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· By Paul Lumley
Habits of Mentally Strong Leaders
Six Habits All Mentally Strong Leaders Have in Common - And How to Adopt Them
Mentally strong leaders are needed now more than ever. And you can become one of them if you adopt habits that build grit and resilience. We asked two seasoned leaders to share their insights on the topic of mental strength: Olympic diver turned serial entrepreneur and Engel & Völkers broker Christopher Kalec, and Marc Angelo Coppola, founder of Superhero Academy, a mentorship platform, and Valhalla Farms, a sustainable community.
While Kalec and Coppola have very different backgrounds, they both share the opinion that mental strength is developed through experience. “I’ve learned many rough lessons, have faced huge walls both mentally and emotionally and have learned to persevere,” says Kalec. “My experiences have taught me to recognize that mental strength is a practice and a muscle like any other,” says Coppola.
Ready to buckle down and get intentional about building the inner strength that will help you face unexpected challenges and overcome obstacles? Here are six habits mentally strong leaders embrace.
1. Failing Forward
Mentally strong leaders know the road to success is paved with failure. They persevere through adversity and embrace obstacles and, in doing so, increase their mental strength. “I have faced many scary experiences in diving, some super stressful situations in corporate life, and have been faced with the harsh reality of having a business venture fail,” says Kalec. “I've never really accepted failure as an option and have always been programmed to do absolutely everything that is necessary to succeed.”
Consistency is key when it comes to achieving any goal. And mentally strong leaders develop inner strength through the process of showing up daily and making efforts to reach their objectives. “I have learned a ton from James Clear, the author of ‘Atomic Habits,’ over the years, about how small habits and patterns can form into much larger ones,” says Coppola.
“I often say to myself ‘head down, get it done, get through the week and we'll see what comes of it,’” says Kalec, who learned the importance of consistency as a young athlete. “My coach would tell me, ‘Keep trying and in 10 years you'll be perfect.’ Imagine being a young boy who wants to win everything and being told that you’ll only get it in 10 years. It may have taken me many years to realize the truth in that lesson, but it's undeniable.”
3. Focusing on the Positive
Ever heard the saying, “What you focus on expands”? Mentally strong leaders are well aware that, in life and business, there will always be things they can’t control. But they choose to focus on the positive, as it fuels their resilience and allows them to move forward in times of uncertainty. And this sometimes means setting boundaries. “Avoid negative environments at all costs. Negative people tend to focus on what's going wrong and this can have an impact on your mental state,” says Kalec.
4. Seeking Support
Think twice before assuming that mentally strong leaders don’t need anybody. Behind every great leader lies a powerful support system. “The lessons from coaches and mentors throughout my life have truly shaped me into the leader I am today,” says Kalec.
Do you invest in your relationships? Having a trusted friend you can lean on when the going gets tough or use as a sounding board for your ideas can make all the difference in terms of resilience, according to Coppola. “Participating in men’s groups or direct one-on-one mentorship has been game-changing for me,” he says.
We all have 24 hours in a day. Mentally tough leaders not only manage their time, but they also manage their energy. They know it’s their most precious resource for achieving high performance and dealing with unexpected challenges. “Beyond living a healthy lifestyle, the most important practice I have for my mental resilience and strength is what I call a ‘brain dump,’ says Coppola.
Here’s how it works: Once a week, write all the outstanding tasks you can think of on a piece of paper. Then, take an hour to craft the best plan of action for the week based on your high-level priorities and the results you are after. The process is both cathartic – it frees your mind from holding on to all the things that need to get done – and strategic. “This routine is cemented into my calendar as the one constant in a lifestyle of continuous change,” says Coppola.
6. Practicing Mental Fitness
Emotional resilience is like a muscle. Train it regularly and you’ll be more equipped to deal with setbacks when they happen. “Preparation and practice isn’t just for athletes, it’s also for your mind. Know your stressors and build habits that address them preemptively,” says Coppola.
According to him, mentally strong leaders also avoid bottling up their emotions. While facing your negative feelings can be uncomfortable, finding a safe outlet to do so is crucial for your mental well-being.