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The Whole Human

7 principles to develop toughness and build the life you want to live

“Don’t wait until everything is just right. It will never be perfect. There will always be challenges, obstacles, and less than perfect conditions. So what? Get started now. With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled, more and more self-confident, and more and more successful.”  — Mark Victor Hansen

At our core, all of us are looking to develop and grow in the four components of wellness: mental, emotional, physical and spiritual. Each component impacts the other, which means they have an interdependent relationship. Each day, as we make strides and build upon our core, we get stronger, more confident and smarter. We get TOUGHER.

There are a lot of different definitions out there about what “tough” means. Far too often, it is given a negative connotation. Toughness is defined as, “strong and durable; not easily broken or cut; capable of great endurance; sturdy.” Think about that — capable of great endurance. Strong and durable. Aren’t those qualities you’re looking for as you develop into the woman or man you desire to be?

Mentally, we hope to become resolute, committed and confident in our approach to everyday living. Emotionally, while it’s always good to be vulnerable and kind, it’s equally as important to be courageous, faithful and hopeful in the face of fear. Spiritually, getting in touch with what makes us who we are isn’t easy. It takes time. It takes perseverance and endurance through challenging personal battles.

And physically, it’s important to develop our muscles and take good care of the vessel that enables us to navigate this journey called life. People who take excellent care of themselves are tough — they’re able to withstand life’s nicks, scrapes, bumps and bruises. They power through adversity and failures and on to victories.

I’ve spent a lot of time coaching and working with high-achievers and top-performing teams. I’ve led them in an effort to help develop the soft skills, emotional intelligence, identify strengths and weaknesses and enable them to breakthrough and build upon both successes and failures. I’ve found that tough people aren’t born that way — they start out as a proverbial slab of marble and are sculpted into a refined, powerful work of art.

“Life isn’t easy, but you never quit. Never. I may not have been the best, but I can always give my best. That’s how you demonstrate toughness.” — Jay Bilas

A fantastic book was written on the topic by Jay Bilas, a former college and pro basketball player and current analyst. The eponymous title, Toughness, explores the ways in which we can all grow, develop and become tougher to succeed. I decided to extract the most value I could from his book and my experience in coaching high-performers, and synthesized it here for you to understand.

I think you’ll find these 7 principles will change your life and are applicable to every one of us. I paraphrased some of Bilas’ points and illustrate how we can develop toughness and live life on our terms.

1. Work so hard that you have to rest

The world’s most successful people preach about the value of meditation and getting a proper night’s sleep. We all have to rest. Our rest and daily reset should come after we’ve challenged ourselves and given every ounce of ourselves to working for our daily goals. Give your absolute best to every task in front of you. And give your best to your parents, husbands, wives and children, too.

Maximize your output in all of your opportunities and relationships.

2. Finish what you’ve started

One of the most common threads in why some people don’t feel fulfilled in their personal and professional lives is very simple: they get started on something and fail to finish. Think about it — what’s the point in that? The defining characteristic of every high achiever is that they finish what they’ve started. They either accomplish a task, reach a goal, or abandon course for a wiser, better alternative.

3. Focus with determination on the task at hand

Multi-tasking, while very appealing, DOESN’T WORK. Don’t believe me? Take this from the Cleveland Clinic:

The neuroscience is clear: We are wired to be mono-taskers. One study found that just 2.5 percent of people are able to multitask effectively. And when the rest of us attempt to do two complex activities simultaneously, it is simply an illusion.

You’re growing and getting tougher when you focus with every ounce of concentration on what you’re doing in that moment.

4. Encourage yourself and encourage others who work with you

This is straight out of the Dale Carnegie (of How to Win Friends and Influence People fame) playbook: Encourage the people around you, celebrate their wins and congratulate them on their success. But guess what? Do the same thing for yourself! Positive thought encouragement enables us to power through adversity and challenging tasks, leading us to triumph and victory. When you are genuinely self-motivated and encouraging to others, you are a person that will keep moving forward. And everyone wants to be around that person.

“Failing doesn’t make you a failure. Failing makes you a competitor. Every competitor fails. If you lay it on the line, you will come up short at times. Failure is a part of competing, and embracing that fact is an important component of toughness. Tough people fail, but tough people are not failures. The only failures are those who give up, or give in.” — Jay Bilas

5. Be alert to change in your life — and change all around you

As John F. Kennedy once said, “Change is the law of life, and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” Change is unavoidable. It’s always coming for us, seeking us out whether we run, hide or embrace it. So be alert. Be alert to new opportunities. Be alert to ways you can build upon your successes, and likewise how to learn from your defeats.

6. Take responsibility — own your words and actions

You want a surefire way to fail? Blame other people for your words and actions. Make excuses and refuse to take ownership. Deny responsibility and pass the buck to someone else. Those are the marks of a person that no one wants to work with. And if you’re seeking self-employment or entrepreneurship, you would be wise to correct this before you begin any prospective venture.

It starts with you. You will make tremendous strides in life, endure when others falter and continue growing when you accept responsibility in good times and bad. Forge ahead with a winner’s mindset. Winners are tough and always accountable for what they say and do.

7. Have one fixed objective — get better every day

If you’re struggling to determine what your passion, purpose, mission, definition of success or goals are, please let me remind you to start with this very simple objective: Get better every day. You have the time. Read one chapter in a book to learn a new skill. Jump rope for 10 minutes to increase your cardiovascular fitness. Spend 10 minutes in mindfulness meditation that allows you to think clearly about what’s most important in your life.

Write a small journal entry about your feelings, what moves you and what inspires you. All of these things take a little amount of time. All of them can be accomplished with minimal investment. And all of them will begin forming the compounding effect of helping you to improve and get better each day. Toughness is a prized quality among the most happy and successful people. Go on, you’re a lot tougher than you think.

You Can Do This

Join my newsletter and check out my book, The Value of You. This will give you inspiration to start planning for success on your journey.

This article first appeared on Medium.

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