Nik Wallenda, the famous high-wire stuntman, wowed the world on June 23, 2013, when he walked 1,500 feet across the Little River Gorge near the Grand Canyon, balancing on a 2-inch wire. He confronted 48 mph winds, made more fearful by the fact that he was wearing absolutely no safety equipment.
Afterwards, Wallenda told reporters and fans that "mental toughness" is what got him through those challenging 23 minutes.
Mental toughness, you'll be glad to know, is something one can learn. In fact, I teach mental toughness strategies to athletes, professional sports coaches, and business executives, and it's the subject of my last two bestsellers, 10-Minute Toughness and Executive Toughness.
Mental toughness strategies can help you perform at your peak in impossibly demanding situations that require follow-through, focus, and optimism, whether it's at home or at work.
Life can feel like a tightrope walk sometimes. Let's look at seven ways Nik Wallenda applied mental toughness strategies in his work, and how you can use the same practical mental toughness strategies in your life.
1. Know yourself and what's important to you.
Growing up in the famous "Flying Wallendas" family, Nik Wallenda has known who he is and where his path would lead since he was a young performer. What about you? Be able to define your self-image, including your purpose and priorities. That's the first mental toughness principle on which all others are built.
2. Create a mental reel of your challenge.
Nik Wallenda and his team spent four years planning his stunt and made numerous trips to the "Little Grand Canyon," as it's called, to measure everything from temperature changes to wind speed. That way he had a detailed vision of what was to occur. To accomplish a major goal, create a 30-second video in your head that stars you doing exactly what you want to do. Make it as detailed as possible and replay it in your mind at least once a day.
3. Be accountable to yourself.
Accountability is a necessary trait for success. Nik Wallenda couldn't slack off when it came to his fitness, his readiness, or details such as how well he tied his cable. The same is true for you. If you're not doing your best and following through on tasks that get you closer to your goal, then you're only cheating yourself. The difference between wanting to win and actually winning is accountability and follow-through. Identify three smaller goals to finish every day that will help you achieve your larger end goal.
4. Strive to outdo yourself on a regular basis.
Nik Wallenda is always coming up with a stunt that's more ambitious than the previous one. Prior to his Little River Gorge walk, he walked across Niagara Falls. For that stunt, he wore a safety harness; this time he did not. What would you like to improve in your work or life? For 15 full seconds every day, look in the mirror and evaluate your personal progress and effort. I call this "15 seconds of accountability." Identify areas where you can do better, and keep a written log of your progress.
5. Keep your eyes on the wire.
For Nik Wallenda, losing his focus for even one second could have cost him his life. One of the fundamentals of mental toughness is to have unwavering focus. You can develop focus by knowing and practicing what you're going to say before you say it. Create and memorize scripts for key interactions to help you maintain calm and focus. These scripts build confidence and reduce the anxiety that often gets in the way of consistently high performance.
6. Learn how to maintain a positive outlook.
Like all athletes and peak performers, Nik Wallenda understands that staying positive is essential for mastering a difficult task. Every time you think about a problem, replace that thought with solution-focused thinking instead. Another optimism technique is to acknowledge, daily, something you did well. Finally, ask yourself, “What's one thing I can do differently to make this better?” When you answer that question instead of thinking about problems, you demonstrate mental toughness.
7. Be a model of discipline.
Nik Wallenda has a family legacy to uphold, and that's a factor that keeps him disciplined. But you can create the same self-motivation by internalizing someone you admire, and keeping him or her in your mind’s eye as your own personal mental coach to motivate you. When you set your mind to do something, find a way to get it done, no matter what. Limit temptation that gnaws away at your discipline. Practice being disciplined so that it will eventually get easy and feel natural.