In reply to the Dark Side of Mental Toughness, Rick sent this in…
“Well I don’t think being stubborn to the point of stupidity has anything to do with mental toughness, Insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.”
I disagree. Let me show you why…
Yesterday, I shared comments from Craig about pushing through on exercise and hurting his shoulder.
Was he insane to do so? Seems too strong of a word here for me.
What is the difference between stupidly stubbornly pushing through and pushing through with mental toughness?
Is it the outcome only?
Is it stupid stubbornness just because he hurt himself?
Would he be smart and sane if he had pushed without hurting himself and succeeding in setting a record in the gym?
Because it is the pushing through that very often leads to progress. I’d say it is a sane response because sometimes this has worked out very well!
I still occasionally hurt myself in the gym. It’s rare but it still happens from time to time. Sometimes it’s a freak accident. Other times it is because I am being tough/stubborn and going for something my body tells me not to.
The key point, at least in the latter case, is that I am overriding the signals with my mind, with my willpower.
Here’s the thing. Most of the time when I push through the signals and do this…I don’t get hurt.
If Craig doesn’t learn from this injury and pushes through to injury in the future that’s unfortunate. Better to learn and do better next time.
But can anyone positively say they’ve only ever had to learn any lesson one time? I sure can’t. Sometimes indeed, I do feel very stupid. But that’s in hindsight.
What is stupidity in hindsight is often just mental toughness in foresight!
Again I ask, where do you draw the line?
Do we call it stupid stubbornness if you hurt yourself?
And then we call it being mentally tough, giving 110%, and congratulate you if you don’t?
Now let’s zoom out to the larger and longer time-frame example of diets that don’t work. Same problem. Where do you draw the line?
Is it after one month of something not working? Is it three months? Is it six months? A year?
If something works (or you simply believe that it works) then you have to work at it. One very real possibility, if it is not working, is that you’re not trying hard enough. Or haven’t given it enough time to work.
So then doubling down is good. Going longer is good. Being stubborn about what you’re working at can be useful.
Another possibility is that you’re doing the method wrong. Or it’s not suited to you as an individual. Or it just plain doesn’t work.
So then doubling down is bad. Going longer is bad. Being stubborn hurts.
Again, do we only look to the outcome to decide if it was stupid stubbornness or well-placed mental toughness?
Personally, I don’t see any clear place to draw this line. Therefore, I say that mental toughness/willpower/stubbornness, whatever you want to call it, is a beneficial trait…one that can also get you in trouble.
Learn to use it properly as best you can…in combination with other traits that balance it out.