on your own will feel better than if you had gotten it without any of your own effort being involved. Finally, practice treating others with respect, gratitude and compassion. 
  13. Expect immediate results.  I admit I always want immediate results, but age has helped me learn that’s not realistic.  Everything worth achieving is an uphill battle.  It takes time, commitment and lots of effort.

If you don’t do these things, THEN WHAT?  Well, you can work to develop these habits.  This isn’t rocket science.  It doesn’t matter if you’re not good at math or science.  Each of us has the ability to change and choose a healthier perspective on life.  Remember it takes about 21 days to change a habit so give yourself a little grace and a little space to make these important changes and you’ll be a happier and more content person when you do.  If you want to be a mentally strong person, you need to STOP doing ALL 13 of these things.  I know you can do it and it will be worth the effort I promise.