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You are walking to your car after the football game. A belligerent intoxicated man pushes your significant other down to the ground. You rush over to help and defend your mate. The man pulls a gun, and says “You are gonna die.”

What do you do? Can you handle this scenario? What is your next action? How do you feel?

At our martial arts school, we have a saying: If you truly care about the partner that you are working with, then you sincerely have to try and destroy them. Sounds weird, doesn’t it? The students need to have the experience of someone really trying to hurt them. But I tell my students over and over, I care more about how you handle yourself when something goes wrong – when adversity strikes – than how you handle everything going right. I believe how you handle adversity is one of the most important factors to succeeding in life.

Let me be frank with you; sooner or later, some life event will come out of nowhere that will knock you down and shake you to your very core. That’s life. The question is not whether it will happen; it is what will you do when it happens?

Here are some ideas on becoming mentally tough.

1) Accept adversity as a challenge to overcome, rather than an obstacle to avoid. Adversity will always be a part of your life, so it is better to take this challenge head-on, rather than sit back and react only in the moment.

2) Understand your mental make-up. When adversity hits you, do you become emotional? Do you become angry? Do you get overwhelmed and shut down? You need to understand yourself in order to come up with a plan on how to deal with it better.

3) Accept and address your fears. If such-and-such scenario happens, what do I truly fear from it? Vividly imagining and feeling your fear about an event gives it less power over you. You will be able to handle it better because you will not be surprised.

4) Decide right now what you are going to do. When you get punched in the face, are you going to focus on the pain, or are you going to get up and focus on what needs to be done next? Plan what action you are going to take, down to the smallest detail. Decide right now what your line-in-the-sand will be. “I will not accept such-and-such, and I will fight and work to make it right.”

5) Practice scenarios. It’s hard to know how we will really react when something bad goes down. So practice the scenarios in your mind. Take classes. Talk to people about how to handle it. Make your own plan clear in your mind and be mentally ready.

Becoming mentally tough is a process – one you need to start right now if you are to successfully negotiate hard times. Once you become mentally tough, you will have a much better and less stressful, experience in life.

Todd Alan Roberts M.D. is a physician and the chief instructor of Aikido of Nebraska, a martial arts school specializing in mind/body/spirit development in kids and adults, through the teaching of traditional martial arts. It is located just north of South 33rd & Pioneers Boulevard.

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