During my four months of training at the FBI Academy in Quantico, VA, I was ensconced in a culture that valued physical strength. Surrounded by athletes and former police officers, I found myself in a hostile environment that openly questioned my qualifications to become an FBI agent, even though I had scored exceptionally high on cognitive and personality tests. I was perceived as being both female and powerless.
Feeling defeated, criticized, and beaten down, I refused to let the way that others defined me at the FBI Academy change the way I defined myself. Instead of being intimidated, their criticism only fueled my determination. I developed the mental toughness to break through the barriers that stood between me and my goal of becoming an FBI agent. I knew I needed to find a way to signal to myself, and to others around me who were skeptical of my abilities, that I was leadership material.
My dream of becoming an FBI agent was threatened by my lack of ability to churn out 35 push-ups. The stage between finding a purpose that has meaning and finding a way to break through the barriers keeping me from pursuing that purpose was the toughest place to be, because that is when I began to doubt myself and my future.
What makes the difference between those who persist and those who give up? I believe it’s a strong mind. If you have mental toughness, you truly believe you 1) have found your purpose, 2) have something valuable and unique to offer, and 3) will remain confident even when the battle is uphill.
“It takes more courage to reveal insecurities than to hide them, more strength to relate to people than to dominate them, more manhood (or womanhood) to abide by thought-out principles rather than blind reflex. Toughness is in the soul and spirit, not in muscles and an immature mind.”—Alex Karras
Most successful people have taken risks, failed more than once, and persisted in pursuing their purpose. So what strengthens a strong mind when things look their darkest? The answer is willpower.
To activate your willpower, you must be able to remind yourself WHY your goal is important to you. Meaningless tasks or a path without heart will not activate it. When you have a purpose, you will find the willpower to achieve your goals in life.
Here are three things you should be able to say about yourself as you pursue the goals that lead to your purpose in life:
- I chose the things that truly matter—Don’t get distracted by cars, houses, and stuff. Put first things first. Where you are in life is temporary; where you will end up in life is permanent. How you get there is entirely up to you, so when things don’t go the way you expected them to go, don’t give up. Sometimes things have to fall apart so they fall into the right place (click to tweet). The hardest and smartest way to live is by choosing what truly matters, and pursuing it with passion.
- I believe in myself and my purpose—The most difficult phase of life is not when no one understands you; it’s when you don’t understand yourself (click to tweet). Start focusing on what you need to do to succeed in your current situation and then be the best at it. Do not let yourself think or feel like a victim. Do not abandon your dream and goals because your plans did not initially work out the way you wanted them to. You may have to be flexible and revise your goals a few times to better fit your circumstances.
- I have faith I will achieve my purpose in life. Have faith that if you put out your best effort and commit yourself to this work with all your energy, you will find a way to your goal. There will always be obstacles to block your path. They are not there to stop you; they are there to challenge you. The obstacles are what make the achievement worthwhile.
When you are confronted with a barrier that prevents you from reaching your goal, you have two choices: let it stop you, or persist and find a way to use the challenge as a stepping stone on the path toward achievement and success.
Tough-minded does not mean hard-hearted. Tough-minded people know how to keep calm and remain focused on their goal. Develop a strong mind and choose to persist in the face of obstacles.
How have you developed your willpower when pursuing your purpose in life?
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