Today we are excited to share a guest post from Dr. Ron Powell, Director of the Youth Ministry Institute at Vanguard College. He has been involved in youth ministry for 30 years. He continues to volunteer, write, teach, and speak to parents, leaders and teens. In “10 Habits of Mentally Strong Youth Workers,” Powell offers insight into daily habits that help cultivate healthy mental space in ministry. Check out more of his writing at Youth Ministry Unleashed | Practical Ideas and Insights for Youth Workers and Parents.
Mental strength is essential for life and ministry.
I’ve learned this lesson and it has been reinforced by Amy Morin’s book “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.” What are the habits of mentally strong youth workers? Here are ten things mentally strong people do every day.
1. They stay in touch with their emotions.
In an interview with Insider, Amy Morin says, “Mentally strong people monitor their emotions throughout the day and recognize how their feelings influence their thoughts and behaviors. They know sometimes reaching their greatest potential requires them to behave contrary to how they feel.” (David does this in Psalm 42 –check it out)
2. They’re optimistic but not unrealistic dreamers.
It’s too easy to criticize and find something to complain about. Mentally strong people “understand that their thoughts aren’t always true, and they strive to reframe their negativity,” Morin says. Mentally strong people are realistic but choose to focus on the positive in themselves and others.
Jesus made it clear that we are blessed if we focus on the greatness of God instead of worrying about life.
3. They solve problems.
This is a hard one. Morin explains, “mentally strong people refuse to engage in unproductive activities.” Here are a few: complaining to people in your church, blaming others or comparing yourself to other youth workers, dwelling on the past, kicking the photocopier, eating a tub of ice cream, staying up all night worrying, writing a nasty email…
What positive behaviors can you use to replace these? As you refuse to engage in useless, self defeating behavior and begin to solve problems, you will feel a greater sense of purpose and strength.
4. They treat themselves as a friend.
Would you talk to a friend the way you talk to yourself? Be gentle and compassionate with yourself. Here’s what Morin says mentally strong people do: ” they respond to their inner critic as if they were standing up to the schoolyard bully.”
Most Christians I know believe in forgiveness but don’t allow it to impact their emotions. If we can live guilt free we are headed to greater self-acceptance and are more able to love others. Try loving yourself as God loves you! This will do wonders for your attitude!
5. They set healthy boundaries.
–Another tough one. God has a will for your day today but you have limited time. Students and parents may have an alternate plan for you. You can’t accomplish what everyone else wants you to do, so you need to be crystal clear about what God wants you to accomplish today.
As Amy Morin says in her book, “They accept full responsibility for how they think, feel, and behave,” …”and they refuse to let other people dictate whether they’re going to have a good day or a bad day.”
6. They manage their time wisely.
Being busy doesn’t isn’t a sign of great time management, neither is having huge chunks of time devoted to entertainment. It’s about setting the right goals and pursuing them. Are you devoting time to activities that are the most important instead of running around doing last minute jobs?
How are you investing your thought life? “Rather than waste energy dwelling on the past or resenting other people for taking up their time, mentally strong people focus on more productive activities,” Morin says.
When I am doing my best, I am thinking concentrating on the list in Philippians 4:8 whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely commendable, excellent, or praise-worthy
7. They strive to fulfill their purpose.
Successfully fulfilling your purpose in life takes planning and focus. According to Morin’s research, mentally strong people understand this and focus on the big picture, keeping in mind that today’s choices impact their future.
What are you doing today to move you in the direction that God is calling you? What activities are putting you off track from where he wants you to go?
8. They seek to grow stronger.
“Mentally strong people view everyday challenges as opportunities to grow stronger,” Morin says. Additionally, they never settle or consider themselves strong enough. There is always room for improvement.
“They know that just like physically strong people need to work out to stay in good shape, they need to keep working out their mental muscles to prevent atrophy.”
Are you growing stronger or weaker? What are you doing each day to improve your strength?
9. They measure their progress.
How close are you to your closest goal? What will it take to get there?
Doing whatever it takes to improve can help you move toward the person God wants you to be. Morin explains that it begins with you recognizing your weaknesses and having a “no excuses” approach. “Rather than make excuses for your mistakes or failures, you seek explanations that will help you perform better moving forward,” Morin says.
I know that when I find I am having to apologize or make excuses I need to take back control of my life. This requires forethought, focus and follow through.
Let me add a 10th: They are Confident that God is With Them
I could list a dozen verses in the Bible that assure me that God is working in and through me. That gives me strength. I know that the events of my day are not random. I choose to focus on the fact that I am not only human but I am infused with a supernatural power. Let me leave you with a verse I quote to myself almost every day to give me confidence and strength:
…the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in (me), he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to (my) mortal body because of his Spirit who lives in (me). Romans 8:11