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.
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.
- What are the barriers getting in the way of your success and happiness?
- What are the behaviors that you want to change?
- 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
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