LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
When I think about leadership and what attributes make a good leader, there is a laundry list I come up with; however, mental toughness is what stands out. There may be many factors on how one achieves or cultivates mental toughness, but at its core, achieving this skill starts with making a deliberate concerted choice each and every day to eat the proverbial frog.
From a stoic’s point of view, the frog that you eat would be the task or action, which places the greatest amount of distress on yourself. It means to actively choose the hard path. Choosing this path in itself is the hardest thing to do, because we have a natural tendency to take the path of least resistance. So how do we change?
The first part is actively knowing and acknowledging we are inherently prisoners to this type of cognitive dissonance. The second part is making a deliberate choice to seek the better reward and not the immediate. It is a fundamental shift from System 1 Type Thinking (automatic/efficient/short-term) to System 2 Type Thinking (effortful/controlled/long-term). The third part, is simply taking action, which is where most people fail. Whether for fear of not being able to complete the task or not being equipped to do so, inaction is the single most important factor on why people are unsuccessful. We must choose to act on the hardest tasks consistently, even if that means failing consistently. Think on this for a moment: Walt Disney was told by a newspaper editor that he lacked imagination, Einstein didn’t read until he was 7 years old, Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, and Oprah Winfrey was fired from her first TV job as an anchor.
On the journey to mental toughness it’s important to understand that this skill cannot be achieved in a day, month or year. It may take decades to solidify the synapsis in your brain, which allow you to deal with any type of adversity. It’s also important to eat this frog one bite at a time. Start small with tasks you don’t enjoy doing and do them often.
If we are to apply this concept to our own lives, we can cement sustained mental toughness. But it all starts with recognizing our faults and actively making the mental leap to take action on the things we fear or dislike most. These small victories will then begin to manifest themselves into larger victories, creating momentum and confidence. I think Robert Frost’s poem perfectly states this mindset and way of living when he wrote, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” So I challenge you to take the road less traveled and become an expert at eating frogs for a living.