The past few months have served as a reminder that, truly, there is so little we can control.
For anyone who’s made an intentional habit of cultivating their resilience — either by choice or, more often, out of necessity — finding power within that lack of control is something they’ve learned to harness. We can’t control most of our outcomes in life. But we can, as the well-worn saying goes, choose how we respond to them.
Amy Morin , author of the book “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do” and a lecturer at Northeastern University, has made a career out of studying what mentally strong, resilient people do — and what they don’t do. And according to Morin, the most resilient people out there have learned to avoid these eight common pitfalls, as she explained in a piece written for Success.com
“Self-pity keeps you focused on the problem and prevents you from developing a solution,” she wrote. “Hardship and sorrow are inevitable, but feeling sorry for yourself is a choice. Even when you can’t solve the problem, you can choose to control your attitude. Find three things to be grateful for every day to keep self-pity at bay.”
“You can’t feel like a victim and be mentally strong; that’s impossible,” Morin wrote. “If your thoughts send you into victim mode—My sister-in-law drives me crazy or My boss makes me feel bad about myself—you give others power over you. No one has power over the way you think, feel or behave. Changing your daily vocabulary is one way to recognize that the choices you make are yours.”
“If you worry that change will make things worse, you’ll stay stuck in your old ways. The world is changing, and your success depends on your ability to adapt,” she wrote. “The more you practice tolerating distress from various sources—perhaps taking a new job or leaving an unhealthy relationship—the more confident you’ll become in your ability to adapt and create positive change in yourself.”
“Complaining, worrying and wishful thinking don’t solve problems; they only waste your energy,” she wrote. “But if you invest that same energy in the things you can control, you’ll be much better prepared for whatever life throws your way.”
“Trying to make other people happy drains your mental strength and causes you to lose sight of your goals,” she wrote. “Making choices that disappoint or upset others takes courage, but living an authentic life requires you to act according to your values.”
“Emotions cloud your judgment and interfere with your ability to accurately calculate risk,” she wrote. “Acknowledge how you’re feeling about a certain risk and recognize how your emotions influence your thoughts. Create a list of the pros and cons of taking the risk to help you make a decision based on a balance of emotion and logic.”
“While learning from the past helps you build mental strength, ruminating is harmful,” she wrote. “Constantly questioning your past choices or romanticizing about the good ol’ days keeps you from both enjoying the present and making the future as good as it can be. Make peace with the past.”
“For some people, the thought of being alone with their thoughts is downright scary,” she wrote. “Most people avoid silence by filling their days with a flurry of activity and background noise. Alone time, however, is an essential component to building mental strength.”
Read Morin’s full Success piece on habits for building strength mental strength and resilience here.
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