The most successful people are those who are mentally tough. They choose thoughts that biologically improve their quality of life. 

Twenty years ago, I set out to combine what I knew about cognitive neuroscience, brain chemistry, and human performance to create a training method to show people exactly how to develop mental toughness. After years of research with clinical patients and having worked with thousands of people considered “the best,” I developed Relentless Solution Focus (RSF). It’s a three-step process that has since been proven to help people win World Series, Super-Bowls, National Championships, Olympic gold medals, and increase business productivity by up to 30 percent year over year.

Mentally tough people actually choose the thoughts that cause them to take actions that lead to positive outcomes, although this is contrary to the way humans are hardwired. Over millennia, our very survival relied on our ability to be alert to potential dangers. That is, we are pre-disposed to look for problems – what I call “Problem-Centric Thought.” This negativity bias significantly limits our potential and increases stress, pressure, and underperformance.

By developing a Relentless Solution Focus (RSF) – which along with my colleague Ellen Reed, we have taught tens of thousands of clients – people can be prepared for adversity and thrive in it. This mind-training regimen makes it possible to reframe every problem into an opportunity for positive, productive action. Here are the three steps:

1. Recognize – First, recognize when negative thinking has set in. The RSF process teaches people to be alert to negative thoughts and to use the onset of this thinking to create positive behavior change. This is critical because what anyone focuses on expands. Focusing on problems makes them larger and less manageable.

2. Replace – Once people recognize their problem-focused thoughts, it’s essential to replace negative thinking with more positive thoughts. The key is to do this quickly — within sixty seconds or less. To do this, people must ask themselves one simple question: What is one thing I can do right now that could make this better? Dr. Selk advises using what he calls “The Mental Chalkboard” to ensure that people focus on solutions. Fortunately, just as focusing on problems causes them to expand, focusing on solutions has the same effect.

3. Retrain – No muscle becomes strong without training. Developing mental strength requires training, as well. Although negative thinking is hardwired, the brain has the ability to change.  

Adversity itself isn’t controllable. What is always controllable is what you do about it — the mentally tough zero in on what can be done — the mental chalkboard’s solution side.