Science of Success

5 things mentally strong people do to achieve success

Amy Morin is a bestselling author, speaker and psychotherapist who gained popularity after her viral 2015 TED Talk, "The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong."

In her three books, including her most recent release, "13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don't Do," Morin explores the practices and habits that make some people mentally tougher than others and better able to succeed personally and professionally.

"I started my life as a psychotherapist thinking I was going to teach people about mental strength based off what I learned in college," she tells CNBC Make It. But after experiencing a series of losses in her own life, Morin says that she started to study her patients to try to understand why some bounced back from pain faster than others.

"My mother passed away suddenly. I was a widow at age 26, and then my father-in-law was diagnosed with terminal cancer," she says. "[Those events] led me on this personal journey to learn more about what it means to be mentally strong."

Below, Morin breaks down five things that mentally strong people do to achieve success after a setback:

Amy Morin
Photo by Michael Hallahan
Amy Morin

1. Regulate their emotions

Everyone experiences conflict and setbacks, personally and professionally. But, rather than letting their emotions fly off the handle, Morin says mentally strong people know how regulate their feelings so that they don't do or say anything that will cost them in the long run.

"They don't let their anger cause them to do things that they later regret, or if they're sad they don't get stuck in a bad mood," she says. "[Mentally strong people] are able to control their feelings well enough that they can move forward."

2. Take positive action

Instead of letting a bad moment deter them from moving forward with a goal or project, Morin says mentally strong people know how to turn a negative into a positive in order to move ahead.

"Even if they're having a bad day or they're feeling kind of stuck in a rut they know, 'OK what can I do about this?'" she says. "They don't sit around and feel sorry for themselves or convince themselves that they shouldn't try. Instead, they identify concrete steps they can take to make their life better."

3. Regulate their thoughts

In addition to controlling their emotions, Morin says mentally strong people also know the importance of controlling their thoughts so that they don't dwell on the negative for too long.

She explains that rather than having an "overly negative or overly exaggerated" mindset, mentally strong people identify the untrue thoughts they're having "and replace them and re-frame them with more realistic statements."

Female athlete working out with battle rope during training session on field in stadium.
Thomas Barwick | DigitalVision | Getty Images
Female athlete working out with battle rope during training session on field in stadium.

4. Identify their worst habit

"Too often," Morin says, "we tend to engage in all these good habits that busy ourselves but don't necessarily get us anywhere." That's driven by the bad habits that we continue to hold on to.

She advises anyone who is looking to be mentally tougher to look at their mental strength in the same way they look at their physical strength. "Maybe you'd go to the gym to become physically stronger," she says. "But, if you really want to see results you'd also want to give up junk food. Mental strength is the same. So, if you have good habits like practicing gratitude, or you spend time with your friends, or you have hobbies that you enjoy, then that's great. But, if you also spend time feeling sorry for yourself or expecting yourself to be perfect, all those good habits won't necessarily be effective."

Morin says, mentally strong people know that it's important for them to identify their worst mental habit because once they "get rid of that, all of [their] other good habits become much more effective."

5. Practice gratitude

According to Morin, mentally strong people know the value of practicing gratitude. In fact, research shows that people who practice gratitude tend to live happier and healthier lives.

"You could start a gratitude journal," she suggests. "Studies show if you just write down three things that you're grateful for before you go to bed you'll sleep better." Or, instead of starting a journal, Morin says you can also "start a gratitude habit with your family over dinner," identifying the little things you're grateful for.

"It can be the first step in changing your mindset so that you pay more attention to the things you have, rather than all the things you don't have."

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