One thing I’ve learned is that you need to be mentally tough to manage bipolar. I’m referring to having positive attributes that help you cope with difficult situations. This is very important to me because when living with bipolar any small situation can throw me off. And I need to be mentally strong to overcome this adversity. When I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder I noticed certain situations would cause me enormous stress, anxiety, and mood swings. However, over the years I’ve gotten better at handling them through mental preparation and successfully controlling my manic episodes. What do I mean by mental preparation? It’s important to view negative things as a positive learning experience, and to understand that everything happens for a reason. In other words, I believe if you are facing adversity, it’s because something better is in store for you later in the future. It’s tough to have this mindset, and I’ll admit that it does take time and practice to build it. But…
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If you make it a conscious effort and want to make a change for the better, then nothing will stand in your way. As a matter of fact, reading certain mindfulness books has helped prepare my mind to conquer any negative situation. They have provided me with the foundation I need to cope with difficult situations. The secret is in the way you view things happening in your life, and how you react to them.
There are 7 powerful secrets I would like to share with all of you. I encourage you to start incorporating these lessons and practice them daily. I can promise you after 3 weeks of solid preparation, you’ll create a habit out of them.
Secret #1 – Establish the Right Goals
It’s easy to write down any old goals on a piece of paper. But it’s harder to write down goals which will help you grow as a person. For you to build mental strength, you need to challenge your mind. For example, you’re not going to build toughness completing the same goals every day for the rest of your life because you’ve already conquered them and are in your comfort zone. The secret is to write down goals that challenge you and make you step outside of your comfort zone.
Every month, I write down 1-2 new things I’ve never done before and would require effort. For example, waking up an hour earlier or working out in the morning instead of the afternoon. This shifts things up and forces me to get out of my comfort zone. Moving out of this zone forces my mind to overcome laziness and the feeling of discomfort. It pushes me to do things I’m not use to and don’t necessarily like doing. Did you know by learning one new thing each month, you are improving your mental strength? That’s right! By doing what your mind’s not use to, you are finding ways to think outside of the box to conquer new goals. This pushes your mind in another direction.
Secret #2 – Look for the Positive in the Negative
I know this is tough…right? To get your mind moving in the right direction, I introduced the 10-Day Mental Challenge a few weeks ago. Looking for the positive in the negative will build mental toughness to another level. Every day, we suffer events in our lives that push us down, make us upset, and suck the energy right out of us. But, imagine if you can train your mind to find the positive in whatever happens? Doing this will build mental toughness, allowing nothing to slow you down. I remember when something negative would happen to me and I would dwell on it for days. This meant for several days I wasn’t myself; I couldn’t sleep, work, or even perform daily tasks. I’m the type of person who use to take things to heart, hence slowing me down for days. But, over the years, I’ve trained my mind to look for the positive in whatever’s going on in my life. As a matter of fact, my mind has been permanently rewired to automatically look for the positive without dwelling on the negative. It took some time, but through practice I built this habit.
The next time something negative happens in your life, it’s important to ask yourself – why did this happen? Then come up with alternative answers. For example, if you didn’t get the job you wanted, don’t worry; it’s because something better is coming your way. If someone is criticizing you, then look for the good by asking – how can I improve myself going forward? I love criticism because it pushes me to grow and make improvements in my life.
One way to rewire your mind for an alternative meaning is to try the 10-Day Mental Challenge. This challenge pushes you to spend no more than a minute on the problem so you can focus on a solution. Give it a try!
Secret #3 – Balance Logic and Emotions (Work Backwards)
The concept of logic plays a huge role in balancing out your emotions. A lot of the decisions you make are based on both logic and emotion. For example, you save money from each paycheck because it’ll help pay for your vacation at the end of the year. If you don’t save money from each paycheck, you’ll have a hard time purchasing your ticket. The thing you need to understand is that if humans are left to make decisions based on emotions, they’ll do what makes them happy now, and not think about the future. With this mentality, you’ll most likely spend all your money without thinking about tomorrow or the next day. For this reason, it’s important you train your mind to connect logic with your emotions. The secret to accomplish this is to work backwards when there’s an important decision you need to make.
Whenever I have a decision to make I’ll think about my end goal, and what I need to do to get there. Following this formula creates an emotional attachment to the end goal, pushing me to take whatever course of action to get there. For example, at the end of the month, I should have the skills to design my own website so I can start to write content for other people and help them (you see how detailed my end goal is). My emotional attachment is to help people through my blog. To accomplish this, I’ll program 1 hour each day.
Without a clear end goal your actions are empty without no destination. If there’s no end goal, there’s no purpose. With no purpose, you have no emotional attachment.
When you start to connect both logic and your emotions every time you make decisions you’ll build strength, confidence, and motivation during difficult times.
Secret #4 – Live in the “Now” 90% of the Time (Save Mental Energy)
One of the worst ways to lose mental toughness is by losing mental energy. If your mind is tired, you won’t be able to conquer the objectives you have planned for yourself. In other words, you won’t be able to rise above the difficult situations in your life. For this reason, I like to use the 90/10 rule.
I spend 10% of my mental energy planning ahead and preparing for what I need to complete or the course of action I need to take. Why only 10%? It’s because anything that’s not in the present is not in my control so I shouldn’t spend too much time thinking about it. I have no control over the past or the future so the best I can do is live in the “NOW”. However, when you think about something you need to complete, it does require some attention, but no more than 10%. This 10% should be used coming up with a course of action…that’s all. Anything more than that can cause you to think too much, attract negative thoughts, anxiety, and lose mental energy. What’s the 90%?
This is the mental energy used living in the “NOW”, working on what’s important to you right now. When you do this overtime, you’ll notice less drag on your mental energy, allowing you to accomplish more. If you have something to finish, use 10% thinking about how you’ll do it, and the rest in the present getting it done.
This way, you save mental energy and use it to conquer what’s ahead of you :).
Secret #5 – Practice Through Repetition
Since mental strength refers to having positive attributes that help you cope with difficult situations, I believe you can automate your mind to follow a specific pattern of thought when faced with tough situations. For example, if I’m in a difficult situation and the first thing I tell myself is, “I’ll never get through this”, then you’re already setting yourself up for failure. However, if the first thought during a difficult situation is, “I’m stronger than the situation” or “I can get through this no matter what”, then you’ll start to take a different course of action working towards a solution. In the book, Awaken the Giant Within by Anthony Robbins, he says one way to change your train of thought from negative to positive is through repetition.
I find doing your repetitions first thing in the morning is best because it gives you the ammo you need to conquer the day. Every morning when I get up, I repeat the following list of positive attributes:
I create a sentence out of each and repeat those sentences 5 times. For example, using the word “adaptable” – “I can adapt to any situation”. (Repeat 5 times.)
How does this help build my mental strength going forward? Simple…
The next time I find myself in an environment I’m not use to, this though enters my mind – I can adapt to any situation.
The fact I’ve repeated positive sentences every morning for over 3 months has helped me automate my thought process. This positive repetition first comes to my mind when I’m faced with difficult situations. I encourage all of you to create a list of positive attributes and then create sentences out of each. Every morning, repeat these sentences 5 times each. This shouldn’t take you longer than a few minutes.
Secret #6 – Do The “Test-Yourself” Exercise
The next time you don’t think you can do something, it’s important that you test yourself and your abilities. You know how many times I would be in the gym and the very thought of me doing 20 push-ups would scare me? I would tell myself I can’t do it, I don’t have the strength, and I’m weak. But this all changed when a friend of mind told me to “test myself” by moving slowly. For example, he asked me how many push-ups I could do. I said 15, so he challenged me to do 16. That’s right, just one more above my comfort level. He said do this for 2 days, and soon I could do 16 push-ups with no problem. After, he said increase this by one more and do 17 push-ups, etc. Do you see what he was doing?
He was pushing me to test myself slowly so I could mentally become stronger and more confident. The next time I felt I couldn’t do something, I knew if I approached it slowly and systematically, I could accomplish it in no time.
Going forward, the next time you say you can’t run 5 miles, slowly increase by 0.5 miles until you get to your end goal. This way you push yourself to at least try instead of just failing without trying. Soon, you’ll have the strength to go from 0-100 without even stopping :).
Secret #7 – Find Explanations, Don’t Create Excuses
I believe improving mental strength has a lot to do with dissecting your thoughts. For example, when faced with adversity, you’re either going to have positive thoughts motivating you to move quickly towards a solution. Or you’re going to have negative thoughts, which causes you stress and anxiety. If you’ve read my other content, you know the emphasis I put on mind over matter, and how the mind can control every situation. For this reason, I encourage all of you to find an explanation to your negative thoughts instead of coming up with excuses.
Examples: Pay attention to the type of emotions and thoughts you have after reading the scenario.
You missed an 8AM meeting because you slept in.
Finding an Explanation:
- You went to bed late? Maybe go to bed earlier in the day before an important meeting.
- The alarm went off only once. You can set 2-3 alarms with 10 minutes in between them.
- You had no motivation to attend the meeting. This usually happens to me when I’m not passionate about what I’m doing. Maybe think about your career choices and the meetings you’ll be happy attending.
Finding an Excuse:
- I blame the people who scheduled an early meeting. They should schedule later in the day.
- There will always be another meeting.
- I’m sure it didn’t affect other people too much who needed my help during the meeting.
- I’ll just tell them I was not feeling well.
By understanding the reason(s) why something happens, you can come up with alternative ways to break the roadblock that’s stopping you. Notice, that with each explanation, I provided an alternative action I could do instead. What does this do? The next time I’m faced with a similar situation, I’ll have the mental strength to overcome it by using that alternative method.