Executive Insights

5 things mentally strong people do in work and life that seem counterintuitive (but they're not)

Business Insider US
Mentally strong people eliminate distractions, reflect on their mistakes, and know when to quit.
  • Amy Morin is a psychotherapist, licensed clinical social worker, mental strength coach, and international bestselling author.
  • While some people might make decisions that seem counterintuitive to being strong, Morin explains these choices are critical to building mental strength.
  • Mentally strong people know when to quit, slow down, ask for help, change their work environments, and embrace their emotions. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Just like you shouldn't judge a book by the cover, you shouldn't determine if someone is mentally strong just by observing their behaviour at work. After all, you never know what sort of internal battles someone might be fighting.

Additionally, on the surface, some of the behaviors mentally strong people exhibit might get confused for weakness, rather than strength. In fact, some of their choices might even seem counterintuitive at first glance. But here's the reason behind some of those choices they make.

1. They alter their environment

When you see someone hide the candy dish at their desk, your first thought might be, "They must not have any willpower." But the truth is, resources like willpower are in limited supply no matter how strong you are.

Mentally strong people want to reserve those resources for the most important battles in life. They set their lives up in a way that ensures they won't have to constantly fight temptation all day long.

Mental strength isn't about being able to tolerate pain and endure extreme discomfort without flinching. Instead, it's often about choosing which battles you want to fight.

2. They carve out time to reflect

You might imagine a strong person doesn't need to take time to think — after all, they're busy doing important things.

But mentally strong people know their mindset matters. Whether they're reflecting on their mistakes so they can learn from them, or they're creating new career goals for themselves, they set aside time to think.

No matter how busy they are, they make time to reflect on their lives. In fact, the busier they are, the more time they may need to think about how to ensure their priorities are in line with their values.

3. They quit

People who don't understand mental strength sometimes say things like, "mentally strong people never give up". That's not true though.

People who are acting tough might finish a race on a broken ankle. But strong people know when to quit. They set aside their egos and throw in the towel quite often.

When they discover that the effort to reach a goal isn't in line with their values, they might abandon their goal. For example, if family's a top priority, they might quit a side hustle that interferes with family time.

Or, if they realize a goal is going to require 100% of their attention and that goal is third on the priority list, they might quit. Then, they have even more energy to focus on their main priorities and other goals.

They know they're strong enough to handle any criticism they might get for "quitting" and they are open-minded enough to change their opinions.

4. They ask for help

Mentally strong people know they don't have all the answers. They aren't concerned with trying to prove to everyone that they're completely self-reliant all the time.

They ask for help when they need it. Whether that means going to therapy before work to ensure they're taking care of their mental health or it means asking a friend for some financial or job advice, they recognize that other people have skills, knowledge, and resources that can help them. And they don't feel insecure acknowledging that.

5. They embrace their emotions

You might hear someone say something like, "She's so strong. She didn't even cry at the funeral." But emotional suppression isn't a sign of strength. After all, it takes more strength to acknowledge and express your emotions than it does to mask them.

Mentally strong people embrace emotions — even the uncomfortable ones. They know it's okay to feel sad, angry, and scared. Rather than escape those emotions, they turn to healthy coping skills to manage them.

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