Do's and Don'ts of Mental Toughness

February 23, 2018
Kaitlynn Ely

Learning how to manage stress and avoid negativity can have a tremendous impact on your everyday outlook — and your personal and professional success.

When faced with an overwhelming or stressful situation, it’s not uncommon to adopt a negative outlook. Whether you’re preparing for a particularly difficult patient, studying for board certification or training for a marathon, regular external pressures take a toll on your mental health. Learning how to manage these stresses successfully, however, can have a tremendous impact on your everyday outlook.

One way to reduce stress is to steer clear of negative thoughts you know will only drag you down. Many professionals tout the benefits of practicing mindfulness at work, which is said to improve focus and the ability to manage stress. It all begins with being more aware of your thoughts and actions and how they contribute to your overall mood. You’re a veterinary professional, and you’re human, so you’re no stranger to stress, but if you want to become mentally tougher, follow these do’s and don’ts.


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DON’T Compare Yourself With Others

This is easier said than done, but it’s absolutely doable. It is discouraging to see other people achieve their goals before you achieve yours, but mentally tough people can see past their own disappointment and jealousy in order to celebrate the success of others. Don’t worry! The time will come when you will be the one getting recognized for everything you offer in your job or to your family or community.

Achieving mental toughness takes training. Start by writing down what success means to you, what you’ve already done to achieve success and what steps you plan to take to achieve new successes. When you’re confident in your own goals, you’ll stop resenting other people for reaching theirs.

DON’T Play It Safe

Everyone must take some risks to succeed in their career, but it’s important that you take the right risks. Successful innovators like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates listened to their hearts and their heads when growing their empires. To determine whether a tough decision is the right one to make, start by analyzing its risks and benefits so you’re fully informed before taking action. While executing risks can be exhausting, the outcome of seeing your dream become a reality is extremely rewarding. Conversely, you must also accept the inevitability of adversity and be prepared that things might not always go according to plan.

DO Admit Failures or Mistakes

Making mistakes paves the way for success. Yet many of us are so obsessed with doing everything right that we end up overwhelming ourselves. Learning from mistakes will help to enhance your skills, and often it’s when you’re feeling most frustrated that you begin to look outside the box. Don’t be afraid to admit when you mess up — being perfect is boring and impossible. You’ll find that some of your greatest personal insights are born in the wake of your worst moments. Resilience allows you to overcome obstacles and create a mindset where you can easily accept flaws.

DO Embrace Your Strengths — and Your Weaknesses

We have a tendency to focus on our strengths because they require the least amount of time and effort to perfect. Although having a positive outlook is an important part of being mentally tough, limiting yourself to the few skills you’ve mastered prohibits you from fine-tuning your weaknesses and morphing them into strengths.

DON’T Put Others Down

Focusing on the negative attributes of others brings negativity into your own life. Make it a habit to help coworkers and friends — not bring them down or revel in their misfortunes. If you talk about your colleagues behind their backs, you will lose their trust. How can you have a healthy partnership if you praise yourself but not your peers?

Know that achieving complete mental toughness won’t happen overnight. Start the process by making note of negative situations and thoughts that occur throughout your day and reframe your response to include at least one of the do’s or don’ts from above.