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My grandfather worked 43 years with only one day off for a funeral. During that stretch, he often worked six days a week with equal amounts of overtime as standard hours in a week. Everyone would like to have a teammate with that kind of work ethic. What many people did not see is how my Pap treated his day off. I have vivid memories of how we were not allowed to answer the phone on his day off in case his work was calling him into another day of work. It’s important to understand that linked to every great work ethic is a great rest ethic. My Pap took his day off seriously. He was able to work hard for so long because he rested well. Teammates that do not accept their limits will eventually burn out long before a 43 year streak.
We all have mentally tough and mentally weak moments. Mentally tough people simply listen more to their disciplined internal voice than the excuse-making one. This is rare because every turn and every decision, no matter how big or small, requires the ability to ignore the excuse to take the easier path. Our minds will follow the ruts in the road that we create and ruts are developed through use. “When things get this hard, I’ll let myself off the hook…”. If we get used to taking the out at a certain threshold of difficulty, we will likely default to an excuse whenever things get that difficult. “That difficult” is different for everyone but it comes with what we practice. The more often we choose to do something because it’s the correct choice, grown up choice, or productive choice, we become more likely to ignore the excuse that tells us how unreasonable it is to make those same choices in the future.
Most people quit things easily. This is where mentally tough people have an advantage. In normal circumstances, people have to fight for position in a crowd. But like a marathon, the field begins to thin out during the race and only a few cross the finish line at a time in the end. Mental toughness provides the opportunity for us to be in a position to win a race, accomplish a goal, or just do the most important thing in our day. Mental toughness isn’t what pushes us to finish well. Mental toughness is the state of mind that allows us to ignore the influences in our lives that try to talk us out of taking the difficult path to the finish line.