Life is good on the job when predictable conditions give us a clear path for showcasing our talents. That’s when we’re convinced we have what it takes for our next step.
Unfortunately, the unpredictable is also predicable. Are you ready for it? Do you know how you’ll handle the heat?
Rings of fire
No job is immune from surprises that test you. On any day and at any time, things can go up in smoke and your job will be to find your way through the flames.
Disruption emerges from:
- Your boss and coworkers
- Customers, clients, and vendors
- Performance reports and financials
- Software glitches and system failures
- Policy and procedure errors
- Communications breakdowns and stymied negotiations
- New regulation and legal decisions
- Marketplace competition and under-performing products
We can either crumble or rise to the occasion when things go wrong. In either case, everyone will be watching.
Gut it out
Great models for developing mental toughness are athletes in individual sports, like golf and tennis. It’s always the player against the opponent and the conditions. To succeed, one will contend with adversity better than the other.
These athletes live by routines which become a kind of rhythm of play. It’s how they tap into muscle memory and keep their visualization patterns humming.
Golfers and tennis players are frequently disrupted by:
- Weather delays, causing them to stop, wait, and restart
- Crowd noise during play or reactions unsupportive of them
- Persistent or sudden injuries
- Excessive heat, cold, wind, or rain
- Disrespect or gamesmanship from their opponents
There are hundreds of examples where certain athletes blow leads, implode, or even retire from play because disruptions overcome them.
Our mind can either weaken or strengthen us during adversity. We just need to know which one we want it to be when it’s our time to be challenged.
Assess your mental toughness
When the heat’s on, how do you react? If you answer “yes” to any of the following, consider taking the next steps in parens.
- “I get stressed out and lose concentration when I’m told my project is due by noon instead of the end of the workday.” (Clear out all other distractions, defer other tasks, avoid interruptions, and focus only on the project.)
- “When my boss gives me negative feedback, I lose motivation.” (Think about the contributing factors in the feedback; develop and implement a plan to change what you’ve been doing.)
- “When I’m accountable for a team result, I micro-manage to avoid things going wrong.” (Stay away from the details, refocus on the big picture, provide support and cheerlead.)
- “In a conflict situation, I usually back off.” (Ask questions to understand the issue; request time to think about what you’ve heard; come to terms with your position; and set a time to meet again to resolve.)
- “If I make a mistake, I’m reluctant to try again.” (Learn from each mistake and commit to trying again as soon as possible. Ask for feedback. Work at the fix until you’ve mastered it.)
- “When a problem arises, I wait for a coworker or my boss to take the lead.” (Commit to taking the reins, especially when you have the expertise.)
- “If I get a poor rating on a performance factor, it takes me weeks to get over it.” (Reset your performance goal for that factor to meet expectations. Commit to immediate actions to turn the rating around.)
Action is the marker
Mental toughness is the outgrowth of committed action. It demonstrates your willingness to keep pressing forward, drawing on your capabilities, and being averse to quitting no matter how difficult the challenge.
You have to act to build and increase mental toughness. Each step you take increases your self-confidence and your business fitness.
Mental toughness builds on itself but it takes your efforts to get the ball rolling. Once you do, everyone will take notice and your career will benefit.
Photo from Ben Sutherland via Flickr