13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do: Take Back Your Power, Embrace Change, Face Your Fears, and Train Your Brain for Happiness and Success

In the book “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do: Take Back Your Power, Embrace Change, Face Your Fears, and Train Your Brain for Happiness and Success,” the author Amy Morin outlines core principles of success.  I recap the book in a minute or two; read below:

  1. Don’t feel sorry for yourself.  Instead, be thankful and remember it’s impossible to feel scared and grateful at the same time
  2. Keep your power.  Here are signs of losing power—others make you angry, guilty, or judged.  Control your emotions and set boundaries if there are people in your life—say a boss or in-law—who makes you feel your power is fleeting
  3. Lean into change.   When change is needed, make a plan and have small attainable goals.  As the saying goes, “by the yard, it’s hard.  By the inch, it’s a cinch.”
  4. Let go of things outside of your control.  If within your control, focus your sphere of influence
  5. Realize you can’t please everyone.  In Adam Grant’s book, he outlines helping others, and there are Givers, Takers, and Matchers.  Avoid Takers and meet Matchers in the middle
  6. Be an intelligent risk-taker.  Know the pros and cons, mitigate risks, and know when to walk away.  In looking at solutions, look for “and” answers instead of either-or solutions
  7. Let go of the past.  Forgive yourself, focus on the future, and remember, “you never can ‘should have’; otherwise, you’ll ‘should’ all over yourself.
  8. Learn from mistakes.  What were the failure points when planning a goal or project that didn’t work in the past?  How to mitigate the losses?  To achieve the goal, ask, “In what ways can I [fill in the blank]?”
  9. Support others’ success.  Envy is never good.  Life is not a zero-sum game.  Look for opportunities to collaborate instead of competing
  10. Know there will be setbacks and don’t give up.  Be kind to yourself.  Get knocked down?  Get back up
  11. Be O.K. being alone with your thoughts—journal, meditate, exercise
  12. Remember entitlement replaces the expectation of success with the actual work to achieve success
  13. Persevere with patience.  Read any book about success and know from the lightbulb’s invention to organizations that dominate the world today, know time is on your side and persistence beats resistance

The Obstacle is the Way

My thanks to my friend and CEO of AbeTech, Chris Heim, for recommending the book “The Obstacle is the Way.” Decades ago, before the release of this book, my partner, Ryan, who runs the firm, gave me a Christmas gift.  It was a picture of a river with stones creating a path from one side to the other.  The caption said, “Every obstacle is a stepping stone to your success.” Almost 30 years later, with this same partner at my side, all I can say is he was correct.  This ideology is the book “The Obstacle is the Way.”

How does one face an obstacle?  As shared in the book, a positive mindset says, “In what ways can I turn this obstacle into an advantage?” So how do we do it?  Start by being objective.

Take a perspective that works to see opportunity in obstacles.  An initial thought with an impediment could be confusion, anger, or despair.  See the path by taking a breath and focusing on outcomes.  Keep in mind a quick response based on emotion clouds judgment.

The book shares that Edison went through 6,000 filaments before finding the one that worked.  As famously stated, with each failure, he said he knew one more thing that didn’t work.

So what’s the recipe for turning obstacles into a path to success?  Here’s a one, two punch:

  • Use objective perception followed by action.  See the situation for what it is and take action
  • Will.  As Abraham Lincoln said, “Always bear in mind that your resolution to succeed is more important than anything.”

The High Five Habit

In the High Five Habit, Mel Robbins, the author of The 5 Second Rule, shares how a simple habit can change a life. She shares why we shouldn’t apologize so much in the book and what a “high five” does to our brain.

The high five habit involves standing in front of a mirror every morning and high-fiving our reflection. High fiving ourselves gives us the ability to reflect on the positive and avoid being critical of ourselves. Robbins shares it feels a little odd but feels good.

While it can feel a little off to high five ourselves, science backs up the practice. Think about high fives in your life. When did you receive them? What memories do they stir? There was an experiment where kids were given a task and motivated differently. Some were praised for a trait. Others praised for effort. The third and final group celebrated with high fives. The high-fivers were the group that felt the best and kept at it the longest.

Why? Neurobics.  Neurobics combine something familiar—like brushing our teeth—with something unfamiliar, like high-fiving, our brains pay attention and create new neural connections.

So, how to start a high-five habit? Put a note on your bathroom mirror as a reminder. Post-its! Shoot for five days row.

New habits can be challenging because of RAS—the Reticular Activating System. The whole job of RAS is to filter all the information we receive every day. RAS tells our brains to ignore what’s not essential. Wonder why when someone yells your name in public, you stop and pay attention? That’s RAS in action.

Want a reason to be more positive? If negativity is an integral part of your life, RAS will prioritize it.

So, how do we focus on being positive? Focus on being kind to yourself. Focus on supporting yourself. Choose a mantra. For example, “Every day, in every way, I’m stronger and stronger.”

In addition to being positive, be thankful, not apologetic. For example, thank someone for an airport pickup instead of apologizing for the pickup.

In summary, high five yourself, pay attention to RAS, stay positive, and focus on gratitude instead of apologizing.

A Minute to Think

We need space to think.  Space and managing our day are the core concepts of A Minute to Think: Reclaim Creativity, Conquer Busyness, and Do Your Best Work

Being busy is different than being productive.  There’s a state called “performative busyness,” where we feel better when more active.

Part of the need to be busy is self-imposed pressure based on others.  In the book, they share an example from the show Candid Camera.  In it, a bunch of actors in an elevator face the wrong way.  When an unsuspecting person goes into the elevator, they too face the wrong way.  In a work setting, we can mirror this behavior.  If we are in a team where everyone is always on and responding to emails or texts at all hours of the day, we can feel pressure to match this same behavior.

Gallup stated 25% of us feel burnt out.  Deloitte said over 2/3 of us have an “overwhelming” amount of work.  Yet, being more focused and less “on” delivers results.  Microsoft in Japan did a study where employees worked a four-day workweek instead of a five-day workweek.  Productivity went up by 40%.

To perform complex tasks, we use our frontal lobe.  Without breaks, there is a dramatic drop in productivity.  With breaks, our brains are more effective and creative. 

There are four breaks: social, nutritional, relaxation, and cognition based on a Harvard Business School study.  A social break is taking time to talk to someone.  A nutritional break is eating or drinking.  A relaxation break could be taking a walk.  A cognition break is reading something non-work-related.

Our core drives at work are to get information and achieve excellence.  The mistake we make is to shoot for perfection.  If you wonder if you’re a perfectionist, ask if others have said you’re too focused on details or give too much effort to things that aren’t important.

To curb perfectionism, choose projects, problems, and people who deserve focused attention and effort.  Also, avoid distractions like notifications for email or social media, or other platforms. 

Along with avoiding distractions, control your devices instead of letting your devices control you.  Studies show smartphones can make us less productive, and a recent research study stated just having our phone on the table while talking to someone makes that person like us less.

Constantly checking social media or email makes us less productive and not focused on more complex tasks.  We do it because we get a dopamine rush.  So how do we get around this?  Develop habits like having set times to check email or social media.

For communication, effective communicators think about the medium.  The book talks about 2D and 3D communication.  2D is a text or email to get a quick answer.  3D is a live conversation when we need a more complex conversation or outcome.

In summary, busyness is not a badge of honor.  Schedule the day instead of letting the daily schedule you by having focused thinking time, taking breaks, and controlling when you check email or social media.