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In 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, Amy Morin draws from her personal experiences of trauma and knowledge of psychotherapy. When Amy Morin was 23, her mother suddenly died of a brain aneurysm. Three years later, her husband, age 26, suddenly died of a heart attack. Amy felt like she was sliding into a dark mental place, so she reflected on her work as a psychotherapist. She reminded herself of 13 things mentally strong people don’t do.

About Amy Morin

Amy Morin is a psychotherapist, mental strength trainer, and international bestselling author. She’s a highly sought after keynote speaker who gave one of the most popular TEDx talks of all time. Her books have been translated into more than 30 languages. She’s a columnist for Inc., Forbes, and Psychology Today. Her articles on mental strength reach more than 2 million readers each month.

Mentally Strong People Don’t Feel the World Owes Them Anything

“No matter whether you’re the smartest person on the planet or you’ve persevered through life’s roughest circumstances, you don’t become more deserving of good fortune than anyone else.”

– Amy Morin

If a person loses their business and feels indebted, then they’re inviting more frustration and anger into their life. Comparatively, mentally strong people can shift their focus away from their debt. Hence, they can help people in need. Mentally strong people keep themselves busy doing good deeds.

If you follow this guidance, you can:

  • Stop wasting time
  • Stop feeling like you are owed something
  • Stop resenting others’ success

Mentally Strong People Don’t Waste Time Feeling Sorry for Themselves

“Self-pity is easily the most destructive of the non-pharmaceutical narcotics; it is addictive, gives momentary pleasure and separates the victim from the reality”

– Amy Morin

No one is immune to hard times. However, it is how you react to these situations that is important. Mentally strong individuals do not spend precious time pitying themselves. They replace self-pity with gratitude. Amy Morin provides an example of an American long-distance runner, Marla Runyan. She ran the New York Marathon in a little over two hours. Plus, she also has a master’s degree in education and has written a book. Perhaps most impressively, though, she’s accomplished all this while being legally blind.

The key to her success lies in her refusal to indulge in self-pity. She’s always refused to identify her illness as a disability. Rather than dwelling on what her illness took away from her, she’s grateful for what it gave her.

Additionally, research suggests that developing your capacity for gratitude can make you stronger on many levels. To begin with, increased gratitude can improve your physical health. A 2003 study found that grateful people suffer less often from aches and pains.

Mentally Strong People Don’t Resent Other People’s Success

When you see a colleague receive a promotion, feelings of envy may come to the surface. While this may be normal, feeling jealous of others’ success eventually leads to resentment, which can distract you from your path.

Instead, overcome your envy of other people’s success and learn how to use their success to your benefit. Let’s take the example of Milton Hershey. His employee, H.B. Reese, began building a rival candy company in the same city while still working in Hershey’s chocolate factory. Hershey, however, didn’t become angry or resentful. Instead, he gave Reese his full support and allowed Reese to use Hershey’s milk chocolate for his experiments. Throughout those experiments, Reese created a peanut butter cup surrounded by Hershey’s milk chocolate.

Instead of viewing each other’s company as competition, the two men celebrated their successes. They used one another’s power to their advantage. They supported their strengths, and in the end, they both built thriving businesses. The two men continued collaborating throughout their lives, and after their death, the two companies finally merged. When people enjoy and celebrate success, they attract other successful people, creating opportunities for collaboration and continued success.

Mentally Strong People Don’t Give Away Their Power

When you allow your boss to make you feel a certain way, you give others power over how you think, feel, or even behave. No one should have power over your feelings. You should change your daily vocabulary to recognize that the choices you make are yours.

Avoid phrases like “He made me mad,” or “I have to work late today.” One of the biggest factors in taking control of your feelings is forgiveness. When you hold onto anger and resentment, you allow others to limit your ability and disrupt your life. Therefore, it’s important to forgive others for their transgressions and place your focus back on you. Like how gratitude improves your health, those who practice forgiveness also obtain psychological benefits. For instance, when people forgive others, their blood pressure decreases, and their hearts beat more calmly. Additionally, those who practice unconditional forgiveness are likely to live longer lives.

Mentally Strong People Don’t Focus on Things They Can’t Control

When you feel like your life is out of control, take out a piece of paper, and draw a horizontal line through the middle. In the top section, write, “What I can’t control.” In the bottom section, write, “What I can control.” When populating the top section, remember you can’t control what has happened. However, you can control what you focus on, what things mean, and how you behave. After you’ve listed the things you can and can’t control, rip off the top section.

Mentally Strong People Don’t Dwell on the Past

Many people feel like they are haunted by their past and by the legacy of their families. However, it’s possible to find constructive ways to move forward despite one’s origins.

Take activist and social worker Wynona Ward. Born in a small village in Vermont, she grew up with a sexually and physically abusive father. Ward didn’t tell anyone about this abuse but worked hard to get ahead in school and escape her hometown. She got married as a 17-year-old and began working as a truck driver with her husband. But while she’d worked hard to free herself, others in her family struggled to do so. For example, Ward discovered that one of her brothers was now abusing his children.

Ward decided that something had to change. She went back to university in Vermont and studied in every moment of her free time. After significant hard work, Ward managed to get a law degree. With some financial aid, she founded Have Justice Will Travel, a traveling legal service for families in the countryside dealing with domestic abuse problems. Ward’s actions show us a vital mindset of mentally strong people. Coming to terms with the past doesn’t mean acting as if certain things never happened. You must accept and forgive the past so that you can build on it in the present. 

Mentally Strong People Don’t Worry About Pleasing Everyone

Pleasing everyone can negatively impact mental strength. Suppose you worry too much about pleasing others. In that case, you should learn to make choices that align with your values and act accordingly, even if that means disappointing or upsetting others. When you accept you won’t please everyone, you become stronger and build courage when you anticipate displeasing others.

Mentally Strong People Don’t Make the Same Mistakes Over and Over

“Mentally strong people don’t metaphorically dust themselves off and get right back on their horse. They pause to figure out why they fell off in the first place before getting back on.”

– Amy Morin

When you own and study your mistakes, you’re less likely to slide back into your old ways. Experience less resistance to owning and studying a mistake you’ve made by imagining it was performed by someone else. Identify the factors that led to the mistake: thoughts, behaviors, and external factors. Then, write down an alternative action for the next time those thoughts, behaviors, and external factors arise.

Mentally Strong People Don’t Shy Away from Change

“It’s not that some have willpower and others don’t. It’s that some people are ready to change and others are not.”

– Amy Morin

Judge Greg Mathis as an Example

Judge Greg Mathis is an excellent example of a mentally strong person. Arrested several times as a teenager, he promised his dying mother he would change. After being released from jail on probation, he started working at McDonald’s and eventually got accepted to Eastern Michigan University, and later, law school. However, due to his record as a criminal, he was barred from working as a lawyer.

It would have been easy to let this obstacle from the past stand in his way. But Mathis was always ready for change, even when it seemed improbable; he quickly found other ways to serve the city of Detroit.

After a period as the manager for Detroit Neighborhood City Halls, he and his wife founded a nonprofit organization. This organization helped young people find work. A few years later, he was elected a judge by the people of Detroit.

Mathis’ success is a testament to mentally strong people’s characteristics: embracing change in your life. 

How to Embrace Change

The first step is to ask yourself which change you’d like to execute in your life. Think carefully about how this change would make you feel. Pay special attention to negative feelings and thoughts. Once you’ve learned to ignore these types of thoughts, you can create a plan for successful change. It consists of five steps:

  • Set yourself a 30-day goal.
  • Decide on concrete, daily changes in your behavior that will help you reach that goal.
  • Create a list of anticipated hurdles along the way.
  • Create accountability.
  • Measure progress.

Be more mindful about your feelings around change and use the five steps to prepare for change. In doing so, you’ll be on your way toward your goals.

Mentally Strong People Don’t Fear Taking Calculated Risks

“Don’t be too squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.”

— Amy Morin

A major fear in many people is the fear of taking risks. Admittedly, significant life decisions should be carefully thought-out, and risks should be closely assessed. Therefore, it’s important to learn how to minimize risks and determine which risks are worth the benefits. Calculate risks by asking yourself, “What are the potential costs? Benefits?” “How will this affect my goals?” “What are the alternatives?” “What is the best thing and the worst thing that can happen?” “How much will this matter in five years?” If you write down the answers to these questions, you can review and scrutinize them. Subsequently, this will help you calculate the risks and reach a decision.

Taking risks and stepping outside your comfort zone makes you stronger. Perhaps those risks aren’t as scary as you once imagined. Additionally, begin to practice taking risks and facing your fears. Open yourself up to new opportunities and start facing your fears.

Mentally Strong People Don’t Give up After Their First Failure

A major fear many people experience is the fear of failure. Many will avoid failure at all costs, so they fear taking risks. However, almost every story of success begins with a lengthy road of failure and perseverance. Simply put, those who succeed simply view their failures as stepping stones for improvement. Failure is simply a part of becoming a success and is a sign you are being challenged.

Mentally Strong People Don’t Fear Alone Time

Many days, you are likely surrounded by noise. Many seek to maintain those noise levels by turning on the television. They aim to fill those uncomfortable silences, but when you fill your life with noise, you miss out on a powerful opportunity.

Research shows that spending time alone quietly results in renewal, rejuvenation, inspiration, and reflection. Avoid drowning your thoughts with technology or sounds. Instead, build your mental strength by designating ten minutes each day to be with your emotions. During these ten minutes, you can think about your life goals and determine if you are on track to achieve them. You can also use the opportunity to think about new goals or dreams. Adopt visualization techniques to imagine the life you want to have. Don’t forget these thoughts by writing them all down in a journal.

You can even take your mindfulness a step further and turn to meditation to become comfortable in silence. Studies have shown that meditation positively alters the structure of the brain by regulating both cognition and emotion. Even more, meditation has been proven to have positive effects on those who struggle with breathing difficulties, tumors, insomnia, chronic pain, and cardiological problems.

Mentally Strong People Don’t Expect Immediate Results

A 1972 study looked at whether people succeeded with their New Year’s resolutions or not. They found that 25 percent of participants had abandoned their resolutions after 15 weeks. In a similar 1989 study, that number had gone down to only one week.

The underlying issue is that our goals and expectations are unrealistic.

Here are a few simple rules to help you set more realistic goals:

  • First, don’t think that change is easy. Accept from the start that reaching your goal will be tough. You’ll have a greater chance of succeeding if you simply accept that it’s going to be tough.
  • Secondly, don’t create a fixed deadline to reach your goal. It’s healthy to have an approximate idea of when you would like to get your result, but don’t make it an all-or-nothing situation.
  • Finally, don’t anticipate achieving your goal will make your life suddenly wonderful.

The Author’s Own Example

Sometimes improvements are well-hidden, and sometimes they even look like steps backward. For example, the author once worked with parents of young children, teaching them how to manage temper tantrums. The standard advice was to studiously ignore the kids when they threw themselves on the ground and started howling and kicking.

Many parents initially complained. They said the tantrums were getting worse, as the children were screaming louder, making more of a fuss. But if the parents persisted in ignoring them, the tantrums inevitably improved.

This example shows that it’s important to be patient, stick to your goal, and keep working at it. You must maintain these actions even when you do not appreciate any progress at a given moment.

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