“Mental toughness is often portrayed as determination and persistence, but it can also be flexibility and adaptability.

– I can be happy anywhere.

– I can work with what I have.

– I can have a good day with anyone.

You are tough when your mood is not dependent on your conditions.” James Clear author of Atomic Habits

I had subscribed to the email letter of James Clear. I got the above, in one of the mails. Generally, we attribute toughness to decisiveness, determination and persistence in spite of obstacles. The above quote made me thinking. Yes, in the present, rapidly changing world, flexibility and adaptability are equally important. But what struck me most, was the statement “I can work with what I have”.

Recently I had purchased a mirrorless camera and I am developing photography as a hobby. The camera came with a kit lens and I also got another telephoto lens. I am watching Youtube videos, to learn the art and science of photography. I was mesmerised by the photos of birds and got interested in birding. I took my camera along with the lens to a nearby place and tried to capture the snaps of the birds. But the effect was not to my liking, and then I started searching internet about the lenses, that are being used by wildlife photographers, to get those stunning shots. I soon realized, that those lenses, are not affordable to me. But I brooded on the thing, what will happen, if I have got one of those big telephoto lenses. And then in my mailbox, I got this mail. The meaning of the statement that sunk in me deeply. I can work with what I have. Can I? A question arose in my mind.

That question took me on a nostalgic trip. We, a family of six, were staying in a very small, two room flat, on ground floor, in a chawl, in 70s. My father decided, to furnish the flat, to make it more liveable. He conceived of a cupboard, attached to the wall, where my mother can store grocery containers and the door of the cupboard, when opened, can be used, as a dining table. The door was hinged to the bottom of the cupboard and the top side of the door contained an arrangement for fixing legs.  When the door was opened, it became parallel to the ground, one end being supported by hinges and the other by legs.  Then it could be used for dining, for my studies and for sleeping underneath at night. That was a real novelty then. My father used the little space, in an ingenious way, to work as cupboard and as a table. I remember my engineering school days, when I used to complete, my drawings on the table at night, after dinner was over. If there were guests, we used to close the cupboard, remove the detachable legs and use the complete floor space for sleeping. This was a perfect execution, of the statement, work with what you have.

In a corporate set up, definitely resources are required, to achieve the goals, set up for the organisation, but I think optimum use of resources, is a key everywhere, be it a home or a company.

I realized, I was unnecessarily brooding over, what I could do, if I had a bigger telephoto lens than using the existing one for creative use. Yes, toughness is when, I can work with what I have.

“I can be happy anywhere”. Possible. May be or may not be. But I find it difficult? We have so many expectations about our body, surroundings, job, relationships and even the places we visit for holidays that being happy anywhere can be a tough task. What do you think? What is your experience?

“I can have a good day with anyone”. We have likings and dislikes for people, their appearances, their skin colour, their culture, eating habits and what not. We like some of our work colleagues while we abhor some. Even in family setup we prefer company of certain relatives to that of others. Is it not?

“You are tough when your mood is not dependent on your conditions.” Mood is the mental state, of a person or the feeling, he is experiencing, at a particular time. This is really the essence, of toughness, as defined by James Clear. Our mental state is affected by our health, financial condition, weather, traffic, our boss, our spouse’s mood – so many factors. There are lot of external and internal factors on which our mood is dependent. Today morning I woke up and was planning to go for my morning walk. This walk is an elixir for me as it rejuvenates me physically as well as mentally. Being rainy season, it was raining pretty intensely. I was not able to go for a walk and felt disappointed. I felt unhappy and my mood became slightly gloomy. How weather affects your mental wellbeing? How can we ringfence our mood from external/ internal conditions? What you do, to keep you mood high (without using any substances!).  

How we can be tough, in the sense James Clear says. On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 represents least tough and 10 represents maximum tough, can we evaluate ourselves, for our toughness, on the three statements mentioned above. If we can honestly do that, we will know about ourselves better. We will be able to find, where we need to work on. There will be many more dimensions for toughness, but I felt the three above- work, place, person cover most of the human interactions. What do you think? What do you think about your toughness score and what you do to become more tough? Do let me know.