17 Feb How to Build Mental Toughness and Have Fun While Doing It

How to Build Mental Toughness and Have Fun While Doing It

When most people think of the term “mentally tough,” images of stone-faced dispassionate men and women serving as Army Rangers, Navy SEALs or Green Berets grinding through a tough moment seem to come to mind. I’ve trained with and competed against some of these individuals, and in most cases this is the farthest thing from the truth!

In reality, individuals who possess mental toughness tend to have an incredible sense of humor. They care deeply about others and their ability to laugh through tough times is simply a reflection of their true mental state. It is this mental state that is tough.

The more you put yourself in this mental state, the more permanent it becomes. It is a tool that can be used to endure pain, control self-discipline, accept challenges, venture into the unknown and enjoy life as it is presented – no matter what is presented!

Our ability to build and enhance these characteristics within ourselves will ultimately determine the level of our mental toughness.

One of our goals at Camp Susquehannock is to send children home walking a little taller, smiling a bit brighter, laughing with life and carrying with them a sense of humor. If they return home doing this you know they have built some mental toughness.

So… how do you build mental toughness and have fun while doing it?

First, as our Director of Operations Trish Kittredge says, you need to “embrace the suck.”

Can I say that? Oh well, I just did!

That’s right, you need to look forward to those moments you envision will be lousy. You need to be openly proud of the fact that you are about to take on and endure a challenge. When you do this, you take the energy right out of the situation and you own it. It becomes yours.

We do this on a daily basis at Susquehannock: campers play new sports and try new things every single day. We get them excited to do it before they even begin. This gets them looking forward to things they may otherwise think are intimidating and no fun.

Second, you must have the mindset that “taking the path of least resistance” is a non-starter. Next time you are working on your “to do list,” move the most challenging tasks to the top of the list. Tackle the stuff you hate to do right off the bat: work out as soon as you wake up, before you even eat breakfast … park as far as you can from the entrance of the grocery store, even if it’s raining … go for a run or a walk when it is raining or cold, instead of sitting inside and waiting for the next sunny day.

I had someone ask me about the indoor gymnasium on campus. I told them we don’t have one.
They went on to ask: “What do you do when it rains?”
I told them we go out in the rain and play. We get muddy. We laugh. We even swim in the lake!
Taking the path of least resistance is not an option.

Finally, you need to be able to laugh in moments when you may otherwise be discouraged. You need to laugh when things aren’t going your way or when things are about to get really hard.

I call this laughing with life

Laugh within the moment. Laugh within the situation you are about to get into.

We had a weekend in October when a group of students from inner city Philadelphia visited Susquehannock to experience the unknown, tackle new challenges and work through a variety of team-building exercises. It was scary for these kids.

They were about to experience 30 degree nights in unheated cabins, lukewarm showers and new challenges while battling fatigue far away from home. They were able to get through it to have an experience they will never forget because our staff had them laughing when they arrived, laughing prior to the events and laughing through the experience. They were laughing with life!

And here’s the best part…
It was raining and 40 degrees on the final day; two of our staff members decided it would be fun to swim in the lake, so they put on their bathing suits and headed to the Waterfront. Now, they didn’t just jump in and get right back out – they went off the diving board, then got out and went down the slide, and then off the diving board again!

The visiting campers watched this and cheered – they thought it was great! But do you know what these two polar bears were doing prior to jumping in the lake …while they were swimming in the lake …while they were freezing trying to dry off?

You guessed it…
They were laughing with life!

At Camp Susquehannock we learn to laugh with life – have a great day!

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