Why You Need Mental Toughness

August 11th, 2013 by LaRae Quy

At the age of sixteen, I flunked my first driver’s test. Embarrassed and afraid to retake the test, my self-confidence plummeted. I had driven stick-shift tractors all around our ranch with brake peddles that needed to be pumped, but I wasn’t sure I could figure out a car with an automatic shift and brakes that only needed a soft touch.

At sixteen, I didn’t have the self-awareness to realize I was the one holding myself back. My barriers were self-inflicted and self-perpetuating. I did not yet have the positive and curious mind that is the foundation of mental toughness. I not only lacked a driver’s license, I planned to attend a local college—not a university.

As I shared my aspirations in life with a high school friend named Star Phifer, he said, “I can’t believe you’re throwing away all that potential.” And then he walked off. My cheeks burned because I knew he was right, but how to plow through my self-limiting beliefs?

I felt myself enter a downward spiral of negativity, where NO was the word I most heard from others, and used myself. No—you’re not smart enough; no—you do not have the money; no—you’re not popular enough . . . the list goes on.

Journaling my thoughts was the only way to express the turmoil inside me. When I journaled, there was a fluid unspooling of my fears and anxieties. By writing them down, I became more aware of their origins and their effect on me. I got that negative conversation down on paper, and after I did, I discovered something very wonderful: I was ready for a new conversation that was positive and full of “What if” questions. These thoughts spurred my curiosity, and I made sure I got that conversation down on paper as well!

Mental toughness is finding a way to say NO to your self-limiting beliefs (click to tweet). Mental toughness is the ability to change things by your own power; it’s the opposite of helplessness (click to tweet). When you choose to let a negative thought have control, you’ve decided that nothing you do affects what happens to you.

Try This

Here is an exercise that might help you identify your self-limiting barriers and develop the mental toughness to break through them:

Write down a list of barriers or behaviors that are holding you back. Below are some questions to help you start. Start each sentence with “I” so that it is a personal statement about your behavior.

  1. What are the barriers getting in the way of your success and happiness?
  2. What are the behaviors that you want to change?
  3. When do you make excuses or not follow through?

Now that you have your list of barriers, look at them often. Your path to self-empowerment is your own and it’s up to you to take the actions you need to be the best you can be. When you control your thoughts, and make them positive ones, you’re gaining personal control (click to tweet).

The greatest revolution in our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives~William James

© 2013 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

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18 Responses to “Why You Need Mental Toughness”

  1. James Strock says:

    Excellent post! Thanks for sharing your experiences and insights.

    The old Babe Ruth example–the person who hits the most home runs may well also be the strike out king–comes to mind. The more things one undertakes, the more “failures” one has.

    The driving test example is apt in so many ways. You already knew how to drive, doubtless far more effectively than most of your contemporaries. The driving test is necessary but hardly inspiring: learning a number of things just for that one occasion (how many feet to come to a stop, etc.), and doing well is hardly a major accomplishment. But doing poorly is a problem….

    Your questions are such good ones. And your overall focus on mental toughness is so apt. Good reminders for all of us….

    • LaRae Quy says:

      Hi James

      Thanks so much for stopping by! I agree with you that mental toughness is an important skill, and one that we are not born with…we can learn it! If you are interested, I’ll have a FREE mental toughness mini-course up on my website next week…please feel free to sign up for it.

  2. Karin Hurt says:

    I failed my first driving test too. I like your execise. So often I find leaders (including youth leaders) saying, “oh, I’m just not good at that.” I like to add the word, “yet.” One negative experience can stunt our growth.

    • LaRae Quy says:

      Karin, I felt like the biggest loser in the world when I failed that driving test 🙁 At that time in my life I wasn’t sure about anything and lacked much of the can-do attitude that I’d made a part of my life growing up! I like your addition of the word “yet.” That is so powerful….thanks for stopping by!

  3. Terri Klass says:

    Sharing your personal childhood struggles with us is so meaningful, LaRae and really helps to understand how mental toughness describes your very being. It is fascinating how you chose the FBI route, yet understandable after the many stories you have shared. You are one focused leader and I am thrilled to know you!

    • LaRae Quy says:

      Thanks so much, Terri! It does come down to being personally accountable, and to be positive and flexible in the way we look at the obstacles we face. I’ve tended to set a goal for myself and come hell or high water, I moved forward. With experience, I’ve learned the wisdom of being flexible and inquisitive as I looked at my barriers. And you know what? Often, those barriers and obstacles became manageable once I tweaked my goals and/or approach. Once I stopped blaming others and became personally responsible, I found myself empowered.

  4. “It’s up to you to take the actions you need to be the best you can be” – Well said. For me it boils down to how bad you want it and how much you are wiling to give up to get it. It boils down to how committed you are to making it happen. Thanks for sharing LaRae.

    • LaRae Quy says:

      So true, Brian! I do think once we commit to a goal it’s up to us to make it happen. We can’t blame others or point the finger if things don’t go as we expected. We need to be personally accountable…so hard, sometimes!

  5. Great post Larae!
    Your story is quite amazing and inspiring.
    We are often our worst enemy I guess.
    You and I have shared stuggles and I am always impressed by your openess and vulnerability.
    I feel blessed to you and be influenced by you.

    • LaRae Quy says:

      Oh, I’ve lots of experience with vulnerability and general stupidity…the best I can say is that I’ve tried very hard to learn from these experiences…

      Thanks, Johann!

  6. LaRae, How true this is, when you said “Your path to self-empowerment is your own and it’s up to you to take the actions you need to be the best you can be. When you control your thoughts, and make them positive ones, you’re gaining personal control”. We definitely must take control of our life in order to create our destiny in life. Thank you for another great post!

    • LaRae Quy says:

      You and I are really on the same page with self-empowerment and the importance of a positive attitude. I always walk away from our conversations uplifted…thank you, my friend!

  7. Al Gonzalez says:

    Thanks so much LaRae this is so helpful! The image is very powerful and symbolic. No matter how much we “go for” and achieve, there always seems to be limiting thoughts that creep in and stop us from pursuing our goals. To me, it mostly happens at night, right before I go to sleep. Little negative devils start telling me that I am fool to think I can achieve my dreams. They are very powerful little devils and they never give up! 

    • LaRae Quy says:

      Oh, I know just what you mean! Those little night time devils….I wrestle with them, too! I think that would be a great post! You’ve inspired me….

  8. LaRae,

    Mental toughness by title sounds like something that might be hard to achieve and might leave you a bit less human.. However, your stories consistently paint pictures of compelling characters that live normal lives, have normal emotions, and yet possess an uncommon ability to handle whatever life throws at them. (Even if they don’t know it right away!)

    I love this concept: “A positive and curious mind is the foundation of mental toughness!”

    Thank you for making mental toughness a fun topic to explore!


  9. Alli Polin says:

    LaRae –

    Star was a good friend – willing to speak the truth instead of buying into your self-limiting beliefs. We need to walk through the fear of “not good enough” and, more often than not, we’re amazed at what we had in us all along but we couldn’t see until we were on the other side.

    ~ Alli

    • LaRae Quy says:

      You know, Alli, I’ve never told Star how important he was in my life! We’re Facebook friends and I’ve sent him this article. I can’t believe it took me so many years to say “thank you!”

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