We admire people who are mentally tough—we make them our heroes and call them by names like John Wayne. Heroes don’t focus on their weaknesses—instead, they develop their strengths so they can respond to unexpected challenges with confidence.
We like heroes with strong minds because life’s challenges bring out the best in them. In the process, they remind us that strength is an inner place we can all find when our backs are against the wall. Mental toughness is needed to overcome obstacles and break through barriers.
In my book, Secrets of A Strong Mind, I talk about the mental skills necessary to confront the challenges of life. We all have the psychological muscle to do this; we simply need to develop these muscles so that we respond to life’s challenges leading with our strengths and not our weaknesses.
Many people don’t take the time to discover and develop their strengths. The reason is this: they’ve been told to focus on their weaknesses so they can overcome them and turn them into positive qualities. The problem with this approach is that there is no strategy to convert your weakness into strength. An alternative is to build your positive qualities to overwhelm your less desirable ones.
Once you shift your focus, you can begin to take ownership of your strengths. You will discover that none of your successes were accidental—they were the result of your talent and skills.
The secret to a strong mind is self-awareness. Get to know yourself well enough to not only anticipate, but also control, your response to the unexpected challenges in life. Here are 3 successful ways to help you build your inner strength:
1. Find Your Strengths
One of my favorite areas of instruction during my training at the FBI Academy was surveillance. It required that we remain alert and observant so we could identify behavioral patterns in the people under surveillance.
I learned to use surveillance techniques on myself to identify my strengths. It’s impossible to develop your strengths unless you know what they are. I started by paying attention to the activities that drew my interest. I then answered the following questions:
- How long did it take for me to accomplish the activity?
- Did I do it well and did it leave me feeling satisfied?
- Was it time-consuming and leave me drained?
- Did I get so absorbed that I lost track of time?
It can take months for a pattern to emerge, but eventually, one will. By constant observation over time, your dominant strengths will show themselves. Once you identify them, you will be able to hone them, and this will place you on the road to building a strong life.
2. Acknowledge Your Weaknesses
Before I entered the FBI Academy, I had never shot a gun. I discovered I was quite good—I scored high on the bull’s eye target and never let the shotgun’s recoil get the upper hand. The physical fitness portion of my new agent training, however, left something to be desired. I scored near the bottom on everything—when I scored at all . . .
My natural reaction told me to focus all my energy on improving my pushups and pull-ups and the 2-mile run. As a result, I rarely spent any time on developing my proficiency with firearms. I obsessed over my weaknesses and devoted all my energy into fixing them.
One of my class counselors planted an important seed that has continued to germinate over the years. Weaknesses are to be managed, not changed. Instead of focusing on what was left out, concentrate on what was left in.
I had spent too much time trying to draw out skills that simply did not exist. Instead, I turned my focus toward developing my strengths. It was not possible for me to ignore my weaknesses because I needed to graduate from the Academy; however, instead of obsessing over them, I learned to manage them.
Don’t try to overcome a weakness, learn to overwhelm it (click to tweet).
3. Reinforce Your Strong Points
I was required to shoot over three thousands rounds of ammunition while in the FBI Academy. The reason was this: the more I practiced on the firing range, the more confident I would be when confronted with the real situation out on the street.
For a skill to be strength, it must be something that is done with consistency. The secret to inner strength is being able to replicate moments of success so there is a predictable outcome. This is why it’s so important to accurately identify the strongest threads in your pattern and reinforce them with training and learning.
Spend time growing your strong points, not on strengthening your weak ones (click to tweet).
The strong mind that I developed at the FBI Academy had nothing to do with push-ups or shooting a gun. It had to do with finding that my greatest areas of growth would be in my strengths, not my weaknesses.
How have you developed a strong mind? How do you identify your strengths? How do you approach your weaknesses? How do you overwhelm your weaknesses?
You can follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LaRaeQuy
Read my book “Secrets of a Strong Mind,” available now on Amazon.