Mental Fitness helps individuals feel less overwhelmed, less exhausted, more in control and more excited about what the future may hold.
Life coach Neil O’Brien (@Neilobriencoach) has been developing this concept over the last 15 years. With an interest in sport and a clear understanding of how to acquire and maintain physical fitness, I was keen to hear his take on mental fitness and how to 'train' yourself to be mentally fit.
According to Neil there are 3 ways to measure your mental fitness:
Neil gave us an interesting explanation of “mood” as a reflection of our self-worth and self-esteem. The relationship you have with yourself is the relationship you have with life, and even the kind of clients you attract. That provoked pause for thought.
So what if you are in a low mood, what can you “do” for yourself to trigger your mood to be higher?
By doing something. I was relieved to hear Neil place less faith in the power of affirmations and positive self-talk as he does in the power of action. Telling your mirror reflection how wonderful and successful you are feels a little contrived. Your brain is already overloaded with thinking so focus on completing an action instead, however small it may be. According to Neil, 90% of your mental health is physical. Valuing yourself is based on proof. Which is why you need to do something to improve your mood.
When asked how an individual in a strong positive motivated state can help improve the mood of someone who is low and lacking confidence, he surprised me with his answer: “You can’t give another adult self-worth and self-esteem.“ The will to change needs to come from the self. We can't create that will for other people but we can support whatever actions they choose to take to achieve change.
“Self-discipline is determined through habits (something you do when you’re not paying attention).” Neil mentioned 4 key areas to develop habits in:
I didn't expect to hear "tidy" in that list - an aspect of life I wouldn't get very high marks in. And yet Neil rates it as important as the other three. Godammit.
Neil talked about the strength of our inner resistance and how quickly it triggers if it perceives the likelihood of change. The bigger the perceived change, the more your mind will resist following through. Neil recommended ways to trick your inner resistance by starting with a new habit that’s small and requires minimal effort – as if it’s unlikely to change anything. It then slips under the radar. If the habit requires a big effort to get underway, it’s likely your brain will find a way to get out of it. Once you begin an easy habit, it starts becoming part of your routine without feeling like a big sacrifice. Over time, this habit can grow and evolve as you start to enjoy its uncensored benefit.
Resilience is called upon when life deals you stress, pressure or setbacks. What do you do to recover quickly?
Neil observes that when you are faced with extreme pressure, the way you get through it is to go right back to your core. Stress can reboot you to simplify everything and do the basics brilliantly. Brilliant basics are the key to an outstanding performance.
He asked us to reflect on what our own personal basics for success are when it comes to:
Neil talked about the need to consistently skirt the edges of our comfort zone to reach our full potential. And that’s where mental fitness lies – a combination of habit, structure and discipline.
He left us with a parting nugget which has since acted as my new mantra to tackle challenges head on rather than defer to a “better time”:
“The following sentence fixes everything: the ability to do what you don’t want to do when you don’t want to do it. ”
The session finished with Neil gifting every member of the audience with a copy of his best-selling book Time To Fly. Inside each was a unique message personally handwritten by Neil. He invited us to take a book off the table at the end of the session, claiming that the universe would make us choose the book containing exactly the message we need to see at this moment in time. Lovely idea and I really did feel the message in the book I chose (or rather the book the universe wanted me to choose) was intended for me!
Thanks to the Design Enterprise Skillnet for hosting yet another high quality event.