Ask me to explain the Super Bowl to you and I'd be struggling to point to anything other than the commercials (not worth the hype), buffalo chicken dip (totally worth the hype), and the halftime entertainment (so-so).
The media may be full of Tom Brady's no nightshades policy, but it's his mental strength that has impressed me.
Resilience is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as, "the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties". Mental strength, however, helps us to be prepared for the challenges of life. So how we can help develop mental strength in our children, and for that matter, in ourselves?
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1. You have to fail to learn
No one gets anywhere without some losses and contrary to the "epic fail" of the current vernacular, failure is not a catastrophic event that you can't come back from. Failure shows that you've tried something and maybe it was out of your comfort zone or you weren't prepared enough. It's important that we teach our kids to do better next time by helping them understand what went wrong and focusing on improvement, rather than on the failure itself.
2. Manage your emotions so they don't manage you
Mental strength is not about becoming emotional robots. Managing your emotions acknowledges that getting angry or abusing precious emotional energy in the midst of a task or action does not serve the outcome, it merely distracts you and makes achieving it harder. Bearing in mind the age of your child, don't expect emotional mastery too soon, but encourage it by modelling deep breaths or walking away and taking a break for a moment before showing the utmost of mental strength and coming back to finish a difficult job. By all means, let the tears flow when the time is right.
3. Take responsibility for your life
It's easy to blame others when things aren't going well but mentally strong people take responsibility for their lives. Moving through life blaming other people or events or lamenting on what could have been "if only" will not serve you. It's important to accept your part in a relationship breakdown, the loss of a business, the F your group project received, and move forward to try again.
4. Reframe negative thoughts
When you remember Andy Murray's implosions on the court you can see the power of positive thinking when it comes to turning your abilities into success. If your kids think they can't do something, ask them why they think that and work together on the weak points. They may feel unsure about how a specific process will work, or they feel a part of their ability is not good enough. Work with them, discuss their progress and encourage them to speak to themselves with the same kindness and reassurance they speak to their friends.
5. Flip it
When we get so focused on one path, we miss a whole load of other opportunities. I grant you, some experiences in life are very dark, but most of the time you can flip it and find a new way. For my family, 2020 was all about flipping it and even though it was desperately hard, the new path is exciting and may end up better than the one we lost. Listening to the Armchair Expert Podcast on the weekend, if Hilary Clinton was too rigidly focused on being a lawyer, she would have missed out on being a First Lady, a Senator, a Primary candidate, the Secretary of State, a Presidential Candidate, an author. She failed on the global stage not only once, but she flipped it and evolved. That's strength.