26 September 2023

Brain strain: How to cope with things that go wrong

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Laura Stack* says mental toughness is an essential quality in the workplace and suggests ways we can strengthen ours into well-tempered steel.

Most of us have faced periods when we’ve had to push through difficulties and stand tall in the face of adversity.

Whether it’s at work or in other aspects of life, it’s essential to be tough.

Sometimes physical toughness works, but I believe mental toughness is just as important.

No matter how tough you seem on the outside, if you can’t mentally accept and face down a situation, you’re likely to fall apart before you reach the end.

So, how’s your mental toughness these days?

Are you as strong as well-tempered steel… or so brittle you’re ready to shatter at a strong blow?

Consider these six ways to toughen your mental grit:

Kill distractions:

This is a classic time-management method because it works so well.

You’re not going to develop the grit you need to stay on point, avoid multitasking, and just get things done if you can’t cut the clutter coming in from outside.

Remove yourself from it, wear noise-cancelling earphones, and/or politely tell hallway-talkers to please take it up somewhere else.

Control the part of you that just wants to take a little break every 10 minutes and switch back to your email.

Maximise your main work screen on top of your inbox.

Maintain relentless positivity:

Some people find consistently positive co-workers annoying, but it’s not the positive person’s fault.

The fault lies with those annoyed, and their tendency toward partial engagement at best.

Your positive attitude might make negative people feel bad about themselves and their inability to own their work.

Your productivity makes them look bad, so of course they hate that.

You clash with their mood, so ignore them and let them stew in the juices of their own misery.

You know what you’re capable of, so show it and own it.

Practice engagement:

Own your job and you’ll be more willing and able to roll with any punches you face.

In fact, a willingness to take those punches may make it less necessary to do so, and you may not notice some of the less rollicking changes.

Change is inevitable; your response to it depends on you.

Choose to use it as a launching pad for new things.

Own your failures:

Don’t shy away from failure or let it shatter you. Embrace it.

Learn what you can from it.

There might exist some fragment you can use to move forward; not all failures are total.

You may even discover you didn’t really fail, at least not completely.

Sometimes success comes in forms you might not recognise at first.

The first scientist whose candy bar melted when he put it down near a microwave emitter was probably irritated at losing his snack, until he realised he could harness that radiation.

Even if you can’t find a positive sliver, just accept the failure as a learning experience.

Don’t dwell:

Keep revisiting your past mistakes and you’ll never get anywhere.

Dwelling on failure blocks you from trying new things; and if you can’t move on, how can you make your next glorious discovery?

How can you ever increase your productivity?

Don’t forget about the mistake but put it firmly where it belongs: In the past. It’s not fixable now.

Besides, your number of failures will almost always exceed successes when trying new things.

Rest and recharge:

Mental toughness doesn’t mean you can keep going like a robot without repercussions.

Sometimes you may have to overwork to cover for someone who’s gone or to handle a crunch time, but don’t do it for long.

Take your scheduled time off so you can get your rest and exercise in, eat and sleep well, practice your hobbies, have fun with family and friends, and basically make all the hard work worthwhile.

Otherwise the daily grind will grind you away.

Anyone participating in business requires substantial mental toughness because business is a competitive field, but perhaps a better name for mental toughness is mental flexibility.

You often must flip things around, flex to meet new challenges and goals, absorb change, and rebound with new vigour when the world knocks you down.

If you can come back up with a smile on your face, the next punch will be a lot easier to avoid.

*Laura Stack is a keynote speaker, author and authority on productivity and performance. She has written seven books, including her newest work, Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time. She can be contacted at theproductivitypro.com

This article first appeared on Laura’s blogsite.

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