I’m a big fan of the “Tough Cookie Philosophy”. Not only because I like cookies, but because it teaches us to tackle life’s hardships proactively. I’m also a firm believer that everyone has a certain level of “tough cookie-ness” in them already. It’s just a matter of unlocking our potential and enhancing what we’ve already got, not what we think is lacking…
A common way to describe someone as a tough cookie is to see them as unemotional and not easily hurt by what people say or do, however, I tend to disagree with such a definition. A tough cookie is very well aware of their emotions (something I’ll elaborate on later) and everyone gets hurt or impacted by others at some point … e-very-one. That’s what makes us human and it’s a strength, not a weakness, trust me!
My upcoming book on the Tough Cookie Philosophy © will include more self-evaluation, in-depth exercises, and examples; but today I’ve kept it to a summary of the 10 principal steps to being a Tough Cookie:
- Body language (Fake it till you Make it)
It’s amazing how changing your body stance from a slouch to a straight posture can already affect your self-confidence. Try it! Standing tall and walking with your head held high can already kick start the road to self-confidence. Your body language also impacts the message you are giving others. For example, if you tell someone you’re fine but you’re cowered down with eyes to the ground, they probably won’t believe your message. On the contrary, if you make eye contact and stand tall with your head held high, people are more likely to believe you actually are fine (even if your voice doesn’t sound as believable as you might want it to).
- Take on a Growth Mindset
The concept of knowing that our skills are learnt, and therefore can be enhanced, is called the growth mindset. It encourages the ongoing development of our basic traits through dedication and hard work. A fixed mindset, on the other hand, has us believe that our basic characteristics/talents/intelligence are set and can’t be changed. It can be very limiting as it often gives up when things get hard and sees mistakes as failures. The way we perceive change and challenges has a great effect on how we work through life’s curve balls. Taking on a growth mindset (think of Obama’s “yes we can”) gives you the ability to adequately deal with change, not be afraid of putting in the effort and be excited about learning from both successes and failures. A growth mindset is of great value in more ways than one.
- Take Responsibility and Own it
Whatever it is that you did or didn’t do, take responsibility for your actions and own them. You are not responsible for how other people act, but you are always responsible for how you respond … always (whether it’s deliberate or not). It takes a strong person to admit they are wrong, and by acknowledging your regrets you can learn from them and turn them into lessons for the future. Blaming others or a situation only wastes time. People who constantly blame, play the perpetual victim where nothing is ever their fault. But switch your focus to what you did and how you can make it right… you’ll earn respect through integrity.
- Set up Boundaries
When confronted with a toxic person or a difficult situation, it’s important to approach the situation rationally. It can be frustrating and exhausting at times, but you can control your actions by keeping your feelings in check (that does not mean ignoring them) and taking the situation with a grain of salt. You can’t change people and you can’t always change situations, but you can change your own boundaries and implement them to protect yourself and manage your reactions accordingly.
- Learn how to say “No”
In line with setting boundaries comes the ability to say “no” confidently without it having to be aggressive or negative. Avoid phrases like “I don’t think I can” or “I’m not sure” and say “no” with confidence. Not only will it solidify the commitment you’re making to yourself, but it will keep things clear and simple for others as well. There are no open doors, uncertain maybe’s or chances to be ‘pushed’ or ‘persuaded’ when your answer is clear and confident.
- Learn how to say “Yes” (Try new things, Take some risks)
It’s amazing how sometimes saying “yes” can open new doors and start a chain reaction of new experiences. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself because the more you turn it into a habit, the more you start viewing obstacles as challenges that are just waiting to be solved.
- Appreciate and Learn from Others, don’t Compare
Tough cookies don’t judge others and they don’t feel the need to put others down in order to feel good about themselves. They know everyone has something different to offer (however big or small) and they at the least keep their judgement for themselves. It’s extremely draining to continuously compare yourself to others and have jealousy and resentment take over. All it does is keep the focus on what you don’t like about yourself or your life. Of course there’s always going to be someone who is smarter, better looking and more successful than you; but despite people’s best efforts, no one is perfect, and that includes you. Embrace it! Instead of focusing on someone’s success (their end result), focus on the countless hours they put into their success (their effort) and use it as inspiration and the possibilities for yourself so you can be better, do better and experience better.
- No Regrets
We saw earlier that saying “yes” can open up a world of possibilities and risks need to be taken to move forward, so ask yourself “what’s the worst that could happen?”. Is failing at an actual effort really the worst that could happen, or is the regret you have afterwards for not attempting it at all? “I failed, but I learned that…” is a lot more powerful and productive than “If only I had…”. Tough cookies know that grief over chances unclaimed lies deeper than any failures made.
- Know your Emotional Intelligence and let Feelings out
Just because you’re a tough cookie, doesn’t’ mean you can’t feel the things you need to feel. Tough cookies are actually very aware of their emotional intelligence. So being a tough cookie doesn’t mean you are unemotional and unaffected, is means you understand and tolerate your strong negative emotions and do something constructive with them. Emotions are important and need to be acknowledged as they are there to tell you about yourself and others. With the ability to manage your stress and stay emotionally present, you can learn to deal with ‘negative’ information without letting it overwhelm your thoughts and behaviour. It will help you control and take responsibility of your impulse reactions, manage your emotions positively and proactively, take initiatives, and adapt to changing circumstances.
- Keep Perspective
As mentioned earlier, there’s always someone worse or better off than you. That doesn’t mean your stuff isn’t real and that it doesn’t need to be worked through… of course it does! But keep a clear perspective. Know that, much like the hardships you’ve dealt with in the past, you’ll survive this one too.
So buckle up, you tough cookie, and go for the ride – you got this!