There are surprisingly few things that set apart mentally tough people from the rest of the world. This should be good motivation to become one, right? But first of all, what does it mean to be mentally strong?
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It means being in touch with yourself, knowing yourself inside and out. It’s disheartening how many people go through life only partially self-aware. Mental strength also means high emotional intelligence – the ability to not just express and understand your own feelings but also to recognize, acknowledge, and navigate the feelings of other people.
Alright, now that we have a definition, here’s what sets mentally strong people apart from the pack:
They steer clear of pettiness
Let’s get this straight: there is a big difference between attention to detail and pettiness. The former is creative; the latter is destructive.
Mentally strong people are aware of this difference; and while they may have an eye for detail, they are also smart enough to resist any urges to get tangled into petty things that only waste time.
Here’s an example. You had a call scheduled for 2:30, say, and the person the call was with called five minutes later. Say she’s close enough for you to remark on the delay. You can either spend five minutes talking about the importance of being punctual and how calling later means you disrespect the person at the other end of the line, or you can, if you’re mentally strong, dismiss the five-minute delay and focus on the matter at hand.
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They always keep things in perspective
Context is everything, and mentally tough people know it, so they never let things out of perspective. Having perspective sometimes feels like living on another planet—looking down on Earthlings who don’t have any. But it’s a lovely planet, even if it’s sometimes lonely.
Without context or perspective, nothing makes sense. With context, you have a bigger picture to look at when you have to make a decision or analyze the consequences of an event, such as your phone battery dying in mid-conversation, or hearing a negative rumor circulating about you. It’s only a problem if you think it’s a problem.
Say your call, the one scheduled for 2:30, broke down because your battery ran out of juice. If you’re one of those people who always put things in perspective, you’d probably think of all the alternatives to phones you have at your disposal instead of getting angry and throwing the phone against the wall. You’d also think of some more important conversation that could have been interrupted this way with much graver consequences but didn’t. You might even think how cool it is to have smartphones at all, right? That’s putting things in perspective and it makes life easier and better.
They can take criticism
Taking criticism the right way, that is, not as an insult but as constructive feedback aimed to help you do something better, is rarely an inborn quality. Most of us have to learn it, and this includes those people whom we call mentally strong.
These people know that opinions vary as do interpretations of one and the same event by different people. They are open to other people’s take on that event even when they don’t agree. Mentally tough people can genuinely agree to disagree and use the other’s point of view to look at the event from a different angle and gain some additional insight into it. Such insight can be invaluable.
A mentally tough individual knows what they know, and what they don’t know. They also know that the world would be a horribly boring place without different viewpoints. And they understand that sometimes criticism is constructive, and sometimes it is personal and pointless. They stop to reflect at the motives for criticism. They analyze themselves and others at every point. This creates a distance from the drama, and again, puts things into perspective.
They have an objective view of criticism that either allows them to extract anything of value from it and improve on themselves, or they disregard unemotionally. This is the mark of a truly self-confident person.
They never waste time dwelling on past mistakes
A lot of people don’t know what’s good for them. You make a bad trade and you spend the rest of the week beating yourself up about it or blaming everyone and everything in the world for it. Again, wasted time and wasted energy.
Perhaps the only thing worse than dwelling on a mistake or an incident you had no control over is blaming everyone else but yourself when something goes wrong. These are two things mentally strong people know better than to do.
A mentally tough individual learns what they can from mistakes, and never repeats them. Ever. They also never waste time on dwelling, which they view as a debilitating weakness. They concede mistakes and then move on.
Four simple rules, that’s all that separates the mentally tough from the weaklings. And what these rules actually involve is a set of skills that anyone can master given the right motivation. There can hardly be better motivation that taking control of your life and responsibility for what you do. Yes, holding the reins can be difficult. That’s why you need to be tough. It’s all mind over matter, and everyone is capable of it. Nothing is more important in the trading business than this. Master yourself, and you master trading.
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