Friday, January 13, 2012

The Two Components of Mental Strength

As we are near the half way point of this month's thirty day challenge, I wanted to start working on the next phase of the white belt master training. With several members progressing through their first official challenges, I have to stay one step ahead of everyone. The nice thing about seeing other people do these thirty day challenges is that I can get some good feedback on the effect it has on people when they work through them. How they succeed, how they struggle. This feedback is invaluable to me as I fine tune the training that lies ahead.

The thing I have learned thus far is that people work at different paces. Some work fast and other work more methodically and at a slower pace. I sometimes forget that I have done a number of these challenges and they are a habit with me now. And I felt that for some I might have been moving at too fast a pace before the first lesson sinks in. So I decided to wait a few days before I started our work on the next phase which is building mental strength with checklists.

The great news is that I think phase 1 of the white belt master training - which is the thirty day challenge habit - is a concept that everyone can pick up quickly, this next phase of building mental strength with checklists might pose a bit more of a challenge.

Because that's the case, I will probably devote most of the rest of this month talking about it in detail.

For those of you that haven't been following me so far, mental strength is the amount of effort you can expend to get your daily tasks done. Those that are highly productive have much more mental strength than those who don't accomplish much every day.

I compare it to physical strength but instead of lifting weights, the weights you can lift when it comes mental strength are the tasks you can complete. If you find it difficult to get something done, it's probably a function of just not being mentally strong enough to do it.

Mental strength varies from person to person and even day to day for each person. All of us possess mental strength. Some not very much because they are out of shape. Others a lot because they work on it every day.

Whichever camp you are in, you want to improve your mental strength so you can get more done. Just like physical strength can be increased by lifting more weights, mental strength can be improved by doing more tasks.

Here, I advocate using a concept of progressive resistance. To improve your mental strength, the first step is to assess what your mental strength is and then add a progressively small number of tasks over time to increase it. These small increases in the number of tasks you complete don't shock the system as much but over time add a significant increase in mental strength if you keep doing it over a long period of time.

Once you understand that concept, the next thing I would like to go over is what I believe to be the two basic components of mental strength.

The first component is the mental strength we use to remember all of the things we do without the help of some reminder system outside of our head. The sheer volume of what we remember without outside assistance is incredible.

The second component of mental strength is the effort and energy we muster up to complete the tasks we do.

With that in mind, the first concept I would like to throw out to you is that if you reduce the amount of mental strength required to remember everything, you increase the amount of mental strength you have to complete the tasks you face.

This increases your capacity to get things done without much effort.

The way you do that is by getting everything that you do out of your head and into some sort of system you can refer to. The tool you use to do that is the checklist.

So when we tackle building your mental strength, the first thing that we are going to do, is to start recording everything we do into the form of a checklist.

As we start to do that, you will start to feel a little more mental strength as the overhead you carry around diminishes. Then the next step will be to start to work on improving the second component which is your ability to do the tasks you need to do.

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Michael Kuhn

Black Belt Project: Build Mental Strength