Mental agility

Turn trials into triumph

Seismic-shifting events happening right now that are changing many lives and impacting our mental agility. The question is, are you able to turn the obstacles you’re facing into favourable circumstances? Or are you only seeing the negative, letting shit overwhelm you and beat you down? Regardless of what 2020 has thrown our way so far, there will always be hardships in life and having the mental agility to find the opportunity in every crisis will enable you to succeed.

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” Marcus Aurelius

What is Mental Agility: Speed Versus Skill

But what does it mean to be mentally agile? Let’s look at it from the view of two very different types of race-car drivers:

  • Some people are drag racers, where speed is their primary goal. Their mission is to get from point A to point B as fast as possible. They position the car straight ahead and put the pedal to the metal. If they lose, it means they just need to go quicker next time. Many people go through life like this – moving from one goal to the next, always looking ahead and never looking back or deviating from the narrow path. The problem here is that one little deviation – an obstacle in the road, an unexpected turn, a puddle – can throw the driver off-track.
  • Other people are Formula 1 drivers, where agility is required. These racers prepare, practice and study. Whether they win or lose, they reflect on their past races, figure what worked and what didn’t, and apply it to the next race. They’ve put in years of work to understand their craft, and require mental acuity to stay sharp lap after lap, race after race. They must also stop and turn on a dime, anticipate obstacles, and determine a strategy to overcome them. Sure, being fast helps, but they also need reflexes, coordination, balance, focus and stamina.

Achieving Mental Agility: Become an Olympic Thinker

Do you race through life only to have hardship throw you off-track? Have you ever done something without thinking about why you did it, or felt a particular emotion but don’t know why? If so, you need to stop letting the primal emotions of your reptilian brain control your life and learn how to be mentally agile. Knee-jerk reactions worked for our ancestors when they were busy surviving sabre-tooth tigers, but our brains, and our world, have evolved a little since then. We’re not saying you should become a Formula 1 driver, but it might not hurt to think like one. So how do you get started?

Mental agility - focus

“A programmable mind embraces mental agility, to practice ‘de-learning’ and ‘relearning’ all the time.” – Pearl Zhu

“Focusing exclusively on what is in our power magnifies and enhances our power.” – Ryan Holiday

  1. Don’t speed through life. Be mindful and take a minute to enjoy the moment, even if that moment is stressful. Appreciate what you have and get comfortable being uncomfortable.
  2. Don’t react with a hammer. When you’re in a stressful situation, put aside your initial gut feelings and reaction instead of jumping to conclusions. Taking one slow breath between your initial emotional reaction and your behavioural response will give you power and control in times of stress…that’s why those Buddhists always fucking smile!
  3. Get cozy with uncertainty. Life is not perfect, and no-one ever travels directly from point A to point B without several roadblocks thrown in their way. Accept you don’t always have control and set realistic expectations. Be aware of how you may reinforce your narrative for life when things don’t go your way.
  4. Stop telling everyone ELSE what to do. Stay open-minded and willing to listen to other opinions. And if someone is pissing you off, remember that you can’t change other people, but you can change your reaction to them.
  5. Try new things to solve old problems. According to Albert Einstein, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results. If you find certain things in your life (getting fired, ruined relationships) keep repeating themselves, investigate how you might do something differently.
  6. Don’t let feelings rule the day. Feelings are just a mindset, and you have the power to change them. Be aware of how you may be reinforcing negative patterns in your life through the interaction of your thoughts, emotions and behaviours.
  7. Be your best self. Dream about who you want to be when you “grow up,” and when you wake up the next morning, act like the future you. What are you waiting for?
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What tests us makes us who we are. Being mentally agile helps you turn a bad situation on its head by finding the opportunity it presents. Adopting this attitude can help you deal with any stressors, from the seemingly mundane to extreme life-changing events. Mental agility helps you make better decisions, enhances your performance, and makes you more effective at home and work. If you’re worried that you’re not as mentally agile as you’d like to be, don’t: it can be taught. Our mission is to equip men with the tools, resources and skills they need to increase their capacity to cope with stress in their lives.

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