Failure is a given in Sales. Failed phone calls, failed presentations, failed sales targets – failure is a part of the job. The way in which you handle these failures, however, makes all of the difference in future success. Handling failure appropriately is a part of mental toughness. Mental toughness is how resilient, or gritty, you are, and it can be used to predict success in not only the workplace, but also in sports and education.
So how do we cultivate mental toughness? Here are 6 ways that you can build your mental toughness and become more successful as a result.
1. Setting Goals
Goals are important, but how you tackle them has big effects on whether you achieve them. Breaking down a big goal into smaller, doable chunks is more effective. It creates small successes that spur on further success, strengthening mental toughness.
“When eating an elephant take one bite at a time.”
It’s appropriate that Creighton Adams, a US army general, wrote this quote because navy seals also take this approach. They break down their goals into long-term, mid-term, and short-term goals. Setting very short-term and specific goals allows the mind to focus on one thing at a time without distraction. Next time you are given a big task, break it down into small, attainable goals that lead to a success.
2. Mental Visualization
This trick has been used in the sports world and the music world for quite some time to supplement practice and improve performance.
Mental visualization is an effective method for augmenting performance (link). When you have a stressful event coming up, use vivid positive imagery and repeat it over-and-over until it becomes automatic.
Every day you have a multitude of conversations with yourself that you don’t even notice! Self-talk is not always positive or productive, sometimes you are telling yourself that you aren’t good enough or that you can’t do something.
The worst part about this is the insidious nature of self-talk – most of the time, you don’t realize what you are telling yourself. Turning self-talk into positive self-talk requires first being able to listen to what you are telling yourself. After this, you can focus on working through what you are telling yourself. Instead of “I can’t do this, I don’t have enough experience,” you might reason with yourself and say “It may be difficult, but I’m quick at picking things up, this will be a good learning experience.”
Using positive self-talk to re-process the situation is a key component to mental toughness and grit.
4. Emotional Control
When we feel overwhelmed or in danger, our bodies release stress hormones. This causes sweaty palms, racing minds, and pounding hearts. This was useful hundreds of years ago, when our dangers were purely physical. Nowadays, this is detrimental. Our ability to remain calm and collected, whether it’s being questioned in a boardroom or on a call with an angry client, is important.
Being in a constant state of arousal reduces our effectiveness, our efficiency, and can lead to physical problems, like problems sleeping and maintaining motivation.
One way to take back control of your racing mind is something called the 4 by 4 – a breathing exercise that can help you master stress. For in-depth directions on how to do this, check out HealthCentral’s article here.
5. Recognize the Past as Training
“Learn from your mistakes” is a broad, clichéd phrase that we hear all too often. So, think of it this way instead, when you’ve made a mistake, or when you look back at a mistake, recognize that you learned something from it. Regardless of how small or large the lesson was, it was something that you learned. Does that time you accidentally called your boss who was on vacation 2 years ago still affect you now? Most likely, the answer is “no.”
We overstate the magnitude of mistakes made recently
Mistakes or accidents can be temporarily damaging, or embarrassing, but the long-term impact, even of big accidents, is less than we think. Take Pete Best, the original drummer for the Beatles, for example. He was kicked out of the band in 1962. Is he ruminating on the past – “if only I’d remained a Beatle!” No, quite the opposite in fact. He’s been called “the Happiest Beatle” and, in interviews has said “I wouldn’t change anything.” (link)
6. Recognize your blessings
This exercise in taking perspective is a good habit for building mental toughness. Take a moment to focus on the things you have that make you thankful.
Think of it like this, when you are sick and have a sore throat, you think “I wish my throat didn’t hurt all of the time.” But when you aren’t sick, you take for granted the fact that your throat doesn’t hurt. In this same way, we all take for granted our many everyday blessings, big or small.
Changing your perspective and forcing yourself to focus on the many good things you have is a way to reinforce your resilience.
Succeeding in Sales can be difficult due to the sheer about of failure inherent in the job. What defines those who succeed and those who don’t is their mental fortitude. Sales leaders go into each interaction with a good attitude and are ready to give it their all. Strong mental fortitude allows their failures to roll off their back, while those without it internalize all of their failures and become less effective.