The Importance Of Self-Awareness, Critical Thinking, And Responsibility To Being Mentally Tough
At Peak Mental Performance Coaching LLC I work with clients with many different clinical needs, but whether they are a general client, student, or athlete our goals are the same – to increase mental toughness, build confidence, and learn the skills to succeed in life. Prior blogs have hit on many of these skills. Over the past few months with the pandemic and everything else going on in the world, we have noticed three skills that are so important to mental toughness, but that are neglected by so many people in society – Self Awareness, Critical Thinking, and Responsibility. Before you start to think this is a political article I want to be explicitly clear it is not, and you going there will actually prove this blog’s point. This blog is about how in order to protect the mental health of children, parents, and even ourselves. If as a society we do not learn these skills, teach them and expect them from others, and utilize them ourselves everyone loses. These three skills continually play off of each other which is why we spend a significant amount of time with all our clients teaching our clients these skills together so they can apply them every day to grow and succeed.
According to dictionary.com Self awareness is defined as: Realization of oneself as an individual entity or personality. This means that you are your own person with different strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Within that sphere we have relationships with others that impact and influence each of these areas, and the motives behind many of our choices. Given these facts it is imperative that clients learn to be as self-aware as soon as possible continually assessing themselves on how they present themselves to the world, but also how they want to present and be a person t themselves. In sessions we use self-awareness to continually apply to a growth mindset and improvement as a person. We put an emphasis on taking in constructive feedback, being open to learning not just from those who hold similar beliefs, but those with opposite. Sometimes those with the opposite can be our best teachers. We emphasize communication and a constant questioning, not disrespectfully, but in an inquisitive curious manner. For our general clients this self awareness may involve struggles with emotion management, reactivity, or conflict with others. Learning self-awareness skills helps with understanding why we put ourselves in emotionally damaging situations. For students, it can be learning why do they shut down, quit, and get negative. Even athletes need to learn self-awareness skills to understand how they mentally respond under pressure. These are only a few small examples, but ultimately this awareness aids in problem solving. Once we realize we can solve a problem we can take control, which ultimately improves mental health.
While problem solving is one of the keys to mental toughness, it cannot be done without learning critical thinking skills. Critical thinking is defined by dictionary.com as: disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open minded, and informed by evidence. Emotion management is key because when one is too emotional he or she loses the ability to use rational thought. I spend an exceptional amount of teaching all my clients the concepts of logic, statistics, assessing, and looking for alternative explanations, motives, or answers. It involves asking questions of ourselves and to those around us. This skill in society is starting to get away from us and the concept of dialogue and asking questions, even the ‘’experts’’, or propose alternative opinions is being seen increasingly as a bad thing. This is so damaging to a person’s mental health. Part of logic does involve using evidence, not cherry picked evidence to fit your argument, but all the evidence to make an informed decision. The evidence needs to be applied in a logical manner. This doesn’t mean that you are guaranteed to succeed as statistics allows for success and failure, but increases the probability of success. There are a limitless number of examples that could be used on applying critical thinking for all my clients regardless of why they meet with me. Perhaps my favorite is when I use a game of chess with my clients to learn to analyze the situation, try to think ahead of why am I doing what I am doing, and how are they going to respond to that, and then respond to my response. This is a never ending cycle, but so much fun, because it can be applied to infinite number of situations. Imagine how much a person’s confidence grows when they see success by applying their critical thinking skills.
The final of these three skills that are essential for the growth of mental toughness is Responsibility which is defined as the state or fact of being responsible, answerable, or accountable for something within one's power, control, or management. It is so easy for people these days to avoid responsibility or displace it onto someone or something else. This is done as a way of self protection of one’s emotional state, but relying on it over the long term as a behavioral response will inevitably hinder growth. Many people will key in on the concept of control and that there are forces or things against them that they just cannot control. Imagine hearing that on a regular basis, as you basically would start to believe why bother trying cause I can’t control the situation. The reality is you cannot control things outside of you at times, but you can always control how you respond to challenges. That is the essence of responsibility, realizing you have more control than you think. If you get angry, you can say your brother made you mad which is why you hit him. If you have a learning disability you can make the excuse that you failed as a result, or as an athlete you lost because of the weather. These are just a few examples, but in each the person is not taking responsibility for his or her role in their response, the decision to own their own response and control their emotions, or ultimately their choices. I emphasize all the time with my clients the concept of choice. Everyone has challenges in life, some may be fair, some may not seem fair, but ultimately your choice of how you respond and work through these challenges is your responsibility. By not emphasizing this leads to a sense of helplessness, negativity, maybe even depression or anxiety to set in. How is this supporting mental toughness? The answer is it is not. By not allowing or teaching a person or learning yourself to focus on responsibility, a person is held back from reaching his or her optimal self. Mental toughness and responsibility go hand in hand.
This blog is just a brief review of the mental skills of self-awareness, critical thinking, and responsibility and their connection to mental toughness. They are connected and each skill interacts and overlaps with the others. Obviously the work we do is much more complex and takes more time to learn than simply reading a blog. However, it appears that as a society we are starting to get away from these skills. It is a safe assumption that the negative consequences for everyone’s mental health would be significant if we continue down this road. Given that is incumbent on all of us to return to the basics, to seek everyday to teach these to children, to expect them from others, and to apply them to ourselves. Everyone will succeed and become stronger mentally when this is our shared goal.