Life throws challenges at us every single day. Mental strength is simply my ability to respond to those challenges in a positive and graceful manner. The highest level of mental strength is my ability to turn even the most unwanted situation (with the except of barely one or two circumstances) in a gift or an opportunity.

This letter is going to be short and crisp. Since you are here, I really would like you to take a few minutes to look at the image that comes to you with this letter. This image is a snap of a Google 'Jamboard' - if you haven't heard of this technology, please look it up - you will find it useful.

I recently had a conversation with 32 wonderful people from ages 18 upto about 30. We spoke about mental strength. First I asked about what they thought was the opposite of mental strength - or what happens to us when we don't have the required amount of mental strength.

There are some of their responses:
  • i worry about unnecessary things
  • I am not able to perform to my potential
  • I am not able to stop 'overthinking'
  • I stop enjoying even the things that are going well
  • I am not able to enjoy relationships
  • I feel desperate
  • I don't feel free
  • I am not able to be creative or innovative
  • My mind replays past and future scenarios in a loop
  • I can't take decisions

Some of them sound familiar?


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The next question was "What are the events and life situations that trigger these feelings in you?"

This is where the Jamboard came in handy. Chits began flying across the screen. The technology allowed each one to anonymously share their personal triggers on a colorful digital sticky note.

It was a beautiful sight. It felt like butterflies of thoughts and emotions flying across the screen! I believe it was quite liberating for each one to be able to put their deeply initimate fears / triggers / tripping points out there for all to see.

But, in the words of one of the participants, what was deeply 'cathartic' (something that discharges or releases pent up emotions) was that - 'as realised that I am not alone in having these feelings and thoughts!'.

I know we all know this already. We are not alone. But data has its own magic. When we actually see things for ourselves, it has has a much deeper impact on us.

You are not alone. The pain and hurt and heaviness we feel is a part of how our human brain is wired. We are all in this boat together.

After the session, I've grouped the notes and brought similar thoughts closer to each other - approximately. You will see 5 big themes emerge (the pink sticky notes).

Please take a few moments now to read the sticky notes in the image.

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We need not stay in this boat all our lives though.

This boat has big beuatiful sails. We have been so busy fighting with the waves, that we forgot to open the sail and catch the wind.

I've been following and undergoing an advancing coached program with Shirzad Chamine (www.positiveintelligence.com). His findings are based on thorough factor analysis based research with:
  • World class athletes
  • CEO's and leaders
  • 500,000 people from 50 countries

Shirzad combined statistical research, MRI brain imaging studies, and ancient wisdom to come up with a simple approach to building mental strength.

Our brains have a quality called neuroplasticity - which essential means that our brains undergo physical changes based on repeated patterns of thoughts.

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Take a look at the big things that trigger these 32 people into experiencing an entire fleet on negative emotions

People - relationships, betrayal, lack of attention
Bad news - this one is very very interesting (book recco: Stop reading the news - Rolf Dobelli)
Productivity - time management, tasks not done, feeling left out, boredom
Future - career, work, competition
Self esteem - comparison, feedback, guilt, shame

None of these are new or surprising. But what I believe is truly cathartic is to read the sticky notes carefully. God lies in the details. These are actual words used by these lovely people. It is obviously anonymous. But reading them will do something for you. It will open up a gateway.

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I would deeply recommend doing this exercise:

Take a printout or screen of this image and look at it now and then.
Circle the chits that you relate most with.
Add in a few of your own in some nearby whitespace
Discuss them with a few people who love you and you trust
Think about how this trigger impact you

I'm not proposing any solutions. In awareness and recognition lies 50% of the solution. Hence consider this 50%. Nevertheless, a very very important 50%.

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Here is a conversation starter question for you - this week ask a few people "What helps you build mental strength?"