How to be tough

Positive thinking and daily practice can help you perform your best.

How to be tough

You can’t fake mental toughness. It’s just not something that magically happens or you can somehow conjure up at mile 20 of a marathon. Yet, as a sport psychologist, I hear so many athletes talk about how they “dig deep” to find a reserve of mental strength when the road gets tough during a race without working on this skill during training.

But mental toughness is a skill set, and execution without practice rarely—if ever—works. Practicing this skill must be incorporated into your training cycle in order for you to access it when it really counts on race day.

So What Is Mental Toughness?

The notion of mental toughness is not well-defined or understood, but being mentally tough is all about how we respond when we begin to feel uncomfortable or encounter an obstacle or challenge. It’s the how that’s important. There are a number of factors that contribute to mental toughness, but at the core, there are two key, defining features: willingness and optimism.

How to be tough

Willingness refers to how inclined you are to endure, whether that’s accepting intensity on a physical level, or being determined to maintain your effort level across a given time or distance. Willingness is having the self-determination to stay in the experience without backing down or giving up. We know that our willingness varies based on a number of variables, and most notably, changes in direct relation to the strength and meaning of our goals. We are much more willing to tolerate a hard effort if it means we’ll finally grab that PR, for example.

Optimism, on the other hand, is a positive belief about a future state or desired outcome. Optimism helps us bridge the gap between what we are currently doing and how that relates to achieving our goals. Believing that our current effort will help us become stronger, fitter, and faster aids our willingness to maintain that effort during training. This belief is present in the short term and the long term; trusting that you can finish the next interval in a single workout is just as important as knowing that the current workout will help you hit your ultimate goal later in the season. This bigger-picture optimism is critical to access during the training cycle.

How to Build Mental Toughness

There are a number of ways to practice the skill of mental toughness both on and off the run. An ideal training plan will have a range of paces, efforts, and types of runs scattered throughout. The harder days are designed to build your physiological system and help you get stronger, faster, and fitter. Those harder days also provide an opportunity to work on developing a mental toughness platform that you will then be able to access later. Approach these hard days wisely and intentionally. Mark them on your calendar and plan how you will approach them mentally to ensure that you are getting the most out of the workouts. Use these four tips as you embark on each workout:

1. Connect to your why.

We are much more willing to tolerate discomfort when we know that doing so is tied to a meaningful purpose or long-term goal. As you warm up, bring to mind the big goal you are currently working on (maybe that sub-4 marathon) and why that goal is meaningful to you. Be specific. Doing this as you ease into the run will set the stage for tackling what’s to come. With a strong why, you will figure out any how. And mental toughness is all about embracing how you endure.

2. Find a way, not an excuse.

Understand that both willingness and optimism are mediated by self-talk. We can be really good at talking ourselves out of upcoming harder efforts before we even reach them. We can negotiate with ourselves in an effort to avoid unpleasantness. Be mindful of the messages in your mind and realize that you can change your thoughts. You can use the power of self-talk to engage in both willingness and optimism throughout your workout. When you begin to encounter discomfort, bring positive “I am” statements to life: “I am willing to keep pushing. I am capable of this effort. I am optimistic that this will help me obtain my goals.” If “I am” statements don’t work, try a variation by using “you are” self-talk—referring to yourself in the second person as if you are a coach, guiding the session along. “You are going to finish strong. You are almost there. You are crushing this segment.”

3. Train purposefully in unpleasant conditions.

Crummy weather provides an ideal test for mental toughness. So does running during a time of day in which you are not used to training. Vary the times you train and intentionally pick a few sessions that will alter your usual schedule to be purposefully uncomfortable. Of course, don’t risk injury or harming yourself in extreme conditions, but if you’re usually a lunch time runner, make it a point to wake up and run in the very early morning when you’re tired or groggy. For morning runners, alter your schedule and run in the evening after a long day when you’re feeling fatigued. Starting at an inconvenient time when you may not feel fresh will train your mind and body to work through uncomfortable situations and help you hone both willingness and optimism.

4. Practice daily.

Outside of the those tough training sessions, there are plenty of opportunities to practice mental toughness in your daily life. For those of us who shower (hopefully you), you can sharpen this skill simply by proactively and purposefully turning the water cold for a few minutes each day. But don’t just jump in and shiver. Enter the shower with your arms open, allowing the water to hit your body and accepting the experience for all that is, in both your physiological experience and in your emotional and psychological reactions. Tolerating an uncomfortable moment each day lets you learn the connection between an unpleasant physical experience and the games your mind plays to quickly escape or avoid.

How to be tough

It’s important to remember that your mind is designed to scan for danger and seek protection. Thoughts will start seeking a place of refuge the moment your body crosses the threshold into an area of discomfort; this is where the task of developing mental toughness begins. It’s your job to decide whether you let the mind win, and you back down and let off the gas or if you will enact self-determination to reach your desired level of success. If you train your mind to tolerate and even embrace these uncomfortable moments by establishing an internal level of mental toughness to sustain the experience, you are training yourself to be able to access this same skill set come race day.

How to be tough

Who said that having a massive frame and a muscular body is the only way of being a tough guy? Read on and find out how you can be a tough guy.

From a guy’s perspective, acting, looking or sounding like a cool tough guy can be a matter of showing of his manliness and strength. But is that any use in this day and age of wit, intelligence and more?

Gentlemen, start taking notes because this cheeky guide will tell you how to be a tough guy or at least look like one, from a woman’s perspective. Of course, once you end up impressing your lady love, you can revert back to your normal, loving and nice guy personality.

1) Tough guys will care for their pack

If you want to look like a tough guy, you will have to care for your pack. If you are out with friends, or on a date, you will provide for and care for your pack. You will save them from harm and you will look after their needs.

If you want to be one of them, you will refrain from taking a knee jerk reaction and will remain calm under all situations. After all, your pack relies on you to be the stable pillar they can always lean on for support.

2) Tough guys don’t count calories and don’t ever eat just the salad

Let’s face it. The typical tough guy is a meat eating guy who is generally never seen munching on greens. If you want to be the tough guy, you must stay away from munching away on the greens or count calories during a meal.

Tough guys like to eat well and gorge on sumptuous meals, preferably meat. Mind you, practice this tip only when you are trying to carry the tough guy image deliberately. During all other times, a healthy meal is the way to go.

3) Tough guys are not clumsy

If you want to act like a tough guy, you must say goodbye to your clumsy side. Don’t fumble around with stuff in your hands and stop dropping stuff for no apparent reason. You must also stop tripping or falling, and if you do, you’d better get up and yell your guts out to the idiot who left something in your way, even if they didn’t.

4) Tough guys don’t feel cold

Okay, tough guys are human beings and they do feel cold. But they don’t really show it. You will notice that a guy who looks tough may walk in just a t-shirt or a shirt in cold weather and still be cool about it.

5) Tough guys love action movies

Ask any tough guy “Which movies do you like to watch?” and the reply will most likely be “action movies” Give a tough guy any DVD with Jeremy Renner, Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone or similar actors, and you will see a grin on their faces. Give them a rom-com or any other intellectually driven movie, and you will see a frown on their faces. Even if tough guys like rom-coms, they will not make it too apparent.

6) Tough guys don’t go to the gym, they lift weights

“Do you like to hit the gym and work up a sweat on the treadmill?” Your answer to these questions should be a strict no-no. Tough guys don’t go to the gym to do cardio or to spend time on the treadmill. They go to lift weights. And if you want to sound like a tough guy, your reply to such questions should be revolving around lifting weights and bench presses.

7) Tough guys like cars – not the hybrid ones

Like it or not, the tough guy image is generally associated with a pickup, SUV or any other car that has a grunt. You will not be able to sound like a tough guy if you rant about hybrid cars and how you want to do your bit for the environment. Of course, you must secretly do all you can for the environment, but just don’t make it too obvious!

8) Tough guys have tough hobbies

If gardening, reading, poetry, cooking, sitting in the library and some such are your usual answers when a girl or for that matter any other person asks you “what are you hobbies or favorite pastime?” you are causing a big dent in your tough guy image.

Rather, work up replies like “Oh I like spending time with my tools in the shed”, “going on motorcycle rides”, “working on my hot rod” or even “spending time at the pub”. You should note that you don’t necessarily need to have a tool shed, a motorcycle or even a hot rod to be eligible to say these things. As a tough guy, you have the right to say anything you want.

9) Tough guys will never mind standing alone at the bar

Ever been to a party and started feeling nervous simply because you were alone at the bar and did not have any company? Well that’s okay. Remember the classic tough guy in the movies sitting alone at the bar, doing nothing but sipping his whiskey on the rocks?

Tough guys will never mind spending a long time at the bar, even if they are all by themselves. A glass of whiskey or a cold beer is all they need to keep occupied. If you are trying to carry off this image, just make sure that you are not seen sipping orange juice or cranberry vodka.

10) Tough guys are never wrong

It’s hard to say how and why tough guys are always right, but they are. Even if they aren’t right, tough guys will make the situation seem as if they were. Confused?

Tough guys take pride in their decision making abilities and their massive testosterone levels that supposedly help them do the right thing, always. Since tough guys are never wrong, they never need to learn how to apologize either.

Comments

noriman on March 05, 2017:

Yes, tough guy has his own principle.

Fat dog on May 28, 2013:

I’m already all of that so wtvr

KienChoong, Liew from New York on February 20, 2013:

I’m always alone at the bar, so I should be a tough guy!?

zulumuscle on September 13, 2012:

hehe this was an entertaining hub. I don’t wanna look tough, that is lame, be tough!

psychicdog.net on December 21, 2011:

I work in the construction industry and I don’t shave everyday – does that mean I pass? and I don’t have time to go to the gym or lift weights but I do work on buildings when they’re being built – I look down from great heights with hardly anything to stand on and lift heavy building materials. Have a Merry Christmas PWAP!

Cheryl Simonds from Connecticut on December 21, 2011:

I loved this one, great take on Tough Guys. And you were right from the beginning to the end. 🙂

Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on December 21, 2011:

Haha great idea for a hub! This cracked me up.

Digitskyes from Highlands, Scotland on December 21, 2011:

Haha useful list. I think apart from the action movies and clumsyness i’m going to have to do a LOT of pretending but at least I know what’s missing now 😛

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on December 21, 2011:

I don’t think I could ever be a tough guy. My main hobby is model railroading, lol. Voting this Up and Interesting.

Steve Orion from Tampa, Florida on December 21, 2011:

You know, I’d compliment you on a great Hub if I weren’t such a badass.

How to be tough

A couple of years ago, a father came into my therapy office with his 9-year-old son and said, “I’m so proud of him for being so strong. He’s only cried a few times since Grandma died.” Sadly, comments like that from parents aren’t that unusual.

Many of them mistakenly believe that a lack of emotion is a sign of strength. But kids who deny their feelings are simply acting tough–which is much different than being mentally strong.

In my book, 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do, I share how to give up the common parenting habits that are robbing kids of mental strength. When parents give up these habits, they can help kids develop the mental strength they need to reach their greatest potential.

Here are five signs you’re teaching your kids to act tough, rather than be mentally strong:

1. You encourage them to suppress their emotions.

Every time you say, “Quit crying,” or “Stop acting like a baby,” you’re implying your child’s feelings are wrong. Similarly, if you say, “Wow, you didn’t even cry when I dropped you off at daycare today! Good job,” you send a message that feeling upset is bad.

Mental strength building tip: Label your child’s feelings and validate his emotions. Say things like, “I see you’re really nervous about your dance recital,” or “I know you are sad we can’t go to the movies today. I feel sad when I don’t get to do things I really want to do too.” This will teach your child to name his emotions.

2. You correct their emotions, instead of their behavior.

Kids need consequences for their behavior, not for their emotions. So don’t send your child to time-out for being upset. Send him to time-out for screaming loudly and disrupting everyone.

Mental strength building tip: Teach your child the difference between feelings and behavior. Say things like, “It’s OK to feel angry but it’s not OK to throw things,” or “It’s OK to feel sad but it’s not OK to scream and throw yourself on the floor in the grocery store.” Proactively teach your child socially appropriate ways to cope with uncomfortable emotions.

3. You deny their pain.

Saying things like, “That didn’t hurt,” or “Don’t be so nervous. It’s not a big deal,” minimizes a child’s feelings. But kids’ pain is real–even if it seems disproportionate to the situation.

Mental strength building tip: Show empathy by saying, “I know you felt really scared today,” or “I know this is hard for you to do.” Teach your child that she can act contrary to her emotions–like stepping on stage for the spelling bee even when she’s anxious. Provide praise for being brave when she chooses to face her fears.

4. You praise successful outcomes only.

While it can be tempting to praise your child for getting the most baskets in the game or getting an A on a test, only praising his achievements will teach him that he must succeed to get approval. Over time, he’ll put more energy into hiding his mistakes–rather than learning from them–or he’ll refuse to engage in activities where he’s likely to fail.

Mental strength building tip: Praise the things that are within your child’s control–like the effort he put into studying or the hustling he did on the field. Make it clear that you notice his hard work and that you’re pleased with him when he puts in his best effort.

5. You prevent your kids from failing.

Correcting your child’s homework to ensure she doesn’t get any answers wrong or delivering her forgotten soccer cleats so she doesn’t miss out on practice teaches her that failure must be prevented at all costs. So rather than learn how to bounce back from rejection or disappointment, she’ll depend on you to guarantee her success.

Mental strength building tip: Let your kids make mistakes and fail sometimes. Teach them that they’re strong enough to bounce back even better than before. Then, they’ll have the confidence to take risks and step outside their comfort zones.

Become a Mental Strength Coach for Your Kids

Kids aren’t born knowing how to be mentally strong. But, with your guidance and wisdom, you can teach them how to build the mental muscle they’ll need to become their best.

If you see signs your kids are acting tough, take a step back and think about what steps you can take to help them become mentally strong. When you give up the bad habits that rob kids of mental strength, you’ll give them the confidence and first-hand experiences they need to face life’s toughest challenges head-on.

How to be tough

A couple of years ago, a father came into my therapy office with his 9-year-old son and said, “I’m so proud of him for being so strong. He’s only cried a few times since Grandma died.” Sadly, comments like that from parents aren’t that unusual.

Many of them mistakenly believe that a lack of emotion is a sign of strength. But kids who deny their feelings are simply acting tough–which is much different than being mentally strong.

In my book, 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do, I share how to give up the common parenting habits that are robbing kids of mental strength. When parents give up these habits, they can help kids develop the mental strength they need to reach their greatest potential.

Here are five signs you’re teaching your kids to act tough, rather than be mentally strong:

1. You encourage them to suppress their emotions.

Every time you say, “Quit crying,” or “Stop acting like a baby,” you’re implying your child’s feelings are wrong. Similarly, if you say, “Wow, you didn’t even cry when I dropped you off at daycare today! Good job,” you send a message that feeling upset is bad.

Mental strength building tip: Label your child’s feelings and validate his emotions. Say things like, “I see you’re really nervous about your dance recital,” or “I know you are sad we can’t go to the movies today. I feel sad when I don’t get to do things I really want to do too.” This will teach your child to name his emotions.

2. You correct their emotions, instead of their behavior.

Kids need consequences for their behavior, not for their emotions. So don’t send your child to time-out for being upset. Send him to time-out for screaming loudly and disrupting everyone.

Mental strength building tip: Teach your child the difference between feelings and behavior. Say things like, “It’s OK to feel angry but it’s not OK to throw things,” or “It’s OK to feel sad but it’s not OK to scream and throw yourself on the floor in the grocery store.” Proactively teach your child socially appropriate ways to cope with uncomfortable emotions.

3. You deny their pain.

Saying things like, “That didn’t hurt,” or “Don’t be so nervous. It’s not a big deal,” minimizes a child’s feelings. But kids’ pain is real–even if it seems disproportionate to the situation.

Mental strength building tip: Show empathy by saying, “I know you felt really scared today,” or “I know this is hard for you to do.” Teach your child that she can act contrary to her emotions–like stepping on stage for the spelling bee even when she’s anxious. Provide praise for being brave when she chooses to face her fears.

4. You praise successful outcomes only.

While it can be tempting to praise your child for getting the most baskets in the game or getting an A on a test, only praising his achievements will teach him that he must succeed to get approval. Over time, he’ll put more energy into hiding his mistakes–rather than learning from them–or he’ll refuse to engage in activities where he’s likely to fail.

Mental strength building tip: Praise the things that are within your child’s control–like the effort he put into studying or the hustling he did on the field. Make it clear that you notice his hard work and that you’re pleased with him when he puts in his best effort.

5. You prevent your kids from failing.

Correcting your child’s homework to ensure she doesn’t get any answers wrong or delivering her forgotten soccer cleats so she doesn’t miss out on practice teaches her that failure must be prevented at all costs. So rather than learn how to bounce back from rejection or disappointment, she’ll depend on you to guarantee her success.

Mental strength building tip: Let your kids make mistakes and fail sometimes. Teach them that they’re strong enough to bounce back even better than before. Then, they’ll have the confidence to take risks and step outside their comfort zones.

Become a Mental Strength Coach for Your Kids

Kids aren’t born knowing how to be mentally strong. But, with your guidance and wisdom, you can teach them how to build the mental muscle they’ll need to become their best.

If you see signs your kids are acting tough, take a step back and think about what steps you can take to help them become mentally strong. When you give up the bad habits that rob kids of mental strength, you’ll give them the confidence and first-hand experiences they need to face life’s toughest challenges head-on.

Positive thinking and daily practice can help you perform your best.

How to be tough

You can’t fake mental toughness. It’s just not something that magically happens or you can somehow conjure up at mile 20 of a marathon. Yet, as a sport psychologist, I hear so many athletes talk about how they “dig deep” to find a reserve of mental strength when the road gets tough during a race without working on this skill during training.

But mental toughness is a skill set, and execution without practice rarely—if ever—works. Practicing this skill must be incorporated into your training cycle in order for you to access it when it really counts on race day.

So What Is Mental Toughness?

The notion of mental toughness is not well-defined or understood, but being mentally tough is all about how we respond when we begin to feel uncomfortable or encounter an obstacle or challenge. It’s the how that’s important. There are a number of factors that contribute to mental toughness, but at the core, there are two key, defining features: willingness and optimism.

How to be tough

Willingness refers to how inclined you are to endure, whether that’s accepting intensity on a physical level, or being determined to maintain your effort level across a given time or distance. Willingness is having the self-determination to stay in the experience without backing down or giving up. We know that our willingness varies based on a number of variables, and most notably, changes in direct relation to the strength and meaning of our goals. We are much more willing to tolerate a hard effort if it means we’ll finally grab that PR, for example.

Optimism, on the other hand, is a positive belief about a future state or desired outcome. Optimism helps us bridge the gap between what we are currently doing and how that relates to achieving our goals. Believing that our current effort will help us become stronger, fitter, and faster aids our willingness to maintain that effort during training. This belief is present in the short term and the long term; trusting that you can finish the next interval in a single workout is just as important as knowing that the current workout will help you hit your ultimate goal later in the season. This bigger-picture optimism is critical to access during the training cycle.

How to Build Mental Toughness

There are a number of ways to practice the skill of mental toughness both on and off the run. An ideal training plan will have a range of paces, efforts, and types of runs scattered throughout. The harder days are designed to build your physiological system and help you get stronger, faster, and fitter. Those harder days also provide an opportunity to work on developing a mental toughness platform that you will then be able to access later. Approach these hard days wisely and intentionally. Mark them on your calendar and plan how you will approach them mentally to ensure that you are getting the most out of the workouts. Use these four tips as you embark on each workout:

1. Connect to your why.

We are much more willing to tolerate discomfort when we know that doing so is tied to a meaningful purpose or long-term goal. As you warm up, bring to mind the big goal you are currently working on (maybe that sub-4 marathon) and why that goal is meaningful to you. Be specific. Doing this as you ease into the run will set the stage for tackling what’s to come. With a strong why, you will figure out any how. And mental toughness is all about embracing how you endure.

2. Find a way, not an excuse.

Understand that both willingness and optimism are mediated by self-talk. We can be really good at talking ourselves out of upcoming harder efforts before we even reach them. We can negotiate with ourselves in an effort to avoid unpleasantness. Be mindful of the messages in your mind and realize that you can change your thoughts. You can use the power of self-talk to engage in both willingness and optimism throughout your workout. When you begin to encounter discomfort, bring positive “I am” statements to life: “I am willing to keep pushing. I am capable of this effort. I am optimistic that this will help me obtain my goals.” If “I am” statements don’t work, try a variation by using “you are” self-talk—referring to yourself in the second person as if you are a coach, guiding the session along. “You are going to finish strong. You are almost there. You are crushing this segment.”

3. Train purposefully in unpleasant conditions.

Crummy weather provides an ideal test for mental toughness. So does running during a time of day in which you are not used to training. Vary the times you train and intentionally pick a few sessions that will alter your usual schedule to be purposefully uncomfortable. Of course, don’t risk injury or harming yourself in extreme conditions, but if you’re usually a lunch time runner, make it a point to wake up and run in the very early morning when you’re tired or groggy. For morning runners, alter your schedule and run in the evening after a long day when you’re feeling fatigued. Starting at an inconvenient time when you may not feel fresh will train your mind and body to work through uncomfortable situations and help you hone both willingness and optimism.

4. Practice daily.

Outside of the those tough training sessions, there are plenty of opportunities to practice mental toughness in your daily life. For those of us who shower (hopefully you), you can sharpen this skill simply by proactively and purposefully turning the water cold for a few minutes each day. But don’t just jump in and shiver. Enter the shower with your arms open, allowing the water to hit your body and accepting the experience for all that is, in both your physiological experience and in your emotional and psychological reactions. Tolerating an uncomfortable moment each day lets you learn the connection between an unpleasant physical experience and the games your mind plays to quickly escape or avoid.

How to be tough

It’s important to remember that your mind is designed to scan for danger and seek protection. Thoughts will start seeking a place of refuge the moment your body crosses the threshold into an area of discomfort; this is where the task of developing mental toughness begins. It’s your job to decide whether you let the mind win, and you back down and let off the gas or if you will enact self-determination to reach your desired level of success. If you train your mind to tolerate and even embrace these uncomfortable moments by establishing an internal level of mental toughness to sustain the experience, you are training yourself to be able to access this same skill set come race day.

A few simple tips are all you need

How to be tough

​The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

You don’t need any complicated techniques to make the most delicious and moist meatloaf. There are simply a few gems of advice that are easy to follow. Once you get the hang of it, you will be a meatloaf master and have your family looking forward to this favorite comfort food.

Watch Now: Classic 6-Ingredient Onion Soup Meatloaf

Fat Is Your Friend

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No matter which meats you decide to use, the right ratio of lean meat to fat is a critical factor in determining the texture and moisture of your meatloaf. A ratio of 80 percent meat to 20 percent fat is the generally accepted formula. Some cooks use 30 percent fat, but there is a fine line between juicy and greasy. This is the reason most cooks choose ground chuck since it has this ideal proportion of fat to meat.

During cooking, the fat will liquefy, making the meatloaf moist. If you are making a meatloaf with a leaner protein such as chicken or turkey, you will need to add more liquid to the meatloaf to replace the juices that would be produced by the fat.

Vegetables Are Your Other Friends

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The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

By adding finely diced or pureed aromatic vegetables to your mixture, you are adding additional moisture into the meatloaf. Not only does this make your final product juicier, but it also adds lots of extra flavor.

A wide array of vegetables can be used, including onions, carrots, celery, green peppers, red peppers, and summer squash. One tip is to sauté them in butter or olive oil before adding them to the meatloaf. This will ensure they release more of their moisture into the meatloaf.

Use Enough Filler

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The Spruce / Nita West

The function of breadcrumbs in meatloaf is to absorb and retain the juices so you have a moister loaf. Meat by itself will simply drain away the juices and end up dry. A percentage of 15 to 25 percent breadcrumbs in relation to the meat is common in most of today’s recipes. Especially if you are using leaner meat, you may want to soak your breadcrumbs in a little milk or stock before adding them to the meatloaf.

Breadcrumbs were originally added to the meat to stretch it so a pound of meat made a loaf big enough to feed a large family. Some recipes from the 1930s actually called for a 50 percent ratio of breadcrumbs. That’s definitely putting the loaf in the meatloaf.

Do Not Over Mix or Compress the Meat

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The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

Mixing your ingredients too much is a very common mistake that can really make for meatloaf with a tough, dry texture. Self-control is the key; once the ingredients are mixed in, stop . Remember, the meatloaf is going to be mixed more as it’s shaped before baking. When shaping your loaf, looser is better. Don’t compress the meat too much or it will need to cook longer. This can lead to a drier loaf.

What is Grit?

Let’s define grit. Grit is the perseverance and passion to achieve long–term goals. Sometimes you will hear grit referred to as mental toughness. Angela Duckworth, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, suggests that grit is a strong predictor of success and ability to reach one’s goals.

Duckworth’s research on grit has shown that…

  • West Point cadets who scored highest on the Grit Test were 60% more likely to succeed than their peers.
  • Ivy League undergraduate students who had more grit also had higher GPAs than their peers — even though they had lower SAT scores and weren’t as “smart.”
  • When comparing two people who are the same age but have different levels of education, grit (and not intelligence) more accurately predicts which one will be better educated.
  • Competitors in the National Spelling Bee outperform their peers not because of IQ, but because of their grit and commitment to more consistent practice.

A Video Explanation of Grit

This short TED talk by psychology professor Angela Duckworth explains the concept of grit and how it helps foster mental toughness in our everyday lives.

How to Be Mentally Tough

Step 1: Define what grit or mental toughness means for you.

For you, it might be…

  • going one month without missing a workout
  • delivering your work ahead of schedule for two days in a row
  • calling one friend to catch up every Saturday this month

Whatever it is, be clear about what you’re going after.

Step 2: Build grit with small physical wins.

So often we think that grit is about how we respond to extreme situations, but what about everyday circumstances?

Mental toughness is like a muscle. It needs to be worked to grow and develop.

Choose to do the tenth rep when it would be easier to just do nine. Choose to create when it would be easier to consume. Choose to ask the extra question when it would be easier to accept. Prove to yourself — in a thousand tiny ways — that you have enough guts to get in the ring and do battle with life.

Step 3: Build strong habits and stop depending on motivation.

Grit isn’t about getting an incredible dose of inspiration or courage. It’s about building the daily habits that allow you to stick to a schedule and overcome challenges and distractions over and over and over again.

Mentally tough people don’t have to be more courageous, more talented, or more intelligent — just more consistent.

Grit comes down to your habits. It’s about doing the things you know you’re supposed to do on a more consistent basis. It’s about your dedication to daily practice and your ability to stick to a schedule.

Examples of Grit

  • Mentally tough athletes are more consistent than others. They don’t miss workouts. They don’t miss assignments. They always have their teammates back.
  • Mentally tough leaders are more consistent than their peers. They have a clear goal that they work towards each day. They don’t let short–term profits, negative feedback, or hectic schedules prevent them from continuing the march towards their vision. They make a habit of building up the people around them — not just once, but over and over and over again.
  • Mentally tough artists, writers, and employees deliver on a more consistent basis than most. They work on a schedule, not just when they feel motivated. They approach their work like a pro, not an amateur. They do the most important thing first and don’t shirk responsibilities.

3 Articles on How I Develop Grit

  • How to Fall in Love With Boredom and Unlock Your Mental Toughness
  • What I Do When it Feels Like My Work Isn’t Good Enough
  • What I Do When I Feel Like Giving Up

Best Books on Grit and Mental Toughness

  • Grit by Angela Duckworth
  • Mindset by Carol Dweck
  • How Children Succeed by Paul Tough

Want more great grit books? Browse my full list of the best self-help books.

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health. Read full profile

How to be tough

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Tough leaders have to walk a tightrope. They have to balance demanding and obtaining real results with inspiring and leading their staff impeccably. Read on to discover how these tough leaders do things differently.

“Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.” —Peter Drucker

1. They set a great example.

A successful manager will be able to lead effectively without being a tyrant or being a ‘yes’ man or woman. Tough leaders set themselves incredibly high standards. They have clear objectives, work hard and are punctual and polite. They rightly demand the same standards from their teams, as they lead by example.

“It is absurd that a man should rule others, who cannot rule himself.” – Latin Proverb

2. They can cope with setbacks.

“Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.” —Publilius Syrus

Failure may stalk a company in recessionary times when it loses a contract or has lost the competitive edge against a rival. The tough leaders will be able to re-align the objectives by skilful negotiation. In doing so, they will also be capable of learning lessons from the failure without demoralizing staff.

3. They know when to say no.

“The art of leadership is saying no, not saying yes. It is very easy to say yes.” – Tony Blair

Leaders have to say no to demands by staff and senior management. There may be problems with financial targets, marketing strategy or reduction in costs. But in saying no, they will be able to come up with solutions. In doing so, they will be able to involve all the team by asking for ideas and ways to improve performance.

4. They give constructive feedback.

Tough leaders will avoid confrontation and emotion. These are damaging when giving feedback. Instead, they will concentrate on:

  • Praising the employee for the good things first
  • Giving specific examples of what was not done well.
  • Asking the staff member what and how this can be improved.
  • Re-aligning job objectives with these points in mind.
  • Offering further training or assistance in specific areas.

5. They help their staff develop.

This is where clear job descriptions containing specific objectives and deadlines come into play. The good manager will have these in place so they can be used as a guideline for staff training. They can help to identify strengths and weaknesses. They are really useful in highlighting gaps in skills and competencies.

6. They show gratitude for work well done.

Everyone, including the tough leader, craves praise, appreciation and thanks. This is essential for the following reasons:

  • Builds a team spirit
  • Increases motivation
  • Creates a better work environment
  • Helps to create a learning culture
  • Increases morale

Research led by Amy Edmondson at the Harvard Business School shows that employees perform better and feel more secure, when praised and appreciated.

7. They never bully their staff.

“A great person attracts great people and knows how to hold them together”. —Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Successful leaders know that their staff is the best asset the company has, when managed well. The tyrannical approach belongs to another century. Studies show that staffs respond better when:

  • They are appreciated
  • There are incentives to perform better
  • They are not insulted or belittled
  • They are never threatened
  • They are never sexually harassed
  • They are never bullied

8. They never play the blame game.

“A good leader is a person who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit.” —John Maxwell

Some managers delight in finding a scapegoat when things go pear-shaped. In many cases, this is unjustified, as the fault lies in poor management or bad decisions made by the boss. Passing the blame on to an employee who was marginally involved is the mark of a weak and ineffectual leader.

9. They talk openly about expectations.

Usually, expectations are only mentioned in job descriptions and in performance reviews. The tough leaders know that these have to be kept to the forefront and should be mentioned in normal conversations, almost on a daily basis. In this way, they can provide motivation, inspiration and a little fear, too.

10. They are not afraid to make difficult decisions.

“A cowardly leader is the most dangerous of men.” —Stephen King

Tough leaders are faced with a growing number of uncertainties in a very difficult economic climate. They have to come to terms with decreased consumer confidence, political decisions, not to mention technology which is changing at a dizzying speed. While negotiation skills will play a vital role, the tough leaders can show that they can navigate in uncertain environments with confidence. Above all, they are not afraid of making difficult decisions in a very precarious environment

As we have seen, the hard image of tyrannical managers who rule their staff with a rod of iron is no longer effective in the second millennium. Overall, the tough leader has to make great demands on his staff while at the same time, showing empathy and appreciation.

“The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.” —Jim Rohn

Have you worked with tough leaders? What inspired you? Were there problems? Let us know in the comments below