Don’t you hate it when someone tells you that you just need more willpower? Hey everybody, this is Mike Uhrlaub with another episode of Power Your Life by Flex PT. I want to talk a little bit about that today. Don’t you just hate that when you’re trying to do something with your life, and someone tells you that you need more willpower? For some people, you’re trying to lose weight. For other people, maybe you’re trying to start an exercise program just to be healthy. You might also be trying to change how you eat or maybe you’re trying to change something in your life to improve yourself, causing you to sometimes fall off the wagon. I’ve done that. Sometimes you have trouble staying on course and you go end up taking to a friend or somebody, thinking that you just can’t seem to figure this out. The friend or family member of yours looks at you and says, “You know what you need? You just need more willpower.” Then, you sit back and you’re like, “wait a minute here now, that is it.” It gets under my skin a little bit because how does someone get more willpower? Do we just like pull this out of the air? None of us wake up saying, “I’m going to just ruin my diet today and I’m not going to exercise.” Unless, maybe you’re taking the day off. We all have these intentions and they’re well-meaning good intentions, like making a New Year’s Resolution. I think around 80% of the new year’s resolutions are out the window in less than a month. That’s when people say, you just need more willpower, when people say this, you just want to slap them because it’s more than that. It’s not just about willpower, it’s a mindset.
I like to think of it not as willpower because willpower’s fleeting. I don’t believe that you can “will” yourself to do something because there’s times where things are going to happen in your life that you’re just not going to be successful with. Instead of talking about willpower, I want to talk about what I call mental toughness. Mental toughness is something that I have experienced. I’ve seen it and I’ve experienced it personally with different things that I’ve done.
I know that it’s a real thing and I know that’s more than just saying willpower. Willpower is hard to define, but mental toughness is not. I’m super excited to be able to share this information with you guys because it is very important to me. So, what exactly is mental toughness? Mental toughness is one of the key ingredients that you need to be successful in any endeavor that you’re going to be doing, especially if it involves a lot of change.
Let’s face it, we’re creatures of habit and we don’t like change. If we had it our way, we would like everything in a neat little box, and we’d like it just to stay the same. Well, I got news for you guys. That’s not how things work. If that is the way you are thinking, then you’re going to be set up for a lifetime of disappointment because things change and you’ve got to have a mindset, a mental toughness that can flow with that change. This is true in anything that you’re doing. This is true in a weight loss, a business, your life, a workout program, you name it. This is something that you can apply to any facet of your life.
For me, the true definition of mental toughness is the ability to push on no matter what, because life’s going to get in the way of your success. I’m so passionate about this subject because I’ve spent a lot of time in the last six months delving into it. In doing so, I found out how I could become more mentally tough. However, it’s your ability to be connected to a greater purpose or power and that is one of the key ingredients to developing that. Basically, when things go wrong, that’s going to be your ability to push on mentally, no matter what you see. That’s what mental toughness is, not willpower. For the most successful people in any aspect of their lives, they have this ability. The thing I want you to know is that each one of us has that within us You have that mental toughness. It’s a matter of finding it, harnessing it, learning how to use that, and then driving on through what you need to do.
One of the key points that I’ve learned with this, is that I need to be able to get comfortable with the uncomfortable, which is one of the quotes that I just love. In our office, we have our life-changer graphic with our manifesto of what we believe, and one of them is to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. The other aspect to the mental toughness, that I love, is a quote. It just says, “it helps you find the fuel when your tank is empty”, because we’re all going to have those days. I have them all the time. I wake up in the morning and sometimes, going to work is last thing I want to do. Sometimes, working out is the last thing I want to do. Whether you do it in the morning or at the end of the day, we all have those tasks and those things in our lives that sometimes, your tank is empty, and you can’t do anymore.
When I was in high school, I experienced this for myself, I was a wrestler and wrestling was a sport that was near and dear to me and I loved it. With wrestling, I did not start like the typical wrestling kid does. My dad, a former baseball player and basketball coach, knew nothing about wrestling. Naturally, he steered me towards those two sports, which I was terrible at. Then, I decided in the eighth grade that even though I had never wrestled a day in my life, I wanted to go out for wrestling. I ended up going for it and I went up against kids that had been doing it since they were like in kindergarten.
Of course, I got beat up pretty good and my face was just ran all over the mat. I think that first year, I won maybe one match but overall, I enjoyed it. In ninth grade year, I moved up to high school and I went out for wrestling again. I think that year, I won maybe two or three matches on a freshmen team. So, I kept with it and by the time I’m a sophomore, I had won 12 or 13 matches. By my junior year, I’m maybe up to about 20 matches. Therefore, I’m getting a lot better. By the time I was a junior, I was starting to wrestle on some varsity slots. I’d earned my way on the team and I was coming into my own. It gave me a sense of purpose of who I was and that was my identity at that time.
So, with my senior year, everything was cumulating. I was thinking that it was going to be the year that I have to big breakout and I’m going to do amazingly well. However, I did play football and I had an injury season. I tore some cartilage in my left knee, had to have surgery, and football season was over. Even though my wrestling was in jeopardy, I eventually made it back. I went through rehab and I stuck with it. The first practice back, during maybe 10 minutes in the warmup, I got my right knee twisted, causing it to fold underneath me. I ended up tearing the meniscus and ligaments in my right knee.
After that, I wanted to cash in my chips because I was done. I just had surgery on the left one, and now I would have to have surgery on my right one. I had to dig in and ask myself a lot of questions about what it is I wanted to do and if I wanted to contribute to the sport, and I wanted to more than anything. So, I went through rehab again and did what I had to do. I earned my spot back out on the team, but I didn’t make it back until the second half after Christmas. I ended up earning my way back up and got that varsity spot. I also qualified for the state tournament. Even though I didn’t place, I was still proud of myself. I had come from this eighth grader that had never wrestled, maybe weighed 112 pounds, soaking wet, and that could only win one match, to a kid who went through some adversity his senior year, overcame that, and actually earned his way to the state tournament. Even though I didn’t place, to me, that was a success. If I did not have a very strong purpose of what it was that I wanted to do, I would have quit. For me, that experience forced me to develop some mental toughness. I’ve also seen this throughout my career because I was active duty army. I was a medic with the fourth squadron, seventh us cavalry and we were the reconnaissance for the third armor division. I served in operation desert shield and desert storm in 90 and 91. We had a command Sergeant major; his name was Ronald Snead.
In my unit, I was very fortunate to have a lot of awesome, great leaders and he was one of them. Command Sergeant Major Ronald Snead was an amazing, noncommissioned officer. He knew how to lead and lead by example. This was a guy who was mentally tough. If you had mental toughness and you put it in the dictionary, it would have a picture of Command Sergeant Major Ronald Snead. He would get us to where we needed to go, and we would follow him to hell and back. He was a Vietnam veteran and he’d done two tours in Vietnam. He had been wounded multiple times and he went through hell and back. He could have quit, but he had a calling.
He knew that by serving in the military and by having these experiences, he could teach the younger soldiers what they should do. By him doing that, he could save their lives. He had a strong sense of being a Patriot and serving his country, and those things developed his mental toughness. Overall, that’s how I know that this is a subject that is very important. One of the other things I know is that with mental toughness, it’s something that you build over time. We do have it within us, but you must develop it. It’s a skill, like a muscle that must be exercised. The more you work with it, the better you get at it. I don’t want to just sit here and preach to you about mental toughness without giving you some steps and real-life examples of what I have done personally, which has helped me develop that mental toughness.
First, you must have a strong purpose. You’ve got to have a strong “why” behind whatever it is you’re going to do. It’s going to be different for everyone and it’s personal. Now, if you decide that you want to lose weight or you want to start working out, you must ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” It can’t just be about wanting to fit in a smaller pants size or looking better either, it needs to be deeper than that. For me, I knew I was unhealthy and going in the wrong direction.
I knew my blood pressure was getting up there. I looked at a picture one day with me, my son, and my daughter in the swimming pool and I just thought, “Oh my gosh, I cannot do this anymore. I have to make a change.” For me, that purpose or that “why” was for my family because I wanted to be there when they get older and I did not want to die an early death. That connection is what will drive you and keep you going. The next thing is that you must believe in yourself. You must attain belief in the fact that you can do this. One of the ways that I did that is by “taking stock”. You’ve got to take stock in your life, and you’ve got to take stock with yourself.
So, you’ve got to start asking yourself those hard questions: Who am I today? Where am I at? Where do I want to go? Where do I want to be? You need to write down the answers to these questions and once you do that, you can accept the truth of who you are. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that, because who you are today is not where you want to be. That is on the other side. The next thing you’ve got to do is once you accept the truth, you must tell the truth.
You’ve got to find somebody. You need to find a friend, a family member, somebody close, and you’ve got to tell them about it. You’ve got to tell them, “I’m taking stock in my life and this is where I see my life at. This is where I want it to be.” The next thing you must do is you have to breathe the truth. We all like to think that all our actions in our lives are always correct, but let’s face it, we know that they’re not. When you look at yourself in an honest lens, don’t judge yourself. Look at it as if you were talking to a good friend. You see, if your friend came to you and said, “This is where I see myself.” You’re not going to tell your friend, “well, it’s your fault you’re there and you didn’t do X, Y, and Z, and you just need to have more willpower.” That’s not what you’re going to do. What would you say to your friend? You’d say, “it’s because it’s not your fault. Alright? It’s not your fault.” Now let’s work on changing it because it’s important not to judge yourself. That self-judgment creates a negative loop within your brain that helps to reinforce some of those negative behaviors that have gotten you there in the first place. The next thing you’ve got to do is you’ve got to have yourself, then once you have you, you kind of got a good direction where you’re going. You’ve got to be able to create a plan based on the truth and this is where the fun is. This is where the sky’s the limit.
All you need to do is write down on paper and create the steps that you need to achieve in order to get where you want to be. Step number two to developing your mental toughness is you must have a clear vision. We all must know where it is that we’re going. Therefore, you’ve got to be connected. You’ve got to connect your purpose to your personal and/or professional goals. Write them down because that’s what I did. I sat down and I would write: where do I want to be in one year, three years, five years, you could set it up any way. There’s no right or wrong answer here. You just write them down. However, you’ve got to make sure that your goals are connected to your purpose.
Your purpose or your “why” needs to be very personal and very strong. When you connect your goals to that, you have created a clear vision. That is the vision for what you want. Now, step three is critical. While, I’ve learned this the hard way, you must have the power to reframe and thanks. The reason I say that is because your life and the journey that you’re on to achieve it, whether it’s weight loss or working out, paying down your debt, or whatever it is, they’re not going to go the way you want them to go. It’s not a linear straight line. It’s a roundabout journey to get there and bad things are going to happen to good people.
When you are faced with adversity, you reframe your negative response and choose a positive solution that’ll keep you on track. For those who are successful, they can reframe any situation and focus on the positive in that situation. I want to use a personal example for that, and I want you to think about this. Think about a time where you’ve had something bad happen to you and you reacted to it in a negative way. You probably ended up making the situation 10 times worse, we all do that. We are our own worst enemy at times. If you think about whatever that situation was, how could you have done that differently? What would have happened? Instead of focusing on the negative of what was going on, imagine if you looked at it and you found something positive and focused on that instead.
One of my personal examples is with my dad. My dad passed away four years ago from pancreatic cancer. He was a teacher and he taught eighth grade health education for 33 years and he loved to educate. Growing up with my dad, a health education teacher, was not always easy. However, the one thing about my dad is that no matter what was going on in his life, he always had a smile and he never judged anybody. He always knew that he always teaching, and he was always trying to educate. With me, when I asked him a question, he would always answer it with a question, and it would always get me to thinking. I still remember the day that he called me up and he told me that he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. From the time he made that call, he lived six months and 40 passed on.
Now, my dad could have gone negative with it and he could have just given up hope. He could have just cut everybody off. He could have gotten angry. In the end, he didn’t do any of those things. Even when my dad was sick, going through chemo, and when he was trying to fight, he always had a smile on his face. I know that he felt that his job was not done because he was always teaching. I know that he felt that his job was to show my brother, sister, and I how to exit this life with courage and grace, no matter what he was facing. Like I said, he could have gotten angry. He could have gotten mad, but he didn’t do that.
I still remember the very last time that I saw him, and he could barely walk across the grocery store. It just wore him out and he was getting sicker and sicker. We knew that the end was coming very soon. He never felt sorry for himself and he never blamed anybody. He just said, “You know what? I’m 71 years old. I’ve lived a good life and I have taught my kids how to be self-sufficient and the things they need to do to take care of themselves. There’s one last one last lesson that I’ve got to teach them though. I’ve got to teach them how to maintain their dignity, maintain their grace, stay strong, and not blame anybody for anything.” I think he felt that he served his purpose and for me watching that, my dad reframed his diagnosis and he used it to teach me about life.
That’s the greatest gift that he could have ever given me, and he did it just at the very end of his life. That’s the power to reframe and if he can do that with a terminal diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, then I know that I can reframe anything, any situation, and always find a positives so I can keep myself moving and keep myself on track. It’s not easy, but it’s something that is very important in developing that mental muscle and mental toughness side of it.
The next step is “who are you?” You need to know who you are and it’s very interesting because, most of us don’t know that. You must ask yourself that question. Who do I want to be? The way you should answer that is you should write that out with what, who you want to be like, like what you want to be.
There was a study that came out that is very important. Several years ago, there was a study that came out about depression and smiling. The researchers took these groups of people who were all clinically depressed and they put them on antidepressants. There was a placebo group that took a sugar pill and there was another group that was supposed to smile in front of a mirror for 10 minutes every day. They did this, and that was their only treatment. Then, they came back, and they determined everybody’s depression levels. Guess what? The group that had to stand in front of the mirror and smile for 10 minutes every day showed improvement in less depression than the other groups.
From that research, it was gathered that the brain does not know the difference based on what it sees. The people knew they were depressed, but what the brain was seeing through the eyes was the person smiling. The brain connected and it thinks, “if they’re smiling, we must be happy.” You see, your brain does not know the difference. A good example is with Muhammad Ali. What did Muhammad Ali say all the time when he was Cassius clay before he became a Hammad Ali? What did he proclaim? He said, “I am the greatest.” He said it was so much emphasis and so much conviction, and he would say it again and again.
I love watching those old boxing matches. I like watching the old interviews with him because he was so passionate about that. He was bounded and determined. When he would say that he is the greatest, he was reprogramming his brain to believe that. When you believe that you’re going to take the steps subconsciously, you’re going to take those steps in that direction to be successful. So, write down who you are. I call it the I am statement. Start with “I am” and then fill in the blank and write a bunch of them, filling all of them out. Next, and this is something that I’ve done that’s been extremely helpful, is you’ve got to create a routine for each day.
The routine will force you into the habits in which you need, and those will be the discipline that you need to keep moving forward. One of the things that I’ve done is I always take three areas of my life. There is a personal area, a business or an athletic area, and then a service area to others. I take those three and then I come up with a one activity in each of those that I want to do, no matter what. This is something that I’m going to do every single day and I make sure that I complete those tasks every single day. That’s part of my routine and I follow this routine for each day. Lastly, number six is your legacy.
What is your legacy? I call this the blueprint for your mental toughness. Basically, all you’re doing is taking everything I just talked about and you’re putting it together into one statement. You have your purpose, your vision, your daily routine, and the “I am”, or “who are you” statements written out. I’d put them together, study them, and then commit it to memory and read it several times a day. You’ve got to reprogram yourself. That’s the key to your fuel when the tank is empty. The one thing I do know is you either create the life that you want or someone else will create it for you, and most likely, if it’s created for you, it’s not going to be the life you want. You only get one life.
It’s your choice. How you live it and how you spend this time that we have been given here on earth is up to you. That’s where the mental toughness will come into play. I wanted to give you three tips for growing your mental toughness muscle for developing that muscle. The first tip is that you’ve got to start building habits. You must have a schedule and you must be persistent with it because with that schedule, you’re going to develop habits every single day. What happens is, when you decide that you want to do something, , say weight loss, you’re going to go to the gym and you’re going to feel great.
You’ve made a good decision and you’ve got serotonin, dopamine, and all these other neurotransmitters that are going off and making you feel great. That’s the motivation. So, how long does that motivation last for? What happens with New Year’s resolutions? It’s like a couple of weeks, right? So, you have a couple of weeks, giving you a window to start building a schedule and developing these habits. The schedule develops the habits and then these little habits will start to become second nature to you. These are things like getting up early to work out and putting your meals together. So, create these habits while you’re in that motivated state, and use that two-week window to create that.
Eventually, these habits will help you push past the times when you hit de-motivation, where you just say, “I’m done. I don’t want to do it.” Every time that you find a way to tap into your personal purpose and you push yourself and continue the habits you’ve created; you have now become a little more mentally tough. For example, my high school football couch told us that football is a game of inches. Life is also a game of inches; you have a little bit at a time. How do you move a mountain? When you first look at it, it may seem insurmountable. However, you keep your head down and you move one rock at a time.
You move one rock at a time and next thing you know, you’ve moved through the mountain. That leads me to my second tip; just keep moving. One of the things I want you to think about is the first 10 minutes of your day. I don’t know about you, but for me, the first 10 minutes, is one of the best times because everything’s fresh. You’re just waking up and the day is an empty slate. Anything is possible and the possibilities are endless before life happens. For me, those first 10 minutes are tranquil and they’re amazing. So, what happens to you when your alarm goes off? For many of us, we roll over, we hit the snooze, and we go right back to sleep. What if when that alarm goes off, instead of hitting the snooze button, you just get yourself up out of bed and you take that first step? If you do that, you have just built that mental toughness muscle. You’ve just exercised that a little bit. You just keep moving.
The other thing I want to talk about is the third tip, which is if you just keep moving, you just keep starting. As I mentioned before, I talked a little bit about self-judgment. Listen, you’re going to make mistakes. I make them all the time and all of us do. You’re going to fall off the wagon with whatever it is you’re doing. If you’re losing weight, you’re going to get off track. If you’re trying to pay debt down because your credit card bills have gotten too high, you’re going to have times where you end up using that credit card too much and you go on a shopping spree.
Those things happen. We all fail, and we all make error. That’s just who we are. We are not perfect, but when that happens, you’re going to want to give up. You’re going to want to just say, “I can’t do this. It’s not worth it.” That’s exactly when you need to start again. You just keep starting because when you pick yourself up and you get started again, you’re building that mental toughness muscle. Starting over is part of the journey. In the journey, that’s what we’re striving after. It’s not always the result, but it’s what we learn in the process and the pathway of us getting there. If you do lose your moment, you never lost your ability to be mentally tough.
Even though that little voice is telling you to quit and give up, it isn’t worth it. Ask yourself this question: if it was a life or death situation, would you find a way? You would find that mental toughness because we are all pre-programmed to survive. That’s one of our most basic instincts and if you can come up with a mental toughness to survive, you can do it at any time. You just need to find it and the key is to keep doing and keep moving. Some people out there may think that motivation is crap. However, I’ve personally used motivation many times in my life and although motivation alone doesn’t get you there, it can be a spark that can help you get moving forward. As I mentioned, I was a wrestler and I had the luck. I was fortunate enough to have the most amazing wrestling coach, Couch Howard Shealy. This man was probably one of the most influential people in my life. He was a genius at motivation, and I don’t think he knew what he was doing at the time. He just knew what worked and he was good at motivating us both internally and externally. When you’re not motivated, you’re going to have to rely on those habits that you’ve created.
One of the things that that Coach Shealy did for us was internal motivation. He did that by telling us at the beginning of the season what our goals were like how many wins we wanted to have, how many takedowns we wanted to have in each match, and how many pins? He broke it down and we set those up, telling everyone on the team. Once we verbalized it and we verbalized it to the group, the team helped check my internal motivation because I had to live up to it. Not only did we have to live up to the rest of the team, we had to live up to our coach. We did not want to let him down.
If you were trying your best, but you didn’t not perform well, it was okay. However, if you didn’t give it your all, not only were you disappointed with yourself, but you couldn’t even look coach in the eye because you felt like you were letting him down. That is all about the external environment too that you’re surrounded with. You must create an environment for success. Your environment is extremely motivating. You must surround yourself with other likeminded individuals because they’re going to help you pull through. When things get tough, you see that motivation. It can be a spark and it’s the spark that builds your habits, which builds your discipline all based around a clear vision of what you want.
I like to think of it like a campfire. That motivation can be the spark or the gasoline that can start a fire, but it’s got to get poured. You must pour that gasoline on the wood because It’s not going to be any good if you just pour it on the ground and you light it. There will be nothing for it to burn. You might see a flame, but it will soon go out. Therefore, the habits, the discipline, and the purpose; that’s the wood. The motivation is the spark and once you light it, it will take off and it will take over. If you have those other pieces in place and you can get that motive, you can harness that motivation to bring your spark back to. One of the ways I done this is by watching movies.
I love movies and I love stories. Even though it’s corny, the movie Rudy gets me every single time. If I’m feeling down of if I’m feeling like I can’t accomplish something, I watch that movie. I think almost everyone has seen it and it is a true story It’s about this kid who comes from Juliet, Illinois and he doesn’t have anything. He wants to play for Notre Dame, but everybody laughs at him because he’s too small. He’s too slow and he’s weak. Everybody told him his entire life that he could not do it and he started to believe them. He graduated high school and started working at a steel mill, until his best friend was killed in an accident. That was the spark he needed.
He decided that life was too short and that he did not care what people had to say about him. He was to follow his dreams and play for Notre Dame. Even though everything was stacked up against him and he didn’t have the resources, he had to enroll at a community college because his grades were not very good. He kept at it because he had that strong sense of purpose of what he wanted to accomplish. I watch that movie and it just motivates me every single time. I get chills when I think about it.
I’m so passionate about this because I want it to help you. One of the other areas that you need to pay attention to is you want to develop that mental toughness muscle; you need to have good internal and external awareness. With internal awareness, it’s when something is going on with you internally and it is affecting you. Maybe you think you should eat something or maybe it’s your blood sugar. You realize what’s going on with your body because you’re in tune with it. You understand how you feel, and you can act to fix it, instead of just taking it out on everybody else. You can also do things that are constructive, like meditation or relaxation. One of the others is the external awareness. That’s when you can see what’s going on around you with your environment. Then, you understand how you can adjust what you are doing in response to the external factors that are around you.
This is like having the resolve to make the changes that you need in order to move forward. You must be good about observing yourself, the people around you, and your surroundings. Then, taking action when you see what’s going on is not serving you. It may mean that you must make some tough decisions or that you have to change who you’re hanging out with and where. You might have to change the activities that you’re engaging in. If those people in that environment are just bringing you down and having a negative influence, they’re undermining you at every corner. They’re not serving you and they’re not helping you. They’re also not your friends because friends should build each other up and they should be supportive. However, it takes mental toughness to make those changes and to let go of what is not serving you. Mental toughness is the key to anyone’s success. If we look at history, it proves that to us. I feel it’s one of the most determining factors in success. My ability to learn from this and to plan it has been critical.
Look at someone like Nelson Mandela. That man must have had the strongest mental toughness muscle of anyone alive. With Michael Jordan, it was not always easy for him. For Jerry Rice, he’s an incredible football player and went through some adversity with knee injury, towards the end of his career. On the political side, you must admire what happened with Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He became a president in the great depression and then the country went through a second world war. He had to be mentally tough to make though hard decisions for the country. On top of all of that, he even had Polio and he couldn’t walk. However, he did not make excuses or let that stop him.
I want to leave you with this. You have things in your life that will cause chaos. It’s Inevitable. There’s going to be struggles ahead. However, those who are mentally tough, with high self-esteem, and those who know that they can handle anything that life throws at him, they’re going to be the ones still standing. The more mentally tough you can make yourself now, the more it will pay off down the road. When developing that mental toughness muscle, it is not about willpower.
I’m trying to give you a framework that you can take, and you can start implementing and putting into play for yourself to make changes. So, take these tips and start building your mental toughness muscle. The more you work at it, the stronger it becomes. That’s the beauty about this. Just a reminder, we’re going to be live next Tuesday at 1:00 PM. Until then, stay healthy and keep moving forward.