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May 29, 2024 | 34 Mins Read

Building Mental Strength as a Leader

May 29, 2024 | 34 Mins Read

Building Mental Strength as a Leader


Episode 267

In this episode of the Unscripted podcast, host Sarah Nicastro welcomes Scott Mautz, author of The Mentally Strong Leader and founder and CEO of Profound Performance, a keynote, training, and coaching company. Scott is a former Procter & Gamble executive who successfully ran four of the company’s largest multi-billion dollar businesses. He has been named a "CEO Thought-leader" by The Chief Executives Guild and a "Top 50 Leadership Innovator" by

Scott shares his strategies for building mental strength and overcoming challenges as a leader. He also explores topics such as self-regulation, the "static trap," self-doubt, imposter syndrome, navigating stress, as well as the importance of creating habits that support mental strength, providing tools and frameworks for building resilience.

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Full Show Notes

Scott: When you have a title like the mentally strong leader, I've found that people hear the combination of the words mentally and strongly like, oh, that's interesting. I haven't heard that combination of words. What does that mean? What exactly does mental strength mean? Well, here's what it means. Mental strength is the ability to regulate your emotions, your thoughts, and your behaviors productively. Despite circumstances, even in the face of adversity. As I like to say, it's how you manage internally, Sarah, so that you can lead externally. And here's the thing. I think your listeners would intuitively understand that if they want to succeed at work and in life, you have to be able to self-regulate emotions and thoughts and behaviors, productive outcomes. We know that, but the thing is, Sarah, it's really hard to do that. It's really hard to do that. But if you can build the habits that increase your mental strength, which we're going to talk more about, I have learned over time that it's actually how you train your brain for achievement.

Sarah: Hello, welcome to the Unscripted Podcast, where you'll find discussions on what matters most in service, leadership, and business transformation. I'm your host, Sarah Nicastro. Let's jump in. Welcome to the Unscripted Podcast. I'm your host, Sarah Nicastro. Today, we are going to be talking about building mental strength as a leader. May, as you probably know, is Mental Health Awareness Month, and I'm excited for this conversation today and to be talking about such an important topic. I'm thrilled to welcome to the podcast Scott Mautz, who is the author of The Mentally Strong Leader. Scott is the founder and CEO of Profound Performance, a keynote training and coaching company. He is a former Procter & Gamble executive who successfully ran four of the company's largest multi-billion dollar businesses. Also the multiple award-winning author of three other books, it looks like, and has been named CEO Thought Leader by the Chief Executives Guild and a top 50 leadership innovator by That's a mouthful, Scott. Welcome to the podcast.

Scott: Glad to be here. That guy sounds kind of cool. I can't wait to meet him.

Sarah: Yeah, I'm looking forward to talking with him. Wonderful. So that was obviously quite the bio. But before we dig into today's topic, Scott, just tell everyone a little bit more about yourself in your own words.

Scott: Yeah, sure. I grew up in corporate America, spent over three decades there. And it was the constant study of me watching what makes great leaders great and why achievers achieve that led me to talk about what we're going to have a nice chat about today that really led me to say, you know, I really have to share what I've learned with the world. And even so much so that I ultimately decided to take the leap of faith and leave the corporate world to, you know, broaden my platform for making a difference with the written and the spoken word and to become a researcher and author. And it's kind of led me to where I am today at the pinnacle of being able to talk to you here today.

Sarah: Yeah, well, that's excellent. Okay, so you say that mentally strong leader pushes their team and themselves to something exceptional, through something challenging in a way that makes everyone feel something special and that mental strength is the leadership superpower of our time. So can you talk a bit about those statements and how that thinking prompted you to write this new book?

Scott: Yeah, I will. I'll even dip a little bit into some research behind the book too, briefly, if that'll be of service to you, Sarah, and your listeners. So I'll start just, you know, with a really crisp definition, if you will. You know, when you have a title like The Mentally Strong Leader, I found that people hear the combination of the words mentally and strongly like, oh, that's interesting. I haven't heard that combination of words. What does that mean? What exactly does mental strength mean? Well, here's what it means. Mental strength is the ability to regulate your emotions, your thoughts, and your behaviors productively, despite circumstances, even in the face of adversity. As I like to say, it's how you manage internally, Sarah, so that you can lead externally. And here's the thing. I think your listeners would intuitively understand that if they want to succeed at work and in life, you have to be able to self-regulate emotions and thoughts and behaviors, productive outcomes. We know that, but the thing is, Sarah, it's really hard to do that. It's really hard to do that. But if you can build the habits that increase your mental strength, which we're going to talk more about, I have learned over time that it's actually how you train your brain for achievement. And I'll explain with a quick piece of research and tell you how that leads to the superpower statement you're asking about. I've been doing research on this for a very, very long time. One piece of research that really stuck out that I conducted, I asked over 3,000 executives, Sarah, one central question in one particular study. Thinking of the highest achieving organizations you've ever been a part of that overcame the most obstacles, what were the attributes of the key leader in that organization at that time? And over 91% of respondents, 91.3, I think it was, to be precise, all had the same response, Sarah. They described, even though they didn't know that they were describing this at the time. They described mentally strong leaders that flex six mental muscles in particular, fortitude, confidence, boldness, decision-making, goal-focusing, the ability to stay, you know, focused on your goals, and the ability to message positively to the troops, not getting drawn down into negative garble and keeping a presence to your intent and quality and integrity to being in the moment. And I really started to understand, Sarah, looking back myself on all the organizations, that I was in that achieved the most despite all the obstacles we went through, it really became clear to me that, wow, mental strength is the differentiator. It's the secret sauce. It's the cheat code to achievement. It's what led me to really believe that, especially in today's chaotic work world, where there's so much opportunity to be distracted and to have doubt creep into your life. It's what makes me believe right down to the core of my fiber that mental strength is the leadership superpower of our time.

Sarah: Mm-hmm. Okay. All right. I'm excited to hear more. Now, there's a term that I saw that I'm hoping you can explain to everyone and talk a little bit about why it's important to avoid, which is the static trap.

Scott: Ah, yes. The static trap, it has to do with the fortitude muscle, right? And I think if you and I sat down, Sarah, and brainstormed all the things you need to do and the habits you need to build to be able to build up your fortitude muscle, we could come up with a lot of pretty obvious things. One thing that's not so obvious that's in the book, The Mentally Strong Leader, a tool that you can build, is to avoid the static trap, which is this. It has to do with problem-solving. And if you think about it, you have to be able to solve problems really well. It's inherent in being resilient because the very nature of having to be resilient, you have to overcome problems. But there's a big problem in problem-solving called the static trap, which is this. Our research has shown us that people can tend to be static, first of all, meaning they deny that a problem exists. They push it off on someone else. They do nothing about it. They say, oh, that's not really an issue. Until what? Until the problem can no longer be ignored. Then they move from being static to creating static around the problem, denying even then that, okay, but it's not really that big of an issue. I didn't really cause it. Making excuses for why the problem exists, and pointing fingers at other people. So even though they've admitted the problem exists, they move to the third phase of the trap, which is they were being static, then they're creating static around the problem. Now they remain static by not doing still, not moving fast enough, and getting into action mode to take action and do something about the problem that exists. And you overcome that, of course, by being able to recognize the signs of problem denial and moving quickly to admission in action mode instead. And I go into depth in The Mentally Strong Leader about how exactly to do that. But avoiding the static trap is not something that we often think of or even know that it exists, but it's very, very real. And it gets in the way of us building our fortitude muscle.

Sarah: Now, what do you think it is that causes that initial static?

Scott: Yeah, I think it's, we are so busy, we're so inundated. And as I say, I think it's not just that I think, you know, I have the data that shows us there's more and more opportunity than ever, Sarah, for us to feel distracted. And, you know, ever since the invention of devices, that doesn't help any, right? And then all the chaos that's happening in the world and the amount of self-doubt that creeps into our lives now and into our work world, into our personal world, it creates this paralysis in us where sometimes it's easier to default to being static than to actually tackle the problem from the beginning. And psychology shows us, we make the incorrect conclusion that our resilience will increase by ignoring a problem. Because we don't have to face it. The energy doesn't go to trying to face it. So we're going to reserve that energy for when things get really bad. But of course, what happens, the problem gets blown out of proportion. And by the time you move past being static about it, the amount of energy you actually have to put into addressing it has exponentially increased. And it actually rapidly decreases your fortitude and resilience. I think that's really why we remain static for far too long.

Sarah: Yeah. I wonder too, if part of it is fear.

Scott: Oh, sure.

Sarah: Yeah. That's interesting. Now let's talk about, you know, you mentioned self-doubt.

Scott: Yeah.

Sarah: Can we talk about how leaders can work on eliminating negative self-talk or that inner chatter and the need for approval-seeking?

Scott: Yeah, let's talk about that on a couple of fronts. In The Mentally Strong Leader, there's a whole chapter on building your confidence muscle, remembering that you know, the six mental muscles of mental strength are fortitude, confidence, boldness, decision-making, goal-focusing, and the ability to positively message to the troops. And in the chapter, I go deep on the confidence muscle. And I talk about two really important tools, two things we need to do, which are, first of all, monitor your relationship with doubt, and then also monitor your relationship with yourself. And I'll explain both of those because they get to what you're talking about, Sarah. Think about those words for a second. I'm asking the listener to monitor their relationship with doubt. That assumes that a relationship must exist. And I can guarantee you, regardless of the listener out there, Sarah, it does exist. The definition of confidence is not the absence of doubt. We all have doubt in our heads. And even the most confident people that I interviewed for this book could tell me... It's not that doubt doesn't exist. They've just gotten very good at managing their relationship with doubt. And I talk in the book about the doubt continuum, how you can go all the way from actually being overconfident on one end of the continuum, which isn't great, all the way over to being paralyzed by fear, to your point earlier, Sarah, which isn't great. And in between, the truth lies in trying to, you know, really try to be perfectly confident or at least embrace healthy doubt along the way by knowing that you're never going to know everything. And that you have to believe in your ability to figure things out along the way as you go. Now, as you must also monitor your relationship with doubt, you have to monitor your relationship with yourself. There's also a tool in The Mentally Strong Leader called the self-acceptance scale. It goes all the way from being self-accepting completely, self-love, self-worth, and self-appreciation, all the way to the other side, which is imposter syndrome, which isn't good. And then there are all kinds of variations in between where our confidence slowly wanes as our self-regulation of our emotions, thoughts, and behaviors wanes and our confidence starts to decrease. So we start from a place of, you know, self-accepting, and then we can start to seek approval, chasing approval instead of authenticity. Then it gets a little bit worse. Then we start comparing to others, forgetting that the only comparison that matters is to who we were yesterday, whether or not we're becoming a better version of ourselves. Slowly, self-regulation breaks down more. We move farther to the right of the scale, where our self-acceptance just collides even more. And we're starting to engage in negative inner chatter, which I'll come back to in just a second. It gets even worse. Then we could start to move along that scale towards where we actually believe we're not enough. And I want to ensure your listeners, if you're watching this anywhere on YouTube, or if you're just listening, I want you to look into the camera right now and hear me when I say this. You are enough. You don't have to take on everything by yourself. And we can continue to move along that self-accepted scale in the negative side all the way to imposter syndrome. And to your question, where I find in that scale, you know, we want to be self-accepting. That's the idea. Self-regulate our emotions, thoughts, and behaviors and stop the degradation of our confidence along that scale. Where a lot of people sit happens to be right in the middle, which is negative inner chatter. And you're asking about that. I always encourage people, and I talk about this as one of the over 50 plus tools in the book, The Mentally Strong Leader, to help you build habits to become mentally stronger. I talk about one tool called taking a self-compassion break tool, which is simply this. It's three steps with a pre-step. When you find yourself beating yourself up, first of all, you have to get better at catching yourself in the moment when you're doing that, which is something I still work on. You know, I teach this stuff, Sarah, and I still have to work at catching myself when I'm beating myself up. Then you go into step one, which is just in that moment you catch yourself doing it, stop beating yourself up for beating yourself up. Step two. Instead, in that moment, talk to yourself like a friend in need. If a friend came up to you and clearly needed compassion and was telling you a story where they're clearly looking for compassion, you wouldn't interrupt them five minutes in and say, hey, I've heard your story and I've come to the conclusion that you're a complete loser, right? You wouldn't talk to your friend in need that way. So how would you talk to yourself that way? And then the third step in that self-compassion break is to remember the 90-10 rule, which is simply this. 90-10 is a ratio, a formula for how you should value yourself, which should be 90% based on self-worth, self-appreciation, self-love, 10% on assigned worth, and what other people think of you. And people often say to me, but Scott, you'd be teaching the 100-0 rule, that 100% of how you value yourself should be based only on what you think and never on what anyone else thinks. I think that's an interesting theory, but in concept, it doesn't really work. We all need that occasional slice, Sarah, of external validation to tell us that we're worthy and worthwhile, valued and valuable. The problem arises when we allow that 10% to become 70, 80, 90, 100% of how we value ourselves. The problem arises when we begin to chase approval instead of authenticity when we focus on winning love rather than giving love.

Sarah: So you mentioned on that continuum, the far end is imposter syndrome.

Scott: Yes.

Sarah: So can you talk about, you know, we know that's real and can be really tough. Can you talk about what can be done when someone's at that extreme to kind of, you know, get out of that thinking and, you know, shift the focus back to somewhere more positive?

Scott: Yeah, imposter syndrome, so we're all on the same page, Sarah. It's when you downplay your accomplishments and your worth, you doubt your intellect and your skills, and you can even discount, totally, your expertise and your experience. And in The Mentally Strong Leader, one of the 50 tools I talk about there helps you to stop imposter syndrome with multiple steps. And I'll share very quickly a few of the key steps. One, one of the most important things is you first have to, and this is the obvious one, you have to own your accomplishments. You really have to ask yourself, where am I underestimating and underappreciating myself? Where, if I'm honest, am I assigning too much credit to other things, to luck, to external factors? You can play defense attorney here, meaning imagine you were on trial to defend why you are where you are today. What would your lawyer say in defense of you of how you got there? That's what you have to do in this first step, you know, is really own your accomplishments. You know, I've learned over the years studying this, though, that that could still produce the yeah, but the response, right? Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Sarah: It can also be really hard.

Scott: It could be.

Sarah: I mean, I'm really bad at this.

Scott: Yes.

Sarah: I'm not even sure. I mean, you know, I have some ideas, right? But we won't get into all of that. But I find that very difficult for myself. I find it difficult to be objective. I find it difficult to articulate.

Scott: Yes.

Sarah: You know, even when there are areas I can identify like it's really challenging for me to kind of, you know, put those into proper thoughts, words, et cetera.

Scott: Yes. And that's why it doesn't stop at step one, because you're absolutely right, sir. That difficulty leads you to say quite often, yeah, but. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay. Yes. I did accomplish this, but fill in the blank with a thousand other reasons why we might convince ourselves we don't deserve what we're getting. So you can also move to step two, which is to be open to imposter discomfort, but absolutely closed to imposter thoughts. And here's what I mean by that. It's called acceptance in psychology circles. It's the best way I can put it is to say like, so let's say you're about to take on, you're going to lead a team. You've just been promoted and you're going to lead a team now, you know, somewhere within the service business. You know, you've been blessed with the opportunity to lead a new service team. You're brand new in the role. And you're starting to feel imposter syndrome kicking in. Well, rather than having doubts about whether or not you can really lead the team, you have to be okay with just letting that doubt sit in the background, allowing you to focus on how to do that job best, not if you can do that job. And at the same time, so that's that imposter discomfort. You learn to be okay with letting it sit there because it's okay. It all happens to all of us. But the difference is you don't let imposter thoughts take over. Discomfort is one thing. Thoughts is another thing. You think of them almost as a detached bubble from your brain sitting out there and you know that. You can imagine they came from somebody else, an unfair critic. And you know that those thoughts are not trying to help you in your life. So why would you take them seriously? This takes you into the third step where you can think of your value and your values rather than your valuation. And here's what I mean. First of all, especially when you're struggling, Sarah, with owning your accomplishments, it's really helpful sometimes to reach out and talk to people and find out what am I really good at. What value do I really bring to the earth? And they can be a confirming source for you. And even for you to say really, truly. What unique skills, strengths, perspectives, and values do I bring to the earth? Number one, and not focus on valuation. What other people are thinking that you bring to the pile? Then the second part, half of that, also goes back to your values. What do you stand for? What's important to you? Are you living those values every day? And if you're not, can you increase that? And the important part about that is when impostor feelings are booing you from the cheap seats, your values are sitting right in the front row cheering you on in your life, reminding you that no matter what anyone thinks about what you've accomplished including yourself. If you're staying true to your values you're living true to what matters to you and that's an accomplishment that is really worth something. And I've found that that can also help people get past the very, very difficult thing called imposter syndrome.

Sarah: Yeah. Now, I don't have any research on this handy, but I feel like there is research that indicates that imposter syndrome is more common in women than men.

Scott: Yeah.

Sarah: Do you know if that's true?

Scott: It is.

Sarah: Yeah.

Scott: That is true.

Sarah: So it's interesting because obviously I said, you know, I've struggled with that myself. But what's interesting is when I interview leaders on the podcast, it's become very apparent to me that men are more likely to take credit for their accomplishments openly, and there's nothing wrong with that. I'm not saying they shouldn't. But when I ask women about their accomplishments, their career progression, et cetera. Almost, always, they will point to something outside of themselves, some external luck.

Scott: Yes.

Sarah: I've been fortunate. I had a really good support system. I owe it all to, you know, this person who saw something in me, et cetera. And it's been very interesting to observe that. I bring this up because I think that it's something it would be helpful for everyone to be aware of that man or woman. I mean, it doesn't matter. I'm just pointing out the fact that I see it more on women. You know, when you notice someone doing that, don't underestimate the importance of stopping them and saying, well, yeah, you know, I'm sure that your boss was really supportive, but I think you're doing yourself a discredit by not owning what it took for you to do X or Y or Z. It's actually been really interesting because I've started framing the question when I ask women. And instead of saying, what do you think helped get you from here to here or helped you do this thing? I will say what internal characteristics helped you, and what external factors helped you. Then it forces them to reflect and own, you know, that. And so, you know, I think it's just really interesting that those thought processes exist and can be stronger in some people than others. But also to think about, just as human beings, how we can help one another, you know, focus on, like you said, not our valuation. It's not me saying what I think of what you've done, but how can we encourage people to reflect on their value and, you know, what they bring into the world?

Scott: Yeah, that's a fantastic point, Sarah. And I want to build on it very briefly if I can. I do something similar as well, the kind of internal-external thing. I phrased that question a little bit differently, but I do the same type of spirit, not only with women but with anybody that I know is disproportionately suffering from imposter syndrome. And to the spirit of what you're saying, another question that I use as a prompt when I spot someone doing that to themselves, really distancing themselves from what they've really done. I found a very powerful question, and I encourage you to try it and see how it works when you challenge other people. I'll stop them and I'll say, hold on, I want you to really think about this hard. What simply would not have happened if it were not for you? And you really force them to separate what they're imagining in their mind their success came from. And what's helpful about that foil is if they imagine the absence of their existence, if they had to be truthful, it becomes easier to say, well, I know if I wasn't here that that wouldn't happen. And then it becomes easier to draw a tie to the unique value that they brought to the table and it starts to get them out of the mode of assigning credit for everything that happened to external factors. So try that as well. That might be of service to you. I found that to be very helpful.

Sarah: Yeah, I like that. All right. Let's talk about limiting beliefs. So how do these factor into mental strength and how can leaders reframe limiting beliefs?

Scott: Yes. And of course, you know, in The Mentally Strong Leader, one of the core muscles that we've learned exists as part of mental strength is the boldness muscle. And one of the things that holds us back from being bold, of course, is limiting beliefs that pop up that we grab onto. And they can be deadly, right? Because when you have a limiting belief, they soon become truths, which affects our emotions, our thoughts, and our behaviors. Those behaviors become actions. Those actions become beliefs. Those principles, you know, those beliefs become principles that we act on every day. So you have to break the cycle. And, you know, I encourage people in The Mentally Strong Leader to conduct what I call a belief exchange, where you first of all have to uncover the beliefs holding you back. You know, what resistance are you feeling inside when you think about achieving a goal that you're going after that's important to you? And why do you think that goal is too difficult? You know, uncover the beliefs. You know, what global assumptions are you making? You know, I... I am... Life is... People are... Things like this... What are the global assumptions that you're making that are converting into limiting beliefs? What stories are you telling yourself? What labels are you applying to yourself that aren't true? And I encourage people to just spend some reflective time with those prompts, those questions, and list out their limiting beliefs, and then create an exchange. Then you have to just replace the beliefs holding you back. You know, how did I form this limiting belief once you've identified it? Would people who know you question the validity of that limiting belief? Would super achievers question the validity of your belief, the thing that's holding you back? Was there a time when you didn't believe that limiting belief? You know, what are the consequences if you stick with that limiting belief? These are all prompt questions that can help you to then do an exchange. And it sounds simple, Sarah, but I can't even tell you, I've done workshops where I've seen people being brought to tears by the simple exercise of writing down, using the prompt questions I was just talking about, and I talk about The Mentally Strong Leader, uncovering their limiting beliefs, and then being forced to exchange those beliefs and then write them down on the same index card, draw an arrow and say, I'm no longer going to use that belief. I'm going to exchange it for this empowering belief. And I've seen people brought to tears with just the power of self-awareness and moving closer to self-acceptance when they do that.

Sarah: Yeah, you know, I was second-guessing myself on bringing this up, but see if you can follow me here. And when you started describing that and you said, you know, I am...., life is... that led me to think about internal locus of control versus external locus of control.

Scott: Yes.

Sarah: Which I have to imagine plays a part here in the sense of the mentally strong leader, right? Because in a lot of ways, we're talking about perspective, right? And we've talked some on this podcast about how perspective is the only real difference of whether you're looking at a problem or an opportunity, right? And so, you know, I'm just thinking about people that get stuck in the habit of the external locus of control. You know, this is happening to me.

Scott: Yes.

Sarah: I'm trying to lead change, but I'm in an environment that just, you know, it feels like a lost cause, you know, versus, you know, I can't control all of my external environment, but I can control this. I am able to do this. So is there a sort of a correlation there?

Scott: I think they're 100% is. And just to show, just to build on the specific example you're talking about, Sarah, in one of my keynotes, I do quite a bit of work in the change management space. And one of the most powerful moments in the keynote is when I stop and, you know, we're talking about change and the process of change and why it's so difficult for us. And I stop and I pause and I ask the audience, you know, you have what's called The Change Choice to Make. Are you going to choose to see change as happening to you or for you? And then I have them do an exercise where they list out, when you're acting like change is happening to you, what does that look like? What do those behaviors look like? Okay, great. Well, when I act like that, I catastrophize how bad it's going to be. I worry about how I'll lose part of myself with a change. Okay, now, what happens when change happens to you? And the transformation you see in behaviors and outlook is the epitome of a shift from an external focus to this thing happening to me to an internal lens where it's like, oh, wait a minute. I own how I'm going to think and feel about change. And wouldn't it be so much easier to lead change and thrive with change and live with change if I switched gears to that internal locus? That is a huge part of mental strength, Sarah. So excellent point and an excellent question, especially if mental strength is regulating your emotions, your thoughts, and behaviors to produce productive outcomes. You cannot do that by giving all power to the external factor. It's the opposite in the definition of mental strength.

Sarah: Yeah, that makes sense.

Scott: Excellent point. Excellent point.

Sarah: Thank you. Okay, so I'm going to ask this question from two different perspectives. So, you know, we're talking about these muscles, right, that you cover in the book. And, you know, this idea of building mental strength and navigating negative emotions, maintaining a positive outlook, etc. My first version of the question here is, you know, I understand the importance. There's also a lot, like you mentioned at the beginning, a lot going on in today's landscape, right? So these leaders have, you know, obviously, they have personal lives and there can be any number of things happening there. But even just from the landscape of the work world, you know, there's a ton of change, you know, there's competing priorities, there's demands on demands on demands, et. cetera. So what is your advice on, you know, working on this mental strength in the face of a lot of stress and, you know, competing priorities, et. cetera?

Scott: Yes, there's a tool in The Mentally Strong Leader in the messaging chapter, the messaging muscle, which again is your ability as a leader to not get drawn into negativity, not get sucked into negative environments, and let your temper run away with you or your emotions run away so that you send the wrong negative message to troops. It's about maintaining positivity because people are always watching you as a leader. It's absolutely essential if you want to be mentally strong that you can control that flow of emotions. There's a tool in the book that gets at what you were talking about, Sarah. I call it the redirect rhythm. It really works because it's simple. It's based on a core psychological philosophy of how to control emotions in negative moments. Here's how it works. It's four steps, but once you start to practice it, Sarah, it happens instantaneously. It has to be because this is a tool to help you navigate negative emotions in the moment. Here's how it works, four super easy steps. First, you have to create space and this is what I think most of us intuitively know. It's the old adage of you have to step back and take a breath. We all know that, but here's the psychology of why that's so important because when you step back and take a breath in that moment, when you can feel your heat rising and you say, all right, give me a second to cool down, you take a breath. Psychologically, what happens is you're creating distance from the intensity of that emotion. You're breaking the gravitation pull of that emotion that's dragging you somewhere that you do not want to be. That's why we take a breath. Then when you take a breath, you quickly move into the next step, which is to name the emotion. Ask yourself, what am I feeling right now? When you can name it, you begin to distance yourself from that emotion. It's not you. It's that thing you're feeling, and it begins to lose its hold over you. So for example, let's say you and I are having a discussion, Sarah, and I'm getting very angry with you, although I can't imagine. You see such a lovely person, but I'm getting angry. I don't know because you don't agree with me. And I step back and I say, oh, okay, take a breath. What am I feeling right now? I'm feeling anger. You go to the next, the final two steps where you reassess and you redirect. You reassess. Okay, I'm feeling angry, but what's really happening? What's really happening is that Sarah just has a different point of view than me. She's not right. I'm not right. I need to back off being so passionate about my point of view, and I'm going to redirect. That's the final stage. What's next? What am I going to do about what I'm feeling and how I'm about to react to Sarah? What happens is over time, it becomes automatic. You create space. You name the emotion. You reassess. You redirect quickly, and it becomes a very powerful self-regulation tool to keep you from losing your cool in pretty negative moments.

Sarah: Yeah. Okay. So here's the piece I'm struggling a little bit with if I'm being honest. Okay. So I've been pretty open in my content on the podcast, et cetera, about my own mental health journey. So I have complex PTSD, which can surface in depression, anxiety, ADHD, et cetera. So, you know, there's these principles, applying these principles within, you know, the challenges of, we'll say, normal stress, right?

Scott: Yes, sure.

Sarah: But then, you know, how does this content apply for people that have, you know, some mental health challenges that could make the application of these things more challenging?

Scott: Yeah, here's what I think can help. And, you know, I do want to, you know, state up front that by no means am I, you know, a mental health certified expert. You know, I focus on mental strike. For folks that are really, really, you know, struggling, they should go get the help, need, care, and attention that they deserve and that they need. But I do want to point out that what I know can help anybody who's struggling in any sense of this is it comes back to the fact that it's often the habits that we can create that make some of these behaviors more automatic for us so we don't have to think about it and struggle with it. And I'll give you a few examples. In the book, there's a reason why the subtitle is what it is. And for those of you that can see at home here, you know, it's build the habits to productively regulate your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. In The Mentally Strong Leader, I build habit-building science for the exact reason you're talking about, Sarah, to help make it for people who are really struggling with a variety of mental strength issues. And I build habit-building science in three ways. First of all, you have to understand, and everybody knows this intuitively, that to build a habit, you need repetitions, right? Repetitions come from systems and frameworks that once you ingrain them, it helps make the helpful behavior, you don't have to think about it as much. It becomes more automatic if you will. And that's why all the tools in the book are built on systems or frameworks. Habit-building science rule number one. Rule number two is we often don't start the habits that we really need to help ourselves from a mental strength perspective because we don't know the first small step to take. So for every of the 50 tools in The Mentally Strong Leader, there's a section titled Your First Small Step, as well as a section that gets to the third point of habit-building science, which is what do you do in moments of weakness? So especially for folks who are really having a hard time with some of the aspects of mental strength, there are sections for each tool that tell you when you can feel, for example, your confidence breaking down, or your confidence muscle weakening. You may generally be confident, but you get out of that meeting with a boss and you just don't feel good about yourself because of something they said. What do you do in moments of weakness to get back on track? There's a section for every tool built-in on that as well. So that's a long way to answer your question, which I think could come back to the more you can habitualize behaviors that are really going to help and that you don't have to think about it. They become part of your daily routine. I think it's going to give you a greater and greater chance to truly become mentally stronger.

Sarah: Yeah, no, that makes sense. And I wanted to ask that question, just because I think it's important to acknowledge that, you know, practices that might be pretty straightforward and simple for some folks could be a lot more challenging for others. But I think part of it too, is, you know, the goal is progress, not perfection, right? So to your point, you know, not only what do you do in a moment of weakness, but, you know, there might be periods where someone's struggling. And, you know, some of the steps or, you know, the advice just feels too much at the moment, and that's fine, but you can come back to it, right? It doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing mentality. It could be something that, you know, you're able to focus on when you can and take a break from, you know if you have a period where it's too challenging. But, you know, to your point, it sounds like so many of the concepts here are really, really helpful. And so I think they could apply to anyone. It's just, that I wanted to be respectful of bringing up the fact that, you know, sometimes there are other factors that could make it harder for people to apply certain principles than others.

Scott: Yeah. And I want to build on that in two ways very quickly, because it's a very important point, Sarah, and thank you for bringing it up, which is I do want your listeners to understand that the opposite of mentally strong is not mentally weak. We all have a baseline of mental strength to work from. We all do. In fact, in the Mentally Strong Leader, there's even a mental strength self-assessment that you take to determine, okay, what's my overall mental strength score? And then you also get a score by muscle, which is your fortitude, confidence, confidence, boldness, decision-making, goal focus, and messaging scores. And then it also helps you to figure out, okay, well, which muscles are right for you to work on? Which tools in the book will help you to work on those muscles? And I think that's important, Sarah because it helps you create a customized mental strength training program that's right for you. So you don't have to feel overwhelmed with, wait a minute, is this guy telling me that I got to go in and work on six muscles all the time?

Sarah: And all 50 tools at once.

Scott: All, like absolutely not. You know, when you go to the gym to work on your muscles, I don't think you're going to be able to go in with a plan every day, Sarah, to say, okay, today we got to hit every muscle in the body. I'm going to be here for 12 hours. Wednesday is back day, and Thursday is leg day. So you can create your own customized mental strength training program to pull the levers that are right for you that you need to work on. And again, to remember that the opposite of mentally strong is not mentally weak. We all have a baseline that we can build from.

Sarah: Yeah. And I would imagine too, there could also be, you know, scenarios, situations, circumstances where you might come back and need to focus on a different area, you know, because you're dealing with this certain situation or, you know, maybe you're leading a certain kind of person that is making you feel more challenged with a specific muscle than another, you know? So when you get the book and you look at your baseline, you know, that gives you some context, but you might find yourself in situations where it could be helpful to come back to a different piece and dig into one of the other muscles or some of the other tools.

Scott: Yeah, that's right. It's a menu of options. And I say right up front in the book, there's no expectation you use all the over 50 plus habit muscle-building tools in here. That would be ridiculous. You create your own program. And my dream is to see people, you know, I see them in the airport reading my book and I see about a thousand different stickies coming out the side pages of the parts that are most important to them. And I think that's what you'll be able to do.

Sarah: Yeah. Well, I think it's great that you're passionate about this. I think it's great you've created this resource. You know, we have had different folks come on the podcast and talk about burnout and talk about some of the struggles, right? And I think that to your point, mental strength is not only important but a superpower, right? And I think, you know, to me, I think about not only can it help you be more effective, but I think it's really important to consider the impact that it can have on a work-life blend, right? And being able to get better at navigating these things so that you're not taking it home, or you're not burdened by some unnecessary emotional weight, you know, that you could work on not carrying, right? Because it's more so, you know, just building those muscles and being more confident. So I think any tool that people can leverage to help them feel more confident and feel more adept at navigating these different circumstances it takes ultimately stress away, right? It helps them feel more productive, not just in their impact, but in how they conduct themselves. You know, I like the point you said, it's not about the valuation. It's not about getting good at this so you can give more to the company that you are impacting the bottom line for. It's the value, right? Get good at this so that, you know, being a leader is less taxing on you as a human being, I think that is a good way to look at it.

Scott: Very well said, Sarah. And, you know, I really do believe this. I mean, I really do believe this from the bottom of my heart. All the years I've spent studying mental strength, all the studies that I've done, I could have just put advice in a book and then said, okay, follow the advice and you'll be fine. But I recognize how difficult becoming mentally stronger can be. And it's why I spent the same amount of time understanding how we build habits. And that is the secret sauce in the book, I believe, because if you can habitualize the behaviors that you know in your mind are like, yeah, that makes sense. I should do that. But I don't. If you know how to create those habits, it's like your buddy, your partner right on your side with his or her arm around you, helping you along the way.

Sarah: Absolutely. Scott, can you let folks know where they can find the book so that they can check it out and learn more?

Scott: You can go to, to learn about the book, my workshop that goes with it, the keynotes that I give, and all that. And also, I put together a gift for your listeners today, Sarah. If they go to, they can download a free 60-page PDF that includes that mental strength self-assessment that I was talking about. If they want to get started on that, determine the baseline, remembering that we all have a healthy baseline to start from. But you can get that along with a whole bunch of questions and prompts that help you get the most out of the book. You can get that again at, your free 60-page PDF.

Sarah: Excellent. Well, thank you, Scott. We'll make sure that we link both of those things in the show notes so everyone can easily find them. Really appreciate you coming and having this conversation. Enjoyed it and appreciate your insight. Thank you.

Scott: Thank you. Thank you so much. And thanks for your great questions and insight is very helpful for me too. Thank you.

Sarah: Thank you, Scott. You can learn more by visiting the home of the UNSCRIPTED podcast at The podcast is published in partnership with IFS. You can learn more at As always, thank you for listening.