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Things Mentally and Emotionally Strong People Do

| June 18, 2019

by Jim Bruce

and Don’t Do

Over the past several weeks, I have received, and found, a growing number of lists of things mentally and emotionally strong people do and don’t do. At this point, I have six lists containing more than 60 different recommended behaviors or habits that the reader is encouraged to engage. Some of these fall into the category of “I know that!,” maybe with the caveat “But, I’ve stopped doing it (and should begin to again).” All of the lists point out that being mentally and emotionally strong and stable is not about eliminating or avoiding your feelings but rather it’s about how resilient you are in the face of stressful factors and emotions in the long term.
Here are seven that caught my attention:

  1. They are accountable.Mentally and emotionally strong people know that they have to take full accountability for what’s happening in their lives. While it might be easier to blame someone else, they take feedback to learn and to improve. They complain less and know that to change the situation, they have to do something about it. 
  2. They don’t take other people’s behavior personally.2  It’s easy to feel unappreciated and unwanted when others don’t communicate and connect as you expect. It’s too easy to internalize this behavior as an indication of your worth. In all likelihood, this is not about you. It’s likely the way that person reacts to everyone. We all are so caught up in our own world that we don’t take the time to observe what’s going on around us and to connect with others. Being able to connect with others is a valuable strength. If you have it, put it to use. If you don’t, it’s worth working on.  
  3. They don’t dwell on their mistakes.3  “Mentally tough people know that where you focus your attention determines your emotional state.” When you fix your focus on your problems you create and prolong negative emotions and stress. If instead, you focus on taking actions that will better your state, produce positive emotion and improves your performance. Distance yourself from your mistakes, but don’t forget them, learn from them. 
  4. They embrace their flaws.4  Mentally and emotionally strong people know they are not perfect and embrace it. In doing so it enables them to keep growing, learning, and developing themselves. They recognize that they don’t know everything and openly seek out opportunities to continue their learning.
  5. They ask themselves the right questions.5  “What questions are you asking yourself on a regular basis? Are they helping you better understand your purpose? Or, do they have your mind spinning in circles?” Angel Chernoff suggests that the questions you regularly ask yourself act as guideposts and have a strong influence on the direction you take. So, she argues, stop looking so much on the outside, and look more on the inside. She suggests five simple questions to start with:
  • Who am I?
  • What do I need?
  • How do I function best?
  • What do I have to give?
  • What is the next step for me?


Questions such as these will “help you stay true to your principles, pursue your desires, grow through adversity, and add value to the world around you.”

  1. They don’t try to escape or shy away from change.2,6  No matter how much we might want otherwise, some things are going to change. It may have to do with our job and the work we do in that job, it may be in our family life, etc. Some change you may actually want, other change you may try to avoid. Saying goodbye may be the hardest thing you can imagine. Saying hello may make you vulnerable and uneasy, and also be harder than you can imagine. But change may be the only thing that will allow you to dream, to learn, to grow, and succeed again. Since our life changes every moment you will too.
  2. They take calculated risks.1,6 Strong individuals are willing to challenge the status quo and discover new experiences. They logically weigh the risks and benefits as they decide to move forward. They become fully informed of the risks and the possibility of failure before they proceed. In doing this, they explore their comfort zone and work to push past its boundaries. “Once you discover what it is that makes you uncomfortable or scared and attempt to overcome it, then the next time you’ll overcome something bigger and eventually you’ll be more open to taking risks. 

So, these are seven take-aways I have from the much longer lists in the references below. My guess is that you have found at least one thing here that you may want to work on in the coming weeks. I know, from just these seven things, I have my work cut out for me.
Make it a great week for those who work with you and for yourself. . . .   jim
Jim Bruce is a Senior Fellow and Executive Coach at MOR Associates.  He previously was Professor of Electrical Engineering, and Vice President for Information Systems and CIO at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA.

  1. Hara Estroff Marano, 5 Habits of Emotional Stable People, Power of Positivity Blog.
  2. Mark Chernoff, 8 Things Emotionally Stable People Don’t Do, Mark and Angel HackLife Blog, March 2015.
  3. Travis Bradberry, 10 Things Mentally Strong People Won’t Do, Blog, February 2016.
  4. Melissa Ricker, Emotionally Stable People Do These 7 Things Differently, A Conscious ReThink Blog, April 2019.
  5. Angel Chernoff, 12 Hard Things to Start Doing for Your Happiness, Mark and Angel HackLife Blog, June 2019.
  6. Amy Morin, 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t DoAmy Morin, LCSW.