Successful people pave their paths to success by delaying gratification, withstanding temptation, overcoming their fears, and consistently doing what they’ve decided is most important. However, the most essential quality of all is grit with a capital G.
Mental toughness isn’t something you’re born with – you develop it by working hard and resiliently responding to failure and adversity. All you have to do is follow these handy tips:
1. Act as if you are in total control. There's a great quote often credited to Ignatius: "Pray as if God will take care of all, and act as if all is up to you." God is not going to do your homework for you or whisper answers to you on a math test. Ultimately, that is up to you. The same goes for luck. If some luck comes your way, terrific, but you can’t control luck – you can only control you. If you haven’t done what it takes, being at the right place at the right time is meaningless.
2. Put aside things you have no ability to impact. How can I get my sister to stop making poor choices? You can’t! How can I get my adult son to stop using drugs? You can’t! How can I get my husband/wife to stop doing ____? You can’t! Stop trying to make everyone else change, because they won’t. Be your own change. Don’t waste your energy or sanity on things you can’t control.
3. Use the past as training. You can be embarrassed, sad, aggravated, frustrated, and/or angry, but the past is history. It’s only valuable for one thing – for you to learn something. Once you’ve realized your weakness or fault and taken responsibility, think about it only in terms of what you will do (or not do) the next time. Then let it go. You’re never going to be successful in life by holding on to yesterday. It’s like trying to run up stairs with huge weights tied to your ankles.
4. Celebrate the earned success of others. I say "earned" because I don’t celebrate somebody’s success if they didn’t earn it (if they cheated, for example). But if someone did earn it, don’t resent them for being successful. Instead, try to learn from them. Life is not a zero-sum game. The brightness of somebody else’s light should not diminish yours.
5. Never allow yourself to whine too long. When something goes wrong, it’s only natural to pout and grumble, but if you stay in that mode, you’ll never do anything constructive. You need to come up with a plan of what you’re going to do next. And if you can’t figure it out, talk to your spouse, friends or family. Get enough input, hunker down, and fix it.
6. Focus on impressing yourself, not someone else. One of the most common ways people get off track is by wasting their time and energy trying to impress their mom, dad, friends, neighbors, etc. We all do it because we all come from families where we wanted approval from our parents. For kids of unloving parents, it’s even more pathological because no matter how old they get, they keep trying to impress, hoping it will make them loveable. But it’s a useless enterprise. The only way to have self-esteem is by impressing yourself. And when I say "impressing yourself," I don’t mean being arrogant. Arrogance is self-esteem that isn’t earned. Impressing yourself means facing the dragon, coming out singed, and being better for it.