Does anyone else think this past year has required a touch of mental toughness? Doesn’t matter which end of which spectrum you’ve landed on, this past year has felt charged, chaotic, and uncertain. Although, I dare you to find a time as a parent where those three words wouldn’t just describe a typical day?! This is life. We can learn to rise above it all by training resilience and courage.
Through Unbeatable Mind, I’ve been fortunate to learn, apply, and teach the Big Four Skills of Mental Toughness. These skills are obviously applicable to real challenges – times when courage must be summoned in the face of legit fear. What I’ve learned from this past year is that life will surprise us with opportunities to put these skills into practice. However, if you haven’t been training in normal life, good luck executing when life throws you a curveball – a pandemic…or your toddler projectile vomiting all over the back seat of your car.
Training resilience and courage starts with the everyday happenings of life. Fortunately, The Big Four Skills are simple to employ in everyday circumstances. Consider the next time the kids come rushing in the house, drop everything on the floor, and race to their favorite play activity. Frustrating? Maybe. Relatively easy to handle? Yes. This is why it is a perfect scenario to get some practice.
First, take a deep breath. Everything is better when we breathe on purpose, taking deep inhales and exhales. Even just a few. Those first couple of breaths activate the parasympathetic nervous system to get us out of fight or flight. They also allow us a moment to replace our knee-jerk reaction with an intentional response.
Second, flip the negative thought of “they always do this to me” and turn it into a positive. Something like, “I’m calm and patient.” This gives you a much better chance to respond to the situation in a teachable, meaningful, and calm way instead of flying off the handle over a couple of coats on the floor. Keep repeating the statement to yourself as you move to the next step.
Next, visualize how you want to handle the situation. In your mind’s eye see a calm, pleasant, and productive moment with the kids. Is this a situation that happens all the time? Maybe it is time to have a larger discussion about responsibilities, roles, and chores? If so, visualize the conversation – listening to one another patiently and coming to a simple solution. If this just caught you on a bad day, maybe the solution is just waiting for the kids to return upstairs and then calmly asking them to put their things away – please.
Whatever the scenario, visualize how you want to feel, speak, hold your body – everything. It’s like creating a mental map. Now that you’ve seen it in your mind’s eye, it will be much easier to execute in real life.
Finally, break the solution into micro-goals. For this simple scenario, it might be as easy as:
- Call kiddos up for an after-school snack.
- Before they sit down, ask them to please put away their things which would be very helpful to you and show responsibility for their own belongings.
For more complex or longer-duration scenarios, this final step allows you to put one foot in front of the other. One step at a time. Action taken over and over again will lead to success.
The most amazing part of putting these skills into action day after day is the compounding effect. Not only does the situation get handled with intention, but we are also creating new problem-solving wiring in our brains. The next time a challenge strikes, we have a better mental map to follow. Think of it as mental push-ups! Also, proving ourselves in challenges builds serious confidence.
The other life-changing aspect of these skills is using them with our kids. Whether the kids are having difficulty with a friend, with homework, or out of the field of sport, these skills can be applied everywhere.
Let’s use a sports example. Let’s say your child is on the basketball court and makes a sloppy pass resulting in the ball being stolen and your child being taken out of the game. For many kids, this few-second ordeal can ruin their performance and their confidence. Instead, put the Big Four Skills to use.
Go to the bench, take a few big breaths and start using a positive power statement to course correct. Instead of “I suck” say something like “I’ve got this” or “I’m ready to rock.” Then, they can see themselves in their mind’s eye getting back on the court feeling confident and on their game. And then micro-goal. Something like, “next time down the court, use the bounce pass.”
This mindset tool allows every challenge to become an opportunity to learn and grow. It doesn’t mean things won’t get to us or knock us off course. It simply means we have a way to hop right back up and start again.
Ready to take your mental training to the next level? What about your team or workgroup? Check out our Unbeatable Mind offerings here.