Why We Need to be Mentally Tough


Mental toughness is the ability to maintain our focus despite difficulties. It typically  manifests as resilience, commitment, determination and an inner strength that enables us to persist when times are tough or, when life knocks us off our feet. It’s not something we are born with, it’s a learned skill which we can develop.

Roger Federer is a great example of someone who is mentally tough. Not just because he ranks as the number 1 tennis player in the world, or because he is older than most tennis players, he demonstrates mental toughness by being gracious under fire, and in the way he maintains his focus. When playing tennis Roger usually appears calm and relaxed but during the 2018 Australian Open grand final, he lost his cool during the fourth set and instead of getting angry as many players do, he did something unprecedented. He ran off the court between sets and changed his clothes. At the time I wondered if changing clothes was a way for him to change his mindset, and whether it was or not, he came back onto the court a different man and cruised on to win his sixth Australian Open.

During the interview following  that win Roger said that during the fourth set he lost control of his thoughts and his mind was all over the place. Once he regained control of his thoughts he went on to win the set and match quite easily.

What makes a person mentally tough?

Researchers who have studied elite athletes concluded that mental toughness results from grit, which is defined as determination and commitment to a goal. And while I don’t dispute that I feel there is more to it than that. To me the level of determination that Roger displayed comes from motivation, from doing something that you love. And it’s a well known fact that Roger Federer loves tennis. So, being motivated or having a compelling reason, is what provides us with the determination to persist when the going gets tough. Motivation is the fuel that drives us, that enables us to turn obstacles into something meaningful.

Rosie Batty, the domestic violence campaigner, became a campaigner for battered women following the death of her son, who was killed by his father. Her motivation, most likely, was a way to survive by making something good come from this tragedy. In doing so she demonstrated immense compassion and mental toughness.

Mental strength is developed by using whatever tools we can to help us move forward. Our ‘why’ is what compels us to persist even during tough times.

Mental toughness always starts with a decision to change yourself

There is a video doing the rounds on Facebook showing Roger Federer, as a young player, chucking tantrums on the court. He says that he realised one day that wasn’t who he wanted to be, and he made the decision to change. Novak Djokovic, another great tennis player, made the same choice.

The ability to be able to change the way we think and act, sometimes within a very short span of time as Roger Federer did, is what separates people who survive and thrive from those who struggle through life.

We need to: make it okay to try and fail; look for the good in difficult situations; act on our strengths rather than criticising or complaining, this way we not only change our own lives, we become positive role models for the people around us.

When our mind is filled with positive thoughts, plans for what we are going to do next, we don’t have the mental space for doubts. Instead of looking at what’s missing in your life, fill your mind with thoughts of things you love. Reflect on what’s good about your life, what you are grateful for and looking forward to. These thoughts are the stepping stones to becoming mentally strong.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross said, “People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within.”




How a Smile Can Change Your Life


CamMi Pham grew up in Vietnam in a very wealthy family, her life was good until her father was accused of participating in a financial scam and he was served with a lawsuit. Years later CamMi’s father was cleared of all charges but during that time the family lost their money and even worse were ostracised by their friends.

CamMi’s parents decided to move to Canada  a transition that CamMi found incredibly hard. She didn’t speak the language. The kids at school made fun of her and wanted nothing to do with her. She didn’t want to burden her parents so she kept her feelings to herself. She felt that no-one wanted her until one day a stranger looked her in the eyes and smiled. It was the first time that someone had smiled at her in a long time and it is something that she says she will never forget. Cami says, “That moment changed my life. From that day on, I promised myself I would always smile and treat everyone I met like they were family”.

109 volunteers participated in a study on the benefits of smiling and this was followed up by a poll on 1000 adults. They used an electromagnetic brain scan machine and heart rate monitor to measure brain and heart activity to measure what boosted particpants moods.

They found that a child’s smile created the same level of stimulation as one would get from eating 2000 chocolate bars, or receiving a large amount of cash (in excess of $10,000).

They also found that smiling created a short term high better than sex, shopping and chocolate.

Now all smiling benefits both the giver and the receiver but it seems that some people’s smiles are more valuable to us. Smiles from friends and people we love rate higher than a smile from a stranger, as do smiles from people we admire.

We urge you to smile at everyone you meet today, and not just a quick upturn of the lips. Where possible genuinely look into the eyes of a stranger and share a genuine smile. Look into the eyes of your children, family, friends and smile, these are the people we often overlook. You just don’t know what a difference that smile could make.

Here are some of the benefits you can gain from smiling more, you’ll find more on our Share a Smile campaign page.

Smiling is as stimulating to your brain as receiving a large amount of cash

Smiling is an antidepressant.

Smililng reduces sress

Smiling makes you approachable

Smiling makes you happier

Look up our campaign and try it for yourself and share your positive stories with us.