So what is Self-Talk and how can it help you develop mental toughness and grit?


The world in which we live today is seemingly more obsessed with success and with the desire and drive to “win”.

Perhaps it is the thought of being the best, the thought of being the most powerful or the most intelligent that is captivating and encompasses our drive for success.

But, when you dig a bit deeper, I think we know that it does not come down to one single factor, there are so many different things that make one person a success and the other not so.

Research has shown that it’s not just down to how clever you are or how much talent you, have. The key to any success is your mental toughness and grit.

So how does self-talk help you in developing a better understanding of mental toughness and grit?

It’s already a cliché: crazy people talk to themselves… but not only them. “I’m perfectly normal, the voices told me” is just a good joke and remains only that.

Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love

In fact, talking to your inner voice is a really simple way of debating your own ideas and thoughts.

So when we find ourselves in a difficult situation how many of us have started to feel the need to talk to ourselves? We need to find courage, motivation, desire, passion; they all come from within our subconscious mind, it’s that never keep up attitude.

And that’s the link between self-talk and toughness and grit.

What we say and how we say it when we talk to our inner voice determines what sort of outcome we can expect.

Researchers have proved that talking to yourself increases the performance of your brain; it doesn’t make you insane but focused.

In every area of life — from your education to your work to your health — it is your amount of grit, mental toughness, and perseverance that predicts your level of success more than any other factor we can find.

And the glue that holds this all together is by using positive thoughts not negative ones when we find ourselves talking out loud.

So let’s start by defining Grit.

According to Angela Duckworth, Founder and CEO of Character Lab, grit can be defined as:

Grit is passion and perseverance for long-term goals.

One way to think about grit is to consider what grit isn’t.

Grit isn’t talent. Grit isn’t luck. Grit isn’t how intensely, for the moment, you want something.

Instead, grit is about having what some researchers call an “ultimate concern”–a goal you care about so much that it organizes and gives meaning to almost everything you do. And grit is holding steadfast to that goal.

Even when you fall down. Even when you screw up. Even when progress toward that goal is halting or slow.

Talent and luck matter to success. But talent and luck are no guarantee of grit. And in the very long run, I think grit may matter at least as much, if not more.

You can read the whole research study here, but this is the bottom line:

So how do you Define Mental Toughness?

Of all the definitions I have read over the years both in business and in private the very best “memorable” definition of mental toughness comes from Vince Lombardi the legendary NFL football player and coach.

“Mental toughness is many different things and rather difficult to explain. Its qualities are sacrifice and self-denial. Also, most importantly, it is combined with a perfectly disciplined will that refuses to give in. It’s a state of mind – you could call it the character in action”.

“Mental Toughness is built on winning those little battles”

You can’t become committed or consistent with a weak mind. How many workouts have you missed because of your mind, not your body, told you were tired? How many reps have you missed out on because your mind said, “Nine reps is enough? Don’t worry about the tenth.” Probably thousands for most people, including myself. And 99% is due to a weakness of the mind, not the body.

—Drew Shamrock

We often think that mental toughness is about how we respond to those extreme situations that we come across in our lives. How do you cope if you suddenly lose your job? Can you keep your life together while grieving the death of a family member? What happens when a family member is diagnosed with a life threating illness?

There’s no doubt that these extreme situations test our courage, perseverance, and mental toughness … but what about those situations that happen every day?

You need to exercise mental toughness, treat it like a normal muscle within your body. It needs to be worked to grow and develop. If you haven’t pushed yourself in thousands of small ways, of course, you’ll wilt when things get really difficult.


Some simple suggestions that may help you:

When you are in the gym choose to do the tenth rep when it would be easier to just do nine.

Rather than spending an hour playing with your kids, make it two. Choose to find a new hobby or interest rather than watching TV, learn something new. Choose to ask the extra question when it would be easier to accept. Prove to yourself — in a thousand tiny ways — that you have enough guts to become someone, to take life head-on.

Mental toughness is built through small wins. It’s the individual choices that we make on a daily basis that build our “mental toughness muscle.” We all want mental strength, but you can’t think your way to it. It’s your physical actions that prove your mental fortitude.

How do develop mental toughness and grit?

Search the internet and you will find many exercises that can help you develop mental strength. To help you I have chosen my top 5 to get you started:

Consider Your Core Beliefs

All of us over time have developed core beliefs about ourselves, our own DNA, our lives and the world we live in.

Our core beliefs develop over time and are largely dependent upon our past experiences. Whether you’re aware of your core beliefs or not, they influence your thoughts, your behaviour and emotions, and, to a degree influence your mental toughness and grit.

Sometimes, core beliefs are inaccurate and unproductive. For example, if you believe that you’ll never achieve your aspirations or goals in life, you may be less apt at handling situations that spring every day in a normal working day.

And inadvertently, you may not be in a positive state of mind to grab those opportunities that may come your way.

Therefore, your core beliefs may become a self-fulfilling prophecy. That’s were self-talk plays such a vital role in managing your brain and what you are feeding it- Positive or Negative thoughts.

Identify and evaluate your core beliefs. Look for beliefs that are black and white, and then find ways to challenge that rule. Very few things in life are “always” or “never” true.

Modifying core beliefs requires purposeful intention and hard work, but it can change the entire course of your life.

This is where grit comes into play, it’s about challenging your life, look for alternatives to why something cannot be done, cast your mind back let’s say 20 years or even 10 years, think how the world has evolved, changed, adapted.

If you want to learn more then read this great article by Dr Bill Tollefson, President of Tollefson Enterprises. Dr Bill Tollefson Ph.D., M.A., CMLC has over 43 years of experience in the mental health, addictions, trauma and coaching fields providing coaching, training and consulting services.

He provides custom life, trauma and holistic addiction recovery coaching services to individuals, and training for addiction, coaching and mental health professionals. His #1 goal is to inspire individuals to achieve and accomplish whatever you want out of life.

Use Your Mental Energy Wisely

Worry is the quickest way to use up your brain power. Worrying about things those things you can’t control drains mental energy quickly. The more time you spend prodding over things and focusing on negative problems that you can’t solve, the less energy you’ll have leftover for creative endeavours’.

For example, you may be happy with your current role but would like to build a future working for yourself or adding a few hundred dollars/pounds extra a month into your bank balance.

Procrastination is the biggest killer of dreams and aspirations. Rather than sitting and worrying about what’s possible or not, focus on the positive aspects of your dreams not the negative.

Don’t just accept that it will always be like this, all great business, blogs, websites started in someone’s mind. You can, however, choose to change your situation. Focus on what is only within your control.

Save your mental energy for productive tasks, such as solving problems or setting goals. When your thoughts aren’t productive, make a conscious effort to shift your mental energy to more helpful topics. The more you practice expending your mental energy wisely, the more it will become a habit.

Replace Negative Thoughts with Productive Thoughts

Although most of us don’t spend time thinking about our thoughts, increasing your awareness of your thinking habits proves useful in building resilience.

Exaggerated, negative thoughts, such as, “I can’t ever do anything right,” hold you back from reaching your full potential. Catch your negative thoughts before they spiral out of control and influence your behaviour.

Identify and replace overly negative thoughts with thoughts that are more productive. Productive thoughts don’t need to be extremely positive but should be realistic.

A more balanced thought maybe, “I have some weaknesses, but I also have plenty of strengths.” Changing your thoughts requires constant monitoring, but the process can be instrumental in helping you become your best self.

Practice Tolerating Discomfort

Being mentally strong doesn’t mean you don’t experience or have feelings. In fact, mental strength requires you to become acutely aware of your emotions/feelings so you can make the best choice about how to respond. Mental strength is about accepting your feelings without being controlled by them.

Mental strength also involves an understanding of when it makes sense to behave contrary to your emotions.

For example, if you experience anxiety that prevents you from trying new things or accepting new opportunities, step out of your comfort zone continue to challenge yourself.  Learn to tolerate uncomfortable emotions, it takes practice and grit, but it becomes easier as your confidence grows.

Practice behaving like the person you’d like to become. Instead of saying, “I wish I could be more positive,” choose to behave in a more positive manner, whether you feel like it or not.

Some discomfort is often necessary for greater gain and tolerating that discomfort will help make your vision a reality, one small step at a time.

Write Down and Reflect on Your Progress Daily

Today’s busy world, we all complain that we don’t have enough time to think about ourselves.

We all moan that modern life doesn’t lend itself to making much time available for quiet reflection. Create time to reflect upon your progress toward developing mental strength.

If you find an excuse to not do something, you will never do it.

Open a journal; it’s a brand New Year, 2018, start one today, practice writing down your highs and lows.

At the end of each day, ask yourself what you’ve learned about your thoughts, emotions and behaviour. Consider what you hope to improve upon or accomplish tomorrow.

Developing mental strength is a work in progress. There is always room for improvement, and at times this will seem more difficult than at other times.

Reflecting on your progress can reinforce your ability to reach your definition of success while living according to your values.


Each of us has a set of messages that play over and over in our minds.  This internal dialogue, or personal commentary, frames our reactions to life and its circumstances.

Too often, the pattern of self-talk we’ve developed is negative.  We remember the negative things we were told as children by our parents, siblings, or teachers.

We remember the negative reactions from other children that diminished how we felt about ourselves.  Throughout the years, these messages have played over and over in our minds, fueling our feelings of anger, fear, guilt, and hopelessness.

This, in turn, affects the way we see mental toughness and grit. If we continue to fill our minds with negative thoughts is there no wonder that we end up seeing life in a negative way.

We should try and reverse our thought process when having these conversations within our own mind, it’s about giving positive messages to our brain to help us during everyday events.

It’s not about handling major events, like a bereavement in the family, it’s about winning those little battles every day that makes us who we are, and if we find true meaning in self-talk, this will lead us to understand how mental toughness and grit can be built on and developed.

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