The loss that was to come over the next decade was unimaginable. Yet by the third death, Amy Morin learned what not to do.
In February 2003, Morin had recently finished graduate school and was settling into a new job, a new marriage and a new home when her mother died suddenly of a brain aneurysm. At 23 years old, Morin, who as a child threw up before school at the thought of separation from her mother, struggled to find reason in the unanswerable. She pitied herself over the injustice of losing the years she always assumed they’d have. She thought about the grandchildren her mom would never meet, the retirement dreams she’d never fulfill.
Later, not feeling sorry for herself would be first on a list of 13 bad habits she would pinpoint as things “mentally strong people don’t do.” But that clarity would take years and two more tragic losses.
In the months after her mother’s death, she feared being alone with her thoughts, and gave herself benchmarks for when she should feel better. She thought if she could only get through the weekend, or the next holiday, the permanent knot in her stomach would finally begin to untangle.
It was three years later on the anniversary of her mom’s death, when exhaling was just getting easier, that Morin and her husband, Lincoln, went to a local basketball game in the same auditorium where she’d spent her final evening with her mom. It was meant to be an emotional turning point. Later that night, her young husband had a heart attack and died in the hospital.
“I’m a 26-year-old widow without a mom,” Morin thought. “Now what do I do?”
She kept her late husband’s belongings like a museum. She didn’t throw away his toothbrush for years. She wouldn’t move anything on his side of the bed. She scoured his pants’ pockets and car for clues, searching for mini mysteries to keep connecting with him. She refused to try anything new, fearing that new memories would supplant the old.
Not dwelling on the past and not shying away from change would also make the future what-not-to-do list.
She re-married four years later, and as she again settled into a new life, her father-in-law, to whom she had grown very close, was diagnosed with inoperable cancer. It was several weeks before he died – deep in the throes of “Why is this happening to me again?” – when Morin challenged herself to identify all the unhealthy behaviors she would not succumb to after this loss.
“They were the habits I’d fought so hard against to come out on the other side of my grief,” Morin writes in her book, “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.” “They were the things that could hold me back from getting better, if I allowed them to take hold of me.”
To Morin, building mental strength required understanding the negative thoughts and behaviors that make a situation worse. She posted her list online and it went viral. She fleshed them out for the book published in December, and is launching her first e-course on Nov. 2 – a series of exercises to build mental strength.
A professional therapist, Morin was initially hesitant to share her back story. But she ultimately decided her own path to resilience after multiple personal tragedies could be inspirational to others.
Yet, Morin’s list of don’ts are applicable in every day life, not just during personal tragedy. Being aware of them can give an individual the power to withstand daily disappointments, setbacks and obstacles.
Here is her full list of 13 things mentally strong people don’t do:
1. They Don’t Waste Time Feeling Sorry for Themselves
Mentally strong people don’t sit around feeling sorry about their circumstances or how others have treated them. Instead, they take responsibility for their role in life and understand that life isn’t always easy or fair.
2. They Don’t Give Away Their Power
They don’t allow others to control them, and they don’t give someone else power over them. They don’t say things like, “My boss makes me feel bad,” because they understand that they are in control over their own emotions and they have a choice in how they respond.
3. They Don’t Shy Away from Change
Mentally strong people don’t try to avoid change. Instead, they welcome positive change and are willing to be flexible. They understand that change is inevitable and believe in their ability to adapt.
4. They Don’t Waste Energy on Things They Can’t Control
You won’t hear a mentally strong person complaining over lost luggage or traffic jams. Instead, they focus on what they can control in their lives. They recognize that sometimes, the only thing they can control is their attitude.
5. They Don’t Worry About Pleasing Everyone
Mentally strong people recognize that they don’t need to please everyone all the time. They’re not afraid to say no or speak up when necessary. They strive to be kind and fair, but can handle other people being upset if they didn’t make them happy.
6. They Don’t Fear Taking Calculated Risks
They don’t take reckless or foolish risks, but don’t mind taking calculated risks. Mentally strong people spend time weighing the risks and benefits before making a big decision, and they’re fully informed of the potential downsides before they take action.
7. They Don’t Dwell on the Past
Mentally strong people don’t waste time dwelling on the past and wishing things could be different. They acknowledge their past and can say what they’ve learned from it. However, they don’t constantly relive bad experiences or fantasize about the glory days. Instead, they live for the present and plan for the future.
8. They Don’t Make the Same Mistakes Over and Over
They accept responsibility for their behavior and learn from their past mistakes. As a result, they don’t keep repeating those mistakes over and over. Instead, they move on and make better decisions in the future.
9. They Don’t Resent Other People’s Success
Mentally strong people can appreciate and celebrate other people’s successes in life. They don’t grow jealous or feel cheated when others surpass them. Instead, they recognize that success comes with hard work, and they are willing to work hard for their own chance at success.
10. They Don’t Give Up After the First Failure
They don’t view failure as a reason to give up. Instead, they use failure as an opportunity to grow and improve. They are willing to keep trying until they get it right.
11. They Don’t Fear Alone Time
Mentally strong people can tolerate being alone and they don’t fear silence. They aren’t afraid to be alone with their thoughts and they can use downtime to be productive. They enjoy their own company and aren’t dependent on others for companionship and entertainment all the time but instead can be happy alone.
12. They Don’t Feel the World Owes Them Anything
They don’t feel entitled to things in life. They weren’t born with a mentality that others would take care of them or that the world must give them something. Instead, they look for opportunities based on their own merits.
13. They Don’t Expect Immediate Results
Whether they are working on improving their health or getting a new business off the ground, mentally strong people don’t expect immediate results. Instead, they apply their skills and time to the best of their ability and understand that real change takes time.
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