Tools for the Self Directed Life

Developing Mental Toughness. 

Get on track.jpg


Under my other voices heading I present to you an article,  brought to my attention by one of my clients on obtaining objectives and success through consistency. 

The article or blog was called "The Science of Developing Mental Toughness in Your Health, Work, and Life."  by blogger James Clear. whos work and be read on JamesClear.com

Have you ever wondered what makes someone a good athlete? Or a good leader? Or a good parent? Why do some people accomplish their goals while others fail?

What makes the difference?

Usually we answer these questions by talking about the talent of top performers. He must be the smartest scientist in the lab. She’s faster than everyone else on the team. He is a brilliant business strategist.

But I think we all know there is more to the story than that.

In fact, when you start looking into it, your talent and your intelligence don’t play nearly as big of a role as you might think. The research studies that I have found say that intelligence only accounts for 30% of your achievement — and that’s at the extreme upper end.

What makes a bigger impact than talent or intelligence? Mental toughness.

Research is starting to reveal that your mental toughness — or “grit” as they call it — plays a more important role than anything else for achieving your goals in health, business, and life. That’s good news because you can’t do much about the genes you were born with, but you can do a lot to develop mental toughness.

Why is mental toughness so important? And how can you develop more of it?

Let’s talk about that now.

Mental Toughness and The United States Military

Sun Run  Fort Bragg, N.C., Army photo by Sgt. Gin-Sophie De Bellotte

Sun Run  Fort Bragg, N.C., Army photo by Sgt. Gin-Sophie De Bellotte

Each year, approximately 1,300 cadets join the entering class at the United States Military Academy, West Point. During their first summer on campus, cadets are required to complete a series of brutal tests. This summer initiation program is known internally as “Beast Barracks.”

In the words of researchers who have studied West Point cadets, “Beast Barracks is deliberately engineered to test the very limits of cadets’ physical, emotional, and mental capacities.”

You might imagine that the cadets who successfully complete Beast Barracks are bigger, stronger, or more intelligent than their peers. But Angela Duckworth, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, found something different when she began tracking the cadets.

Duckworth studies achievement, and more specifically, how your mental toughness, perseverance, and passion impact your ability to achieve goals. At West Point, she tracked a total of 2,441 cadets spread across two entering classes. She recorded their high school rank, SAT scores, Leadership Potential Score (which reflects participation in extracurricular activities), Physical Aptitude Exam (a standardized physical exercise evaluation), and Grit Scale (which measures perseverance and passion for long–term goals).

Here’s what she found out…

It wasn’t strength or smarts or leadership potential that accurately predicted whether or not a cadet would finish Beast Barracks. Instead, it was grit — the perseverance and passion to achieve long–term goals — that made the difference.

In fact, cadets who were one standard deviation higher on the Grit Scale were 60% more likely to finish Beast Barracks than their peers. It was mental toughness that predicted whether or not a cadet would be successful, not their talent, intelligence, or genetics.

When Is Mental Toughness Useful?

National Spelling Bee

National Spelling Bee


Duckworth’s research has revealed the importance of mental toughness in a variety of fields.

In addition to the West Point study, she discovered that…

  • Ivy League undergraduate students who had more grit also had higher GPAs than their peers — even though they had lower SAT scores and weren’t as “smart.”
  • When comparing two people who are the same age but have different levels of education, grit (and not intelligence) more accurately predicts which one will be better educated.
  • Competitors in the National Spelling Bee outperform their peers not because of IQ, but because of their grit and commitment to more consistent practice.

And it’s not just education where mental toughness and grit are useful. Duckworth and her colleagues heard similar stories when they started interviewing top performers in all fields…

Our hypothesis that grit is essential to high achievement evolved during interviews with professionals in investment banking, painting, journalism, academia, medicine, and law. Asked what quality distinguishes star performers in their respective fields, these individuals cited grit or a close synonym as often as talent. In fact, many were awed by the achievements of peers who did not at first seem as gifted as others but whose sustained commitment to their ambitions was exceptional. Likewise, many noted with surprise that prodigiously gifted peers did not end up in the upper echelons of their field.

—Angela Duckworth

You have probably seen evidence of this in your own experiences. Remember your friend who squandered their talent? How about that person on your team who squeezed the most out of their potential? Have you known someone who was set on accomplishing a goal, no matter how long it took?

You can read the whole research study here, but this is the bottom line:

In every area of life — from your education to your work to your health — it is your amount of grit, mental toughness, and perseverance that predicts your level of success more than any other factor we can find.

In other words, talent is overrated.

What Makes Someone Mentally Tough?

1936 Olympic workout of Jesse Owens and Frank Wykoff

1936 Olympic workout of Jesse Owens and Frank Wykoff

It’s great to talk about mental toughness, grit, and perseverance … but what do those things actually look like in the real world?

In a word, toughness and grit equal consistency.

Mentally tough athletes are more consistent than others. They don’t miss workouts. They don’t miss assignments. They always have their teammates back.

Mentally tough leaders are more consistent than their peers. They have a clear goal that they work towards each day. They don’t let short–term profits, negative feedback, or hectic schedules prevent them from continuing the march towards their vision. They make a habit of building up the people around them — not just once, but over and over and over again.

Mentally tough artists, writers, and employees deliver on a more consistent basis than most. They work on a schedule, not just when they feel motivated. They approach their work like a pro, not an amateur. They do the most important thing first and don’t shirk responsibilities.

The good news is that grit and perseverance can become your defining traits, regardless of the talent you were born with. You can become more consistent. You can develop superhuman levels of mental toughness.


In my experience, these 3 strategies work well in the real world…

1. Define what mental toughness means for you.

For the West Point army cadets being mentally tough meant finishing an entire summer of Beast Barracks.

For you, it might be…

  • going one month without missing a workout
  • going one week without eating processed or packaged food
  • delivering your work ahead of schedule for two days in a row
  • meditating every morning this week
  • grinding out one extra rep on each set at the gym today
  • calling one friend to catch up every Saturday this month
  • spending one hour doing something creative every evening this week

Whatever it is, be clear about what you’re going after. Mental toughness is an abstract quality, but in the real world it’s tied to concrete actions. You can’t magically think your way to becoming mentally tough, you prove it to yourself by doing something in real life.

Which brings me to my second point…

2. Mental toughness is built through small physical wins.

You can’t become committed or consistent with a weak mind. How many workouts have you missed because your mind, not your body, told you you were tired? How many reps have you missed out on because your mind said, “Nine reps is enough. Don’t worry about the tenth.” Probably thousands for most people, including myself. And 99% are due to weakness of the mind, not the body.

—Drew Shamrock

So often we think that mental toughness is about how we respond to extreme situations. How did you perform in the championship game? Can you keep your life together while grieving the death of a family member? Did you bounce back after your business went bankrupt?

There’s no doubt that extreme situations test our courage, perseverance, and mental toughness … but what about everyday circumstances?

Mental toughness is like a muscle. It needs to be worked to grow and develop. If you haven’t pushed yourself in thousands of small ways, of course you’ll wilt when things get really difficult.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Choose to do the tenth rep when it would be easier to just do nine. Choose to create when it would be easier to consume. Choose to ask the extra question when it would be easier to accept. Prove to yourself — in a thousand tiny ways — that you have enough guts to get in the ring and do battle with life.

Mental toughness is built through small wins. It’s the individual choices that we make on a daily basis that build our “mental toughness muscle.” We all want mental strength, but you can’t think your way to it. It’s your physical actions that prove your mental fortitude.

3. Mental toughness is about your habits, not your motivation.

Photo Artist Jason Beamguard during  his Book Challenge 2018

Photo Artist Jason Beamguard during  his Book Challenge 2018

Motivation is fickle. Willpower comes and goes.

Mental toughness isn’t about getting an incredible dose of inspiration or courage. It’s about building the daily habits that allow you to stick to a schedule and overcome challenges and distractions over and over and over again.

Mentally tough people don’t have to be more courageous, more talented, or more intelligent — just more consistent. Mentally tough people develop systems that help them focus on the important stuff regardless of how many obstacles life puts in front of them. It’s their habits that form the foundation of their mental beliefs and ultimately set them apart.

I’ve written about this many times before. Here are the basic steps for building a new habit and links to further information on doing each step.

  1. Start by building your identity.
  2. Focus on small behaviors, not life–changing transformations.
  3. Develop a routine that gets you going regardless of how motivated you feel.
  4. Stick to the schedule and forget about the results.
  5. When you slip up, get back on track as quickly as possible.

Mental toughness comes down to your habits. It’s about doing the things you know you’re supposed to do on a more consistent basis. It’s about your dedication to daily practice and your ability to stick to a schedule.

How Have You Developed Mental Toughness?

Artist Juan Coronado photo of Actor/Model Jimmy Flint-Smith

Artist Juan Coronado photo of Actor/Model Jimmy Flint-Smith

Our mission as a community is clear: we are looking to live healthy lives and make a difference in the world.

To that end, I see it as my responsibility to equip you with the best information, ideas, and strategies for living healthier, becoming happier, and making a bigger impact with your life and work.

But no matter what strategies we discuss, no matter what goals we set our sights on, no matter what vision we have for ourselves and the people around us … none of it can become a reality without mental toughness, perseverance, and grit.

When things get tough for most people, they find something easier to work on. When things get difficult for mentally tough people, they find a way to stay on schedule.

There will always be extreme moments that require incredible bouts of courage, resiliency, and grit … but for 95% of the circumstances in life, toughness simply comes down to being more consistent than most people. 

The Question Will Make Your Problem More Interesting

This Question Will Make Your Problems More Interesting
Limitations shouldn’t stop you from winning

Under my other voices heading I present to you an article,  brought to my attention by friend Michael Kelley a fellow collaborator on male educational objectives and experiences. Michael resides in Atlanta Georgia.

Gustavo Razzetti is the blog writer of this article that was found in Medium Digest. 
Razzetti is an Author and Speaker. Who calls himself “a Change Instigator. Culture Transformation & Innovation Strategist.”  He has a new Book and you can find it at http://bit.ly/StretchChange


Le Mans race Audi diesel car winner and crew

Le Mans race Audi diesel car winner and crew

Audi was in desperate need to win the 2006 edition of the 24 hours of Le Mans race. The competition is not only one of the most prestigious car races in the world — its outcome can make or break a carmaker’s reputation.

However, Audi was in real trouble: its car was not fast enough.

Until one question changed everything. The Audi team went from not having the fastest car to winning the 24-hours Le Mans race three years in a row.

If you were to design a race car, you’d probably want to build the fastest one possible, right?

Interestingly enough, Audi took a different approach. One that brought to life the power of accepting constraints. And turned them into a superpower, not a limitation.

The Story of an Interesting Question

Interesting questions trigger thought-provoking conversations — that’s what Audi did by reframing its challenge.

“How could we win Le Mans if our car could go no faster than anyone else’s?”Audis chief engineer asked.

The chief engineer’s question not only removed the excuse— not having the fastest car should not stop them from winning. He also reframed the challenge into a more interesting one.

Rather than worrying about the speed of the car, Audi’s team had to discover other ways to win the race.

The 24 hours of Le Mans is one of the most challenging races. Teams have to deal with physical and mental fatigue while balancing demanding speeds with keeping their car running for a full day.

The design team came up with a simple yet powerful solution: a fuel-efficient car. Audi turned conventional wisdom upside down by using a diesel engine for the first time. By reducing the amount of pit stops, the racing team saved significant time — they could never make up that time by increasing engine power.

The engineering team approached Le Mans as an endurance competition —one closer to a marathon than a sprint.

This new perspective helped Audi win Le Mans three years in a row.

Limitations shouldn’t stop you from winning

Winning is not just about what you do during the race. Everything that you do leading to that day matters. That mentality helped Audi turn its constraints into creative fuel.

Most people see their constraints as limiting. When their resources are scarce, they feel limited.

However, not being the ‘fastest car’ shouldn’t prevent you from winning.

Everyone has limitations. Winning is not about having all the resources; it’s about outsmarting your competition.

Don’t let your constraints define you. That’s the purpose of this one question — turn your constraints into a superpower.

“How can you win if ‘your car’ is not faster than everyone else’s?”

Apply this mentality to solve both personal and work challenges.

How can you win if you are NOT…

… the smartest guy in the room?

… the one with the strongest network?

… the most well-known expert?

… the (add the limitation you want)?

The point is: don’t get stuck in the “I can’t win” mode just because of your constraints.

When you focus on what you lack, you become a victim.

“Why is this happening to me?” — You might ask yourself. You feel life is unfair and let one constraint define your future. And, eventually, you give up.

You can opt to fight back. However, this is an endless battle. Being obsessed over defeating your constraints takes your focus away.

Instead of fighting your limitations, ask more interesting questions. Like Audi’s chief engineer did.

Take ownership — accept your limitations rather than wasting your time fighting reality. Your purpose is not to defeat your constraints but to achieve your goals. Ask yourself: “How can I win the race even if I’m not the fastest?” Focus on turning a constraint into a superpower.

Outsmart others by reframing how you will win the race.

Moving from being a victim to hero is not easy. It requires self-awareness; to stop comparing to others and challenge what you can do differently.

When you can’t win within normal conditions, rewrite the rules.

Reframe your challenges into interesting ones

Focus on the opportunity, not on your limitations.

When you try to get more of what you lack— resources, support, budget, time, etc. — you get stuck in trying to solve the wrong problem.

Reframing the problem will help you uncover a more interesting one to solve.

Audi’s chief engineer turned a constraint (speed) into a superpower (energy efficiency). He reframed the problem from “we are not faster than others” to “how can we win without being the fastest.”

Reframing the challenge is half of the solution. When you stop thinking about your weaknesses, you stop comparing to others.

This question will help you reframe a constraint and turn it into a challenge: “How might I achieve (a goal) even though I lack (a limitation)?”

Reframe your challenge into a more interesting one.

Become the hero of your own narrative. Focus your creativity on the right problem. Your goal is not to build the fastest car, your goal is to win the race.

Turn your limitations in your favor rather than surrendering to them.

Expanding Your Limits


submission by ROBERT MCEWEN, H.W., M.

Robert McEwen I am happy to introduce to SOC blogs pages. He is a longtime friend, fellow Prosperos Mentor, and a nationally known Astrologer.



“Your mind will answer most questions if you learn
to relax and wait for the answer.” 
–William S. Burroughs


All of us have an “inner limit”, a point where we stop our advancement and say “that’s as far as I can go.” Our minds cannot realistically imagine certain things being possible, and so they are relegated to the realm of fantasy. Sometimes it’s things we never thought of as possible, such as becoming a multi-millionaire, and sometimes it’s things we once thought would be easy that have become a chronic struggle, such as a rewarding career or good physical health.This inner limit is partly our comfort zone, and partly our pain zone. It is our comfort zone because it’s within the realm of what feels safe and familiar. It is our pain zone when the thing we hold back from is something we deeply want and suffer in its absence.

The inner limit comes from beliefs about who we are and what we can do. Such beliefs can be viewed as navigation tools, the same way our proprioceptors signal where we are in a room in relation to other objects. The beliefs that compose our inner limit give us a base sense of self to refer to as we encounter the world and we need them in order to orient to our environment.

Because these beliefs are so essential to our identity, trying to change them can feel very threatening to our survival mechanism. If you try to talk over your beliefs, such as by saying affirmations, you will find yourself pushing against an impenetrable inner wall and encounter anxiety as your unconscious perceives it as a life or death struggle.

There is, however, a very simple way to avoid this exhausting fight and to help your beliefs evolve without struggling.

Ask questions. Your brain is a vast power source at your disposal. It will do whatever you direct it to do, but only when it feels safe. The way to preserve the feeling of safety while reaching beyond your limits is to ask questions. Questions employ the mind and give it a job, statements confront the mind and fight whatever constructs are already in place.

It’s the difference between asking, “How can it be easy?” and stating “It’s easy” when addressing a challenge. One is a conversation that proactively engages the situation, the other is an argument that ignores contrary evidence.

Useful questions are a gateway that opens the mind to new perceptions and beliefs on their own. You give your mind a job and send it on a quest to find an answer. You might not immediately know the answer, but just asking a question implies that one exists and it is merely a case of solving a puzzle to figure it out. You are now giving your brain a job that engages its creativity and intellect, areas that induce the feeling of fun.

Depending on the situation it’s often better not to try to find the answer when you ask the question, but to use it as a prod to move your mind in a different direction. Simply asking how it can be easy will tune your mind to find ease in the situation, without you having to try and think of an answer which might not have obvious solutions. For example, I asked this question often when house hunting in a difficult market and ended up effortlessly getting my dream house. I could not have planned how things came together, only prepared for them by aligning myself with the sense that it could be easy despite all rational evidence.

“How can it be easy?” is one of my favorite questions to use when addressing a difficult situation. Other excellent questions are:

How can it be fun?
What is the most useful thought I can have right now?
What is the most useful thought I can have about this difficult situation? (e.g., my relationship status, my job, my kids, etc)
What am I not seeing?

I also like “what if” questions for situations where there is no additional action to take. Asking, What if it’s easy? What if it’s fun? can help center the mind in a different direction when preparing for a job interview or other anxiety-inducing task.

When you notice your mind start to spin about something in your life or the world, say, “thank you”, and ask a question from the above list. This way you acknowledge the worry and redirect your mind, as one redirects a toddler having a tantrum by introducing a game.

You don’t have to believe something will work to ask if it can, yet asking the question will lead your mind to convince itself it’s possible. This way you work with it as a friend and ally toward your dreams.



By: Elizabeth Holt

One story from a series of short pieces by the budding writer Holt, a member of the  Library Coffee House Writing Group, in Long Beach, CA.

Photo Model Abigail Cardenas

Photo Model Abigail Cardenas

The words are barbed, hurled across the room, falling like stones around her. Her eyes sting and she blinks, hard, stamping down her tears with a controlled sort of orcefulness

He's still talking--angrier, now, as she doesn't respond. But what could she say? He was the type to yell just to yell--to mask his meanness under the guise of a "debate. " except he really only ends up attacking her, and she really isn't built for that sort of thing.

So, she nods, agrees, absorbs everything he tells her with a stiff upper lip and burning eyes, and, as she stares at the top of his head, begins wondering how she could use this unpleasant interaction in one of her stories.

Things get a little easier after that.


7 Signs that may Indicate a Life Course Shift

1.    You have an urge to explore your potential and in the course of doing so you find yourself reviewing your past. A past you desire to detach yourself from, in order to create and explore new possibilities of your own making.

2.    You want to spend more time alone away from negativity and drama, but not isolated and lonely.

3.    You crave change in your current environment be it the sense of home and/or employment, for something that is uniquely yours and that accommodates your true purpose.

4.    You find yourself feeling acute emotions when looking at past or current situations while trying to move pass them into a more philosophical or spiritual way of Being.

5.    You have the desire to give up on harmful habits that no longer serve you, be it toxic interaction with people or substances, that drain strength, inner-peace and the sense of wellbeing.

6.    Your current world view no longer makes sense to you. Things, objects, desires, goals you once placed great value in, no longer holds importance to you, and perhaps feels harmful to the new sense of identity or purpose you are moving towards.

7.    You gain an awareness, of a conscious synchronicity of words and actions that repeat in your life, that come together as if as a signpost to direct you into right action and towards revealing your naked truth and your mission in life.