We need mental toughness today now more than ever, not just to survive but to flourish.
Self-monitoring is a kind of self-awareness that develops mental toughness and resilience.
What is mental toughness?
According to Mental Toughness Inc., “Mental toughness is the ability to resist, manage and overcome doubts, worries, concerns and circumstances that prevent you from succeeding, or excelling at a task or towards an objective or a performance outcome that you set out to achieve.”
Developing mental toughness requires self-monitoring and self-awareness, allowing us to take charge of our lives.
What is self-monitoring?
According to the NIH.gov, “Self-monitoring refers to the ability to notice our own actions, curiosity to examine the effects of those actions, and willingness to use those observations to improve behavior and thinking in the future. Self-monitoring allows for the early recognition of cognitive biases, technical errors, and emotional reactions and may facilitate self-correction and development of therapeutic relationships.”
It’s simple: Self-monitoring is paying close attention to your behavior and responding appropriately to what is happening around you.
Self-monitoring can be easy, like when you’re dining at a nice restaurant with linen tablecloths and fine china, you naturally keep your voice down and let your behavior mirror the elegant environment.
Or it can be on the other end of the spectrum, like when you’re loud and boisterous at an amusement park with your friends! You laugh, scream, and talk loudly.
In both these examples, you gather information from the environment about what is and isn’t appropriate or acceptable to guide your behavior.
But self-monitoring isn’t always that easy. For example, let’s say you’re having a heated argument with a coworker. You might feel like yelling at them and unleashing your frustrations, but because of self-monitoring, you reason with yourself and realize that yelling and being rude won’t solve anything and will do more damage than good. So you take a few deep breaths, suck it up, exert control to remain calm, and keep your voice steady, perhaps even having a pleasant expression during the conversation.
When you take charge of your behavior through self-monitoring, you’re demonstrating mental toughness; you’re in charge of your emotions instead of your feelings controlling you.
It’s tough because you can be in a situation where self-monitoring goes against your natural instincts, but you rely on your mental toughness to respond wisely instead of foolishly.
Strategies for strengthening the skill of self-monitoring.
1. Practice using your observational skills to be more self-aware.
Practice being more self-aware by listening and observing your interactions and conversations.
Observe your surroundings and the people around you; gather information to begin self-monitoring your behavior to respond appropriately and in a way that supports your goals and who you are as a person.
2. Put space between you and the situation to process what’s being said or done.
Step away. Get out of the thick of things. You want to respond intentionally instead of reacting mindlessly or emotionally in a way that’s inappropriate or makes things worse.
In some emotionally-charged situations, it’s easy to want to react strongly, perhaps even overreact. So practice self-monitoring by stepping away momentarily. Take time to calm down, evaluate the situation, and form a response or plan of action.
3. Observe yourself in various social situations.
How do you behave in various social settings? Who are you at work, with friends, in meetings, at the gym, or in any other one of a hundred different social settings? How do you act, talk, and behave? And does your behavior support and reflect the kind of person you want to be or should be in those environments?
Know yourself. Observe your attitudes and patterns of behavior. Notice how people respond to you. Evaluate what you can do to improve and be more effective and successful. Practice self-monitoring to unlock your best life through mental toughness.
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