Mental Toughness—You Have It In You to Succeed

Mental Toughness—You Have It In You to Succeed
by Pegine Echevarria

You have to be mentally tough to reap the rewards of great achievements. It took me a long time to learn this lesson. When I began my career, I must have seen too many movies about tough bosses. I had a belief system that said in order to be effective I had to be hard-nosed and have a tough exterior. My husband still teases me about one of my first interviews with an administrative assistant. I was promoted to the position of Director of Operations and National Sales Manager and I was interviewing people for an administrative assistant position. I was scared stiff about my new responsibilities and very excited (maybe a bit cocky, too). I was interviewing someone at my home, my husband was in the other room and I thought I had found the perfect assistant. I was excited and enthusiastic, and then I remembered that I was the boss now—I needed to be tough. I made a very serious face and with all the earnestness I could muster I said, “If you cross me I will destroy you!” In the other room I heard muttering and laughter. After twenty years this is still one of my husband’s favourite stories.

Every time he shares my now famous words to someone I shudder at the thought that I treated someone that way. I must have scared her to death, because she never showed up to work. I was confused, it was my first management position and I wanted to be seen as strong, tough and wanted to be respected. What I didn’t know then and have since learned is that the qualities I wanted others to perceive in me as a leader and manager had to first be perceived, believed and acted on by me. I had to become mentally tough and not worry what others were thinking of me, just focus on what I was thinking of me.

Through my business experiences and while researching leaders on success, productivity and performance improvement, I have come to believe that in order be an effective leader and to be a success in business management and life management, a person who wants to succeed must decide to become mentally tough. What they think and visualize for themselves must make them stronger, more resilient and determined to succeed, no matter what. I am not the only one who is researching the power of mental toughness on success. The University of Western Sydney – Bankstown Campus in Australia is in the middle of significant research on how mental toughness, resiliency, and perseverance and related constructs contribute to success (or failure) in the face of adversity and challenge.

Business is a roller coaster of ups and downs, challenges and successes. How you choose to deal with those experiences determines when (or if) you will get promoted, your sales productivity and whether you will receive more responsibility, praise and monetary rewards. This happens whether you work for someone else or choose to work for yourself. Your level of mental toughness will determine the rewards you receive in business.

So, how does one develop mental toughness? There are key elements needed:

  • Acknowledge your past accomplishments, successes and triumphs relating to difficult, challenging and seemingly impossible past experiences
  • Observe how others who are going through difficult or stressful times are dealing with the situation
  • Expand your circle of influence
  • Accept that every action you take is a choice
  • Take charge of your thoughts
  • Maintain your vision and goals
  • In order to be mentally tough you will need to take the steps to be a stronger and more effective manager and leader.

Mental toughness is earned. For years I believed that if you keep on keeping on, if you keep your eye on the prize and continually seek ways to achieve your goals, you will be rewarded. I believe that and have always held onto that belief. Ten years ago, when I began Team Pegine, I knew what I wanted and went after my dream. I never anticipated how challenging the bad times would be, never imagined the trials and tribulations that I would encounter as an entrepreneur and businesswoman. The lessons I had to learn and the situations I had to face made me a better leader, a stronger businessperson and more effective team member. Looking back, I can see how tough I have become and how strong I am, others have also noticed.

On September 22, 2005 I heard: “The MED Week 2005 Entrepreneur of the Year is Pegine Echevarria founder of Team Pegine, an individual and organizational performance company.”

I was thrilled! I still am.

MEDWeek stands for “Minority Enterprise Development Week.” The First Coast Business Alliance Inc. presented the award to me, during its 22nd Annual MEDWeek Awards luncheon. MEDWeek recognizes and promotes the achievements of the Nation’s minority-owned and controlled business enterprises and their supporters.

You have overcome challenges and dealt with experiences that you thought you would never, ever be able to deal with. If you are particularly strong and mentally tough you will not even recognize that you overcame difficult situations. In order to build mental toughness you have to remember and acknowledge those moments.

Write three instances where you overcame challenges and dealt with impossible situations.

Read what you wrote.
Applaud yourself for a job well done.
Keep what you wrote and add to them as you remember situations. This book becomes your power book, your “I’m one tough cookie” verification tool.

Kick-butt action:
Maintaining Your Vision and Having Goals

You may not have a long-term life vision, but you can have a six month or one year vision. The questions to ask yourself are:

-One year from now I will have accomplished . . . (add at least three things)
– When you do accomplish those things, what will you have?
– What will you think of yourself?
– How will you talk to yourself?

Get a bunch of magazines and cut out words, pictures, articles and quotes that reflect your vision and what you will have. Put them in an album. Look at the album at least once a week.

Mark Victor Hansen, co-author of Chicken Soup of the Soul Series says you have to have “Bodacious Goals.” Make yourself dream large, seek visions of your life and find pictures and words that reflect that vision, it works!

Twenty years ago I started my album. I cut pictures of the view I would see from my house—what the family room would look like, some of the features of my dream house. When I moved into our new home five years ago my girlfriend shrieked and told me to get my album. She showed me that the house has the same architectural details, the living room was almost identical and so was the view from my patio. So many of my pictures and words have come true, so many that I realized I have to start a new one for the next twenty years of my life!

Have You?
Challenges that can make you mentally tougher:

  • Tell someone or a committee “No”
  • Request an upgrade . . . and be quiet . . . the worst they can say is no. Of course they could say yes!
  • Create an agenda and then during the meeting stay on course . . . no matter what
  • Stop talking if you talk too much. Talk if you don’t talk enough—if you aren’t sure which one you are ask someone, they will tell you
  • Invite someone you admire to lunch

Thought of the Month:

“Toughness is in the soul and spirit, not in muscles.” — Alex Karras

Magazines describe Pegine as one of the top motivational success and leadership experts with business and team building experience! Her teambuilding and motivational programs are experiential, fun and filled with content. Companies use her to motivate people, develop strong leaders & teams, and increase productivity. For more success, leadership and team building information visit her website at