A Strong State of Mind

Strength.

What does this mean?

Taken literally, it applies more to being able to lift more, or get more work from your muscles than someone weaker.

But that’s not the only thing the word strength applies to, is it? What about mental strength? That’s the inspirational one, after all. Otherwise we wouldn’t see quotes about it all over social media.

This one is a little harder to define. But we all have some idea of it, don’t we? Think of phrases such as: mind over matter, you’re stronger than you think, and the mind gives in before the body does. Basically, our mental toughness is the deciding factor over whether or not we win the fight we come to.

Where does this mental strength come from? Are you just born with it from day one? As for the rest of you, sorry boutcha. You just won’t get far in life.

No, I believe that mental strength is not just a personality characteristic, but a state of mind. Everyone has their weaknesses, struggles, and downsides they must fend off, and when you win it, your strength shines.

Why else would they describe something as a moment of weakness? Your tough mentality slips momentarily, and you aren’t capable of fending off temptation, so you cave in. Such as that chocolate calling your name or you sleeping in instead of working out. Or I could go on to list things that are more serious, but I think you already get the idea.

I think everyone has their own list of temptations that catch their eyes. For me, a big one is chocolate. But an even bigger one is chocolate chip cookie-flavored anything. I always make a double-decker chocolate chip cookie cake for my roommates on their birthday, and I always regret eating it afterwards. Why? Because when it’s time to cut the cake, everything becomes slow motion. My eyes get really big, I start to drool, and my hands shake so much that that modest sized piece of cake I meant to cut magically turned into a sugar coma waiting to happen.

Just kidding, time doesn’t become slow motion (I also don’t drool…I think), I’m actually just thinking slower because my mind is arguing without itself. Not that I hear voices. Just one that’s saying, you’re going to regret this later. And later, when I’m so full of sugar that I could sweeten your coffee by just stirring it with my finger, I think to myself, oh yes, I definitely regret it. I’m miserably full of crappy food.

So what’s the problem? I have no self-control? Well, actually yes. But telling yourself that to fix the problem you’re just magically going to have self-control the next day doesn’t do much for you. There’s no such thing as a “Ta Da!” effect. Instead, when you fail (unless you have will power made of steel), you will only harp on yourself and feel guilty. You’re caught in an endless cycle of cheating on goals or making bad decisions and then feeling guilty about it. If you’re busy feeling down on yourself, what happens to that strong state of mind? You never get a chance to return to it and stop the cycle because you’re too busy feeling like crap.

You have to start small if you’re trying to change a behavior. When you lift weights, you’re probably not just going to magically bench press 500 lbs. You have to work up to it. It’s the same with your mind. Be realistic with your goals. For example, if you want to start exercising, just make a goal of ten minutes a day. That doesn’t mean you can’t do more, but that you are more likely to stick to that goal. If you want to eat healthier, try incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet. Or switch out enriched flour products for whole grain. You don’t have to go on a crazy diet to see results. Give your taste buds a chance to adjust to the newness. When you get that down, make a newer and more challenging goal, but one you can attain as well.

Over time, you’ll build up your mental toughness and be more motivated to continue. Your state of mind will turn your new behaviors into a habit, and you won’t have to deal with the endless and miserable cycle of mistake and guilt. You have to challenge yourself in order to grow, but train yourself instead of killing yourself.

Remember, strength is not just about your physical ability, but your mental ability to accept challenges and overcome them. Don’t give up on yourself. Practice makes perfect.

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