Building mental strength can be similar to building physical strength. Take squats, for example. A favorite lower body workout for many. Aside from helping you shape your gluteus maximus, squats also give strength to your legs, hips and knees. But even a small error in your form can cause injuries. Having a strong core helps you keep the proper form.
The same is true when it comes to your mindset. Showing up at work with a poor attitude can result in frustrating people problems. And engaging your Thoughtfully Fit core can help ensure you don’t make the error of acting from that negative headspace.
So, what do we do when frustration sets in and we don’t have the bandwidth for major change? We can practice Strength and make micro-adjustments.
What Even Are Micro-Adjustments?
Micro-adjustments are small changes we can make to build internal Strength by kicking us off auto-pilot in order to consciously choose how we show up.
For example, a micro-adjustment I make when I start feeling overwhelmed is to Pause. I take a deep breath so that I can get recentered and focus on what’s important. While it sounds simple, it wasn’t easy for me to learn this new habit as my default response has always been action.
I recently came back from vacation and had more than 300 emails waiting for me. Cue the frustration and overwhelm! So instead of spending the entire time clearing my inbox feeling frantic, I hit the Pause button and took a deep breath. This small step helped me shift my perspective to tackle my inbox with more calm.
But before you can start making micro-adjustments, you first must identify the problem.
Identify the Problem
As someone who has recently been experiencing workout related butt pain, believe me when I say it’s important to identify the problem—no matter where it’s coming from. If you ignore the knee or back pain you’re feeling when you’re squatting and don’t adjust your form, it can lead to a nasty injury.
Bye bye buns of steel.
The same is true for mental strength. The problems we face in the workplace can come from all different directions, such as a challenging project or an irritable colleague. But when we take the time to identify the problem, we can then focus on what adjustments we can make to take more thoughtful actions.
Identifying the problem means acknowledging that there is a problem.
So often I hear clients say, “It’s fine. It’s not a big deal. I can work through it.” But here’s the deal, you don’t have to deal with the pain of frustration (and, as the saying goes, what we resist persists). The highest-performing leaders can name the issue they’re experiencing at any given time. Anger, disappointment, fear, judgment… can all lead to the same feelings of frustration—but they’re in fact very different issues.
Once you identify the issue, you can make the necessary micro-adjustment.
Improve Your Mental Strength with Micro-Adjustments
For squats, when it comes to pain, sometimes it’s only micro-adjustments you need to make (maybe starting with getting your daughter off your back). For example, lifting your head up one inch so you’re looking ahead, instead of at the floor, takes pressure off your spine and back.
They may be small changes, but they can save us from a world of hurt as we work on our superhero strength. (Of course, you can always deal with the pain after the fact, by applying a cold compress, resting, or taking pain relievers. But why not address the problem at its source instead?)
The same is true for the micro-adjustments we can make to our mindset. The next time you’re feeling frustrated at work, try some of these strategies that will help you “improve your form:”
- Use Your Breathe. When you’re in a challenging Zoom meeting where nobody is turning their camera on, take a deep breath and Pause. This gives you the space to Think so you can Act thoughtfully. This micro-adjustment might prevent you from having a knee-jerk reaction that creates more problems.
- Set Your Intention. Before a tough conversation, Pause to acknowledge where you’re at. (If you’re feeling nervous, acknowledge that nervousness. Pushing that feeling away will only make it come back stronger.) Then Think and set an intention that reflects how you want to show up. What’s the word you want to describe yourself in the interaction? Engaged, compassionate, curious, courageous? Then commit to Act with that intention in mind.
- Find Your Mantra. My personal favorite! Shift your mindset by repeating a mantra on your commute to work (which may be a stroll from your bedroom to your office!) or when you’re triggered by that annoying colleague. It could be a favorite quote, a specific action, or even a song lyric you repeat. (For example, “Hold on loosely, but don’t let go” is one of my executive coaching client’s mantras.) This can help set the tone of your day or interaction.
Just like changing your form when doing squats can initially feel awkward, you might feel a bit uncomfortable the first few times you make these micro-adjustments. But it gets easier with practice. Not only will you notice an improvement, you’re less likely to create additional problems or make the injuries worse. I challenge you to sneak in one of these micro-adjustment strategies into your workday and see how a small change can domino into a large impact.
One-Minute Core Workout for Mental Strength
Whether you’re wanting buns of steel or internal Strength, making micro-adjustment can have a huge impact. And of course, keep engaging your core.
Pause. The next time you’re feeling frustrated, take a deep breath.
Think. Ask yourself, What am I feeling at this moment? What do I need? What adjustments can I make in order to Act thoughtfully?
Act. Make the micro-adjustment that’ll allow you to have the impact you want and move forward with intention.
The obstacles we face in the workplace may fill us with frustration. But when we make micro-adjustments, we can tackle our people problems (and our post-vacation inbox!) with Strength. Squats don’t have to cause pain and neither does workplace frustration!
The choices we make often lead us to develop habits that cause us pain or gain. In his book, Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything, BJ Fogg, PhD cracks the code of habit formation. Based on 20 years of research and his experience coaching more than 40,000 people (holy smokes!), Fogg helps readers develop small, positive habits that stick—so they can achieve their goals and create a happier, healthier life.