The ability to process information, remain productive and boost mental power remains the quest of tens of millions of people around the world. The quest to harness the brain’s full potential opens up a limitless world of possibilities. The drive to discover ways to increase mental strength has led to the production of books, television shows, podcasts, blogs and content in nearly every other form of media. However, many people focus far too much of their own mental energy on tips and tricks rife with problems. In fact, here are 20 things mentally strong people simply don’t do to increase their own brainpower.
1 ) They Don’t Feel Sorry for Themselves
Events rarely go as planned. So, when an unexpected event occurs, most humans have a tendency to feel sorry for themselves. Whether following a breakup, the failure to land a job or another problem altogether, when someone feels sorry for him or herself they expel mental energy focused on what went wrong. This proves to be not only a waste of mental energy but a waste of personal time as well.
According to Frontiers in Psychology (2017), self-pity and depression are one in the same. Typically, self-pity lasts just a short period of time, yet those individuals who become consumed with feeling sorry for themselves end up falling down a much larger depression trap. The further into depression a person moves, the more of a mental pull the condition has. According to research conducted by Frontiers, a large majority of people who experience depression have trouble falling asleep, constantly feel tired, show little interest in anything, constantly feel down and have trouble concentrating. All of this derives from feeling sorry for oneself, which in turn decreases a person’s mental strength.
2) They Don’t Focus on Mistakes
Mistakes happen. Everyone makes them. Regardless of the size, mentally strong people don’t focus on their mistakes. They may look at ways to improve themselves in order to avoid mistakes in the future, but they don’t dwell on it. This way, they can devote their mental energy to important tasks instead of constantly thinking back on something now in the rearview mirror. On the flip side, people who struggle with developing their own mental strength focus all of their attention on the mistakes they’ve done. Focusing on mistakes leads to stress, poor emotions and potentially depression. Instead, mentally strong people find ways to look towards the positives. By doing this, the mentally strong find ways to positively reinforce themselves instead of negatively reinforcing what they’ve done wrong in the past.
According to the LEAN and Six Sigma World Conference, there are four different kinds of reinforcements. These four are positive, negative, extinction and punishment. The LEAN and Six Sigma World Conference looked at each in order to see which form of reinforcement leads to higher performance levels.
Following a performed action (mistake), when the individual is punished, they experience an almost immediate and drastic decline in performance. When extinction reinforcement is exercised (the test subject is completely removed from working on or using what they made a mistake with), there is a slow decline in performance.
Negative reinforcement does have some benefit. Following the performed mistake, negative reinforcement is used and a subtle increase in performance does occur. However, there’s a stunted peak to the potential level of performance when using negative reinforcement. With regards to positive reinforcement, it initially takes longer to reach the desired performance level (negative reinforcement actually reaches this mark faster), but positive reinforcement doesn’t have a plateau. It continues upwards with a growing performance level. According to these findings, while it might take someone longer to fully correct their mistake, by not focusing on the negative and instead of looking to the positive, a mentally strong individual will see dramatic performance growth nobody else will experience.
3) They Don’t Waste Their Time Holding Grudges
One of the most important rules for mentally strong people is not to waste energy focusing on the negatives. A large number of the 20 things mentally strong people don’t do has to do with focusing on the negatives in life. That holds true with holding grudges. Both in personal and professional situations, people will wrong one another. Those without the discipline will hold grudges. This develops into both hate and anger, which can not only dictate other emotions but lead to a reduction the quality of work and attention to detail. Like many other negatives, holding an extended grudge can lead to stress. Mentally fit people simply don’t waste their time holding grudges. They forgive and move on.
According to WebMD (updated 2017), holding a grudge not only drains a person’s mental energy, it also leads to health problems. In research conducted by Hope College in Holland, Michigan, people who focused on someone who wronged them in the past demonstrated an increase in blood pressure, accelerated heart rate, facial muscle tension, and sweating. This occurred just after a few minutes of “holding a grudge.” Expending additional mental energy over an extended period of time may lead to far more serious cardiovascular conditions, including heart attacks and stroke.
On the flip side, forgiveness and showing gratitude have a beneficial impact on a person’s overall quality of life. When test subjects in the Hope College study wrote down what they were thankful for in a “gratitude journal,” they saw an increase in the level of happiness. After just a single month, happiness increased by four percent. Within six months, happiness increased by 10 percent. Mentally strong people understand the need to move past those who have wronged them and focus instead on the positives in life.
4) They Don’t Spend Time with People Who Will Bring Them Down
As Aesop so eloquently put it, “A man is known by the company he keeps.” While not a universal truth, the company a person spends their time with dictates a great deal of how they perceive life and their overall state of mind. According to Dr. Travis Bradberry (and reported by Medium, 2016), one of the biggest detriments to potential success humans encounter in their life comes from toxic, negative individuals. Negativity is extremely contagious and can infect others in a matter of moments. Someone with a previously positive, upbeat mood can quickly fall into a poor mindset at a moment’s notice. This is why mentally strong people separate themselves from those with a toxic personality.
Additionally, according to the same Medium (2016) article, negativity can go as far as affect a person’s physical health, by weakening the immune system and increasing the chance of cardiovascular issues (such as a stroke or heart attack). In the words of Oprah Winfrey, “Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher.”
5) Mentally Strong People Don’t Bet Against Themselves
There are two different kinds of people in this world: those who give up when they fall and those who continue on. Whether failing for the first time or the 10th time, mentally strong people continue on and never stop believing in themselves. These are also the people who, eventually, succeed in whatever they’re aiming for. By maintaining a positive mindset, mentally strong people are not distractions by what others say or by the number of times they’ve failed. They continue forward. When negativity begins to seep into the brain it takes away a person’s focus and their ability to move toward a set goal. Without strong mental prowess, people become more likely to give up, as negativity takes over more and more of their thought process.
According to Step Into Success (2017), successful individuals have a combination of strong self-confidence and self-esteem. By using a triangle diagram, a strong foundation of both self-esteem and self-confidence provides the necessary ingredients to lead to success. Once someone allows negativity to take over their self-esteem or self-confidence, the entire triangle falls apart and success becomes difficult, if not impossible.
6) They Don’t Become Lazy
Few things have killed more dreams and derailed ambition like laziness. Mentally strong people know this, so avoid becoming lazy they fill their time with proactive activities. One of the best ways to avoid laziness is to exercise. Exercise does far more than improve a person’s health though. It goes a long way in boosting productivity, improving mood, and increasing confidence while helping avoid laziness.
According to the Government of Western Australia’s Department of Sport and Recreation( 2017), physical activity helps protect against mental health problems, cuts the symptoms of postnatal depression and decreases general depression. As indicated previously, depression leads to a reduction in productivity and affects a person’s potential, which is why mentally strong people do what they can to avoid depression.
The same Department of Sport and Recreation study finds physical activity helps improve self-esteem, which serves as a major foundational building block (along with self-confidence) towards success. In addition, playing a sport 1-3 times a week reduces psychological distress by 34 percent, while increasing this to four or more times a week cuts psychological distress by 47 percent.
Physical activity serves as one of the very best ways to avoid laziness. This is why mentally strong people are not only more likely to be physically fit, but less likely to demonstrate laziness tendencies.
7) They Don’t Get Caught Up in Things They Can’t Control
In life, a person controls very little. They dictate their own actions, but other than this, nearly everything else hinges on events beyond their control. The mentally strong avoid becoming caught up in what they are unable to alter, change or control themselves. When word comes up on the news of new disasters or other negative events, they don’t become consumed with the information, as they have no say in the outcome.
British historian James Howell first penned the saying “don’t cry over spilled milk” in 1659 (although it is unclear as to whether he coined the term or if he simply repeated it in text from older European folklore). The original usage stems from fables suggesting fairies would come and drink milk spills. However, the modern connotation of the saying suggests there’s no point in worrying about what no longer can be controlled.
According to Wendy M. Johnson’s The Psychological Impact of Negative TV News Bulletins: The Catastrophizing of Personal Worries (first published 1997, updated 2017), which was published in the British Journal of Psychology, regular exposure to negative news headlines has a negative impact on the overall mental health of a viewer. The continued inundation of these news stories, which often contain violent imagery or focuses on the mass loss-of-life, may lead to depression, anxiety, and sadness. The more often a person has exposed these negative news stories the longer the feelings remain, despite the inability to do anything about the events. As is the case with separating away from toxic personalities, mentally strong people understand the importance of staying informed, yet moving away from the constant barrage of negative news.
As reported by Harvard University (2017), the vast majority of news coverage has a negative tone. For example, 93 percent of CNN and NBC stories are negative, 87 percent of New York Times articles are negative, and 74 percent of BBC stories have a negative tone to it.
8) They Don’t Let Themselves Become Negative
Everyone experiences the occasional mental urge of going negative. Whether when discussing politics with someone of a varying viewpoint or when a coworker doesn’t carry out their workload, negativity easily creeps in. Mentally strong people don’t let this initial seed of doubt grow into a nasty weed, which consumes brainpower and strangles out everything else they are thinking of. Negativity doesn’t take much to flourish, so if given an inch, it’ll quickly take over a person’s current mental state. Those without the mental willpower to turn away from the initial negative thought become consumed with what went wrong.
According to a study conducted by Harvard University professor William James, 85 percent of job recipients land the new position based on their attitude, with just 15 percent gaining employment off of how smart they are. More and more employers look for candidates who not only fit the necessary requirements but who fit within the culture of the workplace and who can easily move into the environment. It demonstrates the necessity of remaining positive and avoiding a negative outlook.
9) They Don’t Remain in Their Comfort Zone
Mentally strong people understand the importance of continually challenging themselves both mentally and physically. One of the most dangerous areas a person can find himself or herself is in their comfort zone. Yes, they may excel within a given area, provide quality work and reap the rewards from it, but remaining in one’s comfort zone limits potential and reduces the mental benefits of succeeding in a new area of life.
According to a 2017 article in Inc. by Melissa Thompson (the founder of Haracourt Health), Experiencing adversity and making yourself rise to the occasion allows you to grow where instant success does not.” It also leads to a happier, successful life. Comfort does little to motivate the mind and body. It becomes complacent and lazy, each of which are areas mentally strong people attempt to avoid. From attempting to learn a new skill, pushing oneself further at the gym or simply going up to talk to someone when it’s not built into their personal DNA, people who avoid mentally sluggish situations continually probe for ways to move out of their comfort zone.
10) They Do Not Avoid Change
Closed tied to a personal comfort zone, mentally strong people embrace change. Change comes in many forms. From moving to a new location for work and taking on additional duties at the office to a growing family or buying a new house, change comes in any (and every) direction. Those lacking a strong mental willpower often cling to their current way of life, not wanting imminent change. They may also complain about the changes and spend an absorbent amount of time thinking of how lift went prior to the change. As mentioned in a previous point, mentally strong people do not worry about what they cannot control. Change often comes without any personal control at all. Change simply is unavoidable, so running from it does little but waste time and hold a person back from potential growth.
According to Dave Chessell of Portfolio Metrix (2017), classic psychological reactions to change come in seven stages. As the graph below indicates, each of these changes comes with a shift both in time and in personal self-esteem. The first stage is denial. The average individual mentally denies and does not accept the change. At this time, their self-esteem increases as they block out these changes. However, as their personal reaction stage shifts to anger, their self-esteem begins to drop. This is closely followed by confusion and depression, both of which continue a person’s downward drop in self-esteem. Finally, their self-esteem hits rock bottom with the crisis.
Crisis mode lasts the longest. It demonstrates just how much mental time it takes the average person to take on the change and, eventually, lead to the sixth stage of acceptance. Once a person accepts the change their self-esteem rises to new heights and comes with the seventh stage of new confidence.
These classic psychological reactions to change occur in the average person. However, mentally strong people skip denial through crisis and move directly to acceptance and new confidence. By doing this, they do not experience a drop-in self-esteem and can instead feel the boost of new confidence almost right away.
11) They Do Not Become Jealous of Another’s Success
Everyone strives for success. Accomplishment comes with high praise and admiration. It also often comes with jealousy from others. When one-person experiences success, those around him or her may feel jealous it didn’t happen to them. Mentally strong people do not do this. They understand success takes hard work and rarely just happens. It also links back to fretting over what a person can’t control. People can only control or have a say in their own success, so becoming jealous over what happens to another person takes away important mental energy.
According to the Huffington Post (2015), people who never become jealous demonstrate eight similar habits. These eight habits are they don’t compare themselves to others, they don’t focus on labels, they don’t seek out the approval of others, they understand the importance of disconnecting (from social media), they consider their own blessings, they have high self-worth, they celebrate the success of others and they surround themselves with people they trust.
12) They Don’t Think About Failure
The loftier a person’s goals, the more likely they will fail, often multiple times, before they begin to reach their dream. From becoming a published book author to opening a clothing company, the higher the aspirations, the more bumps along the way. The fact of the matter is, a person will fail over and over again. Mentally strong people accept this fact but don’t think about failure. They take failure as a learning experience and continue to push forward towards their aspirations. Those who don’t possess the same mental fortitude will look at the extremely high potential of failure. Considering the possibility of failure can lead to self-doubt while also take away a person’s focus.
13) They Are Not Impatient
The seven classical heavenly virtues are chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, kindness, humility, and patience. Mentally strong people demonstrate several of these heavenly virtues, including patience. Impatience leads many people to failure. They simply do not have the mental willpower to stick with something. They give up before achieving their set goals.
Many of the most famous people in the world have failed dozens, if not hundreds of times before reaching success, which is why patience is so important. The average National Geographic photographer takes 400 photographs for every one they publish. “Colonel” Sanders, the man who created Kentucky Fried Chicken, tried to sell his recipe over 1,000 times before he created his own company. James Dyson, the created of Dyson, built over 5,100 prototypes before producing his first vacuum. Failure happens to everyone. It just requires patience before success is accomplished.
14) They Don’t Feel Like They Are Owed Anything
People who are not mentally strong often expect some sort of reparation for services rendered, even if the services were originally offered as a favor or out of good will. The expectation of needing something, eventually, in return may cause the person to feel like they are owed something. The problem here is the original recipient may not see it the same way, and thus not offer any kind of return favor or service. As a person continues to believe they are owed something their mood may evolve into disgruntle, annoyance and anger. The more time a person spends focusing on not receiving anything in return, the more mental energy it consumes, taking it away from far more important tasks. Beyond potentially hindering a professional or personal relationship, it cuts down productivity.
Those who are mentally strong do not feel like they are owed anything. This comes in two forms. First, when they provide a favor or assist someone, they do not expect anything in return. Secondly, they do not feel the world owes them. They do not rely on luck or chance. They depend only on themselves and their own drive to accomplish success. Waiting for what life owes someone only results in anger and more waiting.
15) They Don’t Keep Repeating the Same Mistake
“Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” comes from an old 1700’s Italian proverb stating, “When a man deceives me once, it is his fault; when twice, it is mind.” It refers to the importance of learning from a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes. When trying out something for the first time, mistakes happen to everyone. It’s how a person responds to the mistake that dictates their future potential. Mentally strong people make mistakes just like everyone else. However, they learn from their mistakes and avoid performing the same mistake additional times.
According to research conducted the University of London, researchers tested the response of people following an incorrect answer. In the visual below, it shows the brainwaves of a mentally strong person (referred to as a “high-learner” in the study) on the left and a “low-learner” on the right. When a mentally strong person made a mistake during the study, communication within the brain increased, in order to identify the problem, analyze what caused the issue and to determine a possible correct outcome. This did not mean the “high-learner” wouldn’t error on subsequent questions and performance tests, but they would not make the same exact mistake. On the other hand, low-learners saw very little in a shift in their brainwaves following an incorrect answer (the shift in brain functionality between a correct and incorrect answer only slightly differs). By not focusing on the issue, this test group ends up carrying out the same exact mistake.
16) They Don’t Go Small
When people set goals for themselves they either created lofty expectations or they keep the goals smaller and easier to obtain. Mentally strong people are those who aim for the highest step in the staircase. They are often made fun of for having such high goals for themselves as these are seen as “impossible to obtain.” However, as mentally strong people have proven time and time again, it’s only impossible if someone gives up. By exercising the other 19 things mentally strong people don’t do, they remain positive, they don’t give up and, eventually, reach their goals.
On the other hand, people who do not have the mental fortitude are more likely to set smaller goals. They know they are less likely to fail if the goals are easier to obtain. It keeps them in their comfort zone and, even if they do repeat mistakes, fewer people will take notice.
17) They Don’t Ignore Their Emotions
One of the bigger misconceptions regarding mental strength is the notion mentally strong people can’t display any emotions. Mental toughness has nothing to do with the absence of emotions. In fact, suppressing certain emotions can lead to far more serious mental and physical health problems. Instead, mentally strong people know when to excuse themselves from a situation based on their current emotional state of mind. They understand certain emotions can alter their usual judgment and so, in return, avoid making decisions or interacting with people while under the influence of these emotions. Anger, sorrow, frustration and other emotions happen to everyone. Mentally strong people don’t dwell on the emotions and avoid spending more mental energy on the emotions than necessary.
Those who are not as mentally strong may attempt to suppress certain emotions, or they may act when influenced by these emotions. Emotional actions, such as those when a person is upset, can lead to subsequent problems. On the other hand, suppressing certain feelings may lead to mental disorders, depression and other harmful situations.
As the graphs, created by the American Psychological Association (2017), below indicate. The truer a person is to their emotions, the more enthusiastic and assertive they are. Even when influenced by sadness, they are more enthusiastic and assertive than someone attempting to suppress these emotions.
18) They Don’t Give Away Their Power
Power comes in many forms. Personal power differs from other avenues like financial power or political power. Individual power centers on standing up for oneself and not allowing others to dictate their own boundaries. Mentally strong people stand up for themselves and don’t allow others to bully away their own emotional and personal boundaries. By doing this, they prevent other individuals from controlling their actions. Those without the mental toughness do not stand up for themselves. They give away their personal power by allowing others to dictate their actions. Peer pressure stands as a prime example of how others can strip away the physical and emotional fortitude a person has. It often takes a strong-willed individual to stand up for themselves when facing a group.
19) They Aren’t Afraid of Being Alone
To some, the idea of being alone is terrifying. They must remain close to a group of friends, have a significant other by their side or find ways to interact with others. These kinds of people possess the need of feeling accepted. Typically, this stems from a lack of personal self-confidence. When they do not feel as strongly about themselves, they need it to come from another location. Mentally strong people do not share this same kind of trait. As mentioned in previous steps, those with a strong mental fortitude have a high sense of self-worth and self-confidence. This, in turn, helps boost self-esteem. By seeing themselves favorably, they don’t need to surround themselves with others. While they understand the importance of being around quality people, they are not afraid of being alone.
People with a fear of being alone have a condition known as autophobia (which is also referred to as monophobia, eremophobia or isolophobia). Basically, it’s the fear of being isolcated. This sense of isolation doesn’t always mean they are physically isolated, but instead, they have the perception of being unloved or ignored. Mentally strong people know they can accomplish personal goals while on their own. From working on their own projects to looking for ways to improve their weaknesses, these individuals accept being alone and thrive in it.
20) They Don’t Try to Please Everyone
There are people who go out on a limb, trying to make everyone else feel happy. They don’t want the feeling of disappointment when someone isn’t pleased with the outcome. The problem is pleasing everyone is next to impossible, and attempting to do so drains valuable time and mental energy.
Mentally strong people understand the importance of being themselves. While pleasing specific individuals at certain times is important, pleasing everyone likely is never a viable option. In fact, it takes courage making a decision when a person knows someone else will not like it. As long as they are true to their own personal values, it doesn’t matter what someone else might think. The decision is made with the bettering of himself or herself in mind, not the personal opinion of someone else. As the famous Greek storyteller Aesop eloquently put it thousands of years ago, “If you try to please all, you please none.”
Mentally strong people thrive in life. This stems from their ability to focus on improving themselves and not allowing their mind to wander down negative paths or dwell on what they cannot change. They simply focus on what they can and aim at ways to improve their personal and professional lives. For those who currently struggle with some (or many) of these steps, it is still possible to work on each step and, over time, transform their mindset. Doing so will vastly improve their own outlook while improving their level of success and happiness.