Typically I wouldn’t think it is an optimal use of time and energy telling people what not to do—rather, tell them what they should do. If you want to get rid of a negative behavior, replace it with positive behavior. I find, especially as a parent, specificity is more effective. But a new book was just released entitled 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do by Amy Morin, and I was curious about what behaviors Ms. Morin, a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist would say are detrimental to being mentally tough.

As it turns out, I think she is on to something. Morin, who lost her mother, husband and father-in-law in the span of a few months, came to learn that mental strength is not about acting tough or ignoring your feelings, but learning how to regulate your thoughts and manage your emotions—despite your circumstances.

Here are the poor practices that made her list with a Kravology commentary about their uniquely unhelpful nature.

Readers, DO NOT:

  1. Waste time feeling sorry for yourself: Nothing productive has ever resulted from self pity. And too much of it leads to the “victim mentality” where nothing is ever your fault, and you lack the power to do anything to change your circumstance.
  2. Give away your power: Don’t let others exert control over you or your emotions. Other people don’t make you mad/sad/angry—you are in control of how you choose to react to the world around you.
  3. Shy away from change: If your default mode is to resist change, how can you improve and adapt? The world is ever changing. Being flexible prevents you from becoming irrelevant. If change is difficult for you, start by making small changes that are beneficial and measurable. In the end, you will soon find that change is not so intimidating – particularly when you are driving the process.
  4. Focus on things you can’t control: Why spend your time getting twisted up by issues entirely out of your control? It is simply unproductive. The key here is recognizing (sooner rather than later) what those ‘issues’ are – then conduct an honest assessment about whether something is or is not something you can influence: traffic and weather = no; your own attitude = yes.
  5. Worry about pleasing everyone: You can’t make everyone happy all of the time. Sometimes difficult decisions must be made. Some of your actions may upset people—but if feel you are making the right decision, don’t shy away from it because it is unpopular.
  6. Fear making calculated risks: A calculated risk is not a frivolous risk. When you take a calculated risk, you are betting on yourself and your judgment – and you are fully aware of what is at stake and how to mitigate risks.
  7. Dwell on the past: This requires maturity and forgiveness. Some people have endured terrible hardships, but dwelling on these things just makes you a prisoner of the past. Realize that you cannot change the past and that you must live in the present. Get the help you need to move on and make the most of your life.
  8. Make the same mistakes over and over: Don’t be so obstinate that you are unwilling to recognize your own mistakes and learn from them rather than repeat them. If something doesn’t work—stop doing it! This is not quitting, it’s just finding another way.
  9. Resent other people’s success: This reminded me of the quote, “Envy is the root of all unhappiness.” Mentally tough people can both accept and celebrate the success of others. There are lessons to learn from other people’s success that a jealous person will never uncover.
  10. Give up after your first failure: This seems like a uniquely adult affliction. After all, would any of us ever have learned to walk if we quit trying the first time we fell? This mindset is paralyzing. Get some perspective: Who on earth expects to live their life succeeding at everything they do the first time? Michael Jordan, Walt Disney, Stephen Spielberg, and J.K. Rowling are great examples of people who triumphed after initial failures.
  11. Fear being alone: Mentally tough people can enjoy solitude and find it is productive. Don’t be dependent upon others for constant companionship and entertainment.
  12. Think the world owes you anything: A feeling of entitlement won’t lead to a life of accomplishment—just the opposite. Success is earned not bestowed.
  13. Expect immediate results: I fear the next generation is going to struggle with this one – much more so than their elders. Our culture is not particularly patient and our way of life often no longer requires this. But real, lasting success takes work and effort over time. Persistence pays off.

I like that Morin and her book stand apart in the ‘self help’ world by telling you what to stop doing. There are all kinds of ‘best practices’ you can find on the shelves—in fact entire sections of book stores are dedicated to them. But Morin uniquely underscores that mentally tough people not only make good choices, but also rid themselves of destructive practices. “When you give up the things that are holding you back, you can accomplish great feats.” -Amy Morin

For related content on this topic, check out these Kravology articles you may have missed:

Controlling an Autonomic Reflex to Defeat Acute Stress by John Wilson

Positive Self Talk: A B-line to Success by CJ Kirk

Give Kids an Early Boost in Life by Kerry Kirk

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