Olympic sprinter Florence Griffith Joyner believed that running was a mental game. She said: “Every day I tell myself I’m not going to allow anything to stop me. I try to see my goals before me. There are a lot of things which could try to slow me down–injuries, family problems, financial problems, but you have to be so mentally tough when you’re out there.”
Whether the goal, resolutions, plans, or strategic objectives you set for yourself, having the mental toughness to adhere to it is critical in achieving your desired results. Joyner not only saw what she wanted, but was also able to reach it. CMOE has trained and worked with thousands of managers helping them set goals to improve their leadership skills. From our observations, typically most people are able to set goals and define strategic objectives. Then they quickly lose sight of what they are working towards. Adherence and persistence is often the missing piece.
Sometimes adherence is a time frame–sustaining something long term. On the other hand, it can be the amount of concentrated effort needed. Either way, there are really four basic principles to keep in mind as we enhance out “mental toughness” to stick with the strategies and plans that we have set for ourselves.
First, you need to clearly know where you are headed. Not just a general idea or plan, but a concrete target you want to obtain. Without a clear target, you can easily become derailed or distracted. Clarity gives you a sense of purpose and push into action. Basil S. Walsh, an American author said it perfectly: “If you don’t know where you are going, how can you expect to get there?”
Once you know what your target is, you must decide if you are willing to pay the price to go the distance. You have to ask yourself, “Do I believe this goal is worth the effort?”
If so, it requires building up the courage and stamina to persist to the end. It has to be a conscious decision that you make. You must internalize it and believe in it to make it happen. Concentrate and remind yourself of the positive (and negative) consequences or outcomes from your efforts. These will become your motivating factors. It is also too easy to bite off more that you can handle, so make certain you can fully invest in the direction you are headed.
While you may have a clear target and a commitment to it, it will be difficult to move forward persistently unless you know the path that will lead you there. To be most effective, one of your actions should include obtaining the resources required. Rather than listing short bullet point action steps, put some “meat” on it by describing exactly what you need to do, who will help or be responsible (if your target involves others), and when you will complete that step. These intermediate steps keep the momentum going. You are more likely to stick with your plan, if you take smaller strides. Make your action steps visible so you have a constant reminder. Also remember to reward and recognize yourself as you move closer to rather than to wait until you have accomplished your target.
Successful adherence and resolve requires passion. Find way to enjoy what you are doing and aspiring to. Begin by asking, “How can I get myself to enjoy, really enjoy this?” It really comes down to your attitude about what you are doing. Earl Nightingale said, “A great attitude is not the result of success; success is the result of great attitude.” Visualize yourself being successful. You may have heard that you should “think positively.” Well, not only should your think positively but act positively. You will, of course, experience some up and downs as you move towards your desired results. When you experience a setback, give yourself a break, Look at where you were and where you are now. Reigniting passion will help your through these inevitable disappointments, fear, and frustrations. You can turn your energy into a positive direction by refocusing on your goals and how it will make a difference to you and others.
Theodore Roosevelt said, “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even through checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that know no victory nor defeat.” As with any goal or strategy, despite our best efforts we may not always find success. But we can feel better about ourselves and our contribution if we have done our very best to persistently work to achieve something great.