METTLE IS A WORD you dont hear much
these days. It means a strength of mind that gives you the ability
to with-stand pain or difficulties with bravery and resolution.
Mettle is a quality we all admire. But it isnt something
you are born with. It must be developed. It is strengthened by
the way you conduct your everyday life. Specifically, mettle
is created by daily making the decision to refuse to flinch.
Everybody knows what it means to flinch.
For example, if you pretend youre going to slug me, and
I twitch or blink, I flinched.
Lets expand and extend that idea
in a useful way: Lets say flinching is any form of shrinking
back, pulling away or turning aside, when its done to avoid
discomfort or difficulty.
Have you ever noticed that you have a strong
desire to put your hands in front of your body when youre
standing up and talking to several people who are all seated?
Most people do. If you succumb to your desire to put your hands
in front of your body, thats a flinch.
Or say youre telling someone something
she doesnt want to hear. While you talk, maybe you shift
your bodys weight from one foot to another, pick at your
fingernails or cross your arms. You flinched!
If you look at someone and they then look
at you and you quickly look away, you flinched. Mumbling or speaking
quietly is a form of flinching. Someone who is avoiding going
to night classes because hes afraid he might not do well
Flinching is an attempt to protect yourself,
and its very natural. Everybody does it. But there is one
major problem with it: Flinching makes you weak. Notice I didnt
say it was a sign that you are weak. The act of flinching itself
makes you weak.
But when you have the urge to flinch and
you dont, you gain a kind of strength. And when you look
people right in the eyes with your arms hanging by your sides
where they naturally hang and you speak truthfully without flinching,
you have an unnervingly powerful personal presence.
And you dont have to spend years
getting good at this; you can do it the very next time you talk
to someone. Its easy to do (once you decide to), but when
you do it, you will notice a temptation, a craving, a desire
almost an ache to fidget or look away or at least
put your hands in your pockets.
Refuse to flinch.
Make up your mind as soon as you
notice yourself flinching that you will not flinch. Youll
like the result. A fear just goes out of you. This is especially
true if you consider yourself shy to any degree. Dont flinch,
and suddenly the sense of shyness becomes somewhat wispy and
transparent, and youll start to wonder if there has ever
been anything there but a shadow.
Dont flinch, and feel the power.
Then go on and expand this power by extending
the practice into the psychological arena. When someone is in
denial, it means they are mentally or emotionally flinching;
they are looking away or shrinking back or avoiding something
real some truth, some reality and always in order
to avoid discomfort or difficulty.
But always and forever, wherever you flinch,
you will be weak. And wherever you refuse to flinch, you will
This is the how of courage.
Its not that during a courageous act a person doesnt
want to run away. What makes it courageous is that the person
wants to run away but doesnt. Courage is refusing to flinch.
Extend your unflinching psyche into any
area where you want more personal power.
If you want to be socially strong, dont
flinch in social situations. If you want to be emotionally strong,
dont flinch at emotional feelings or situations. You would
bene-fit if you made this a lifetime practice, a spiritual regimen,
a holy discipline.
Wherever you refuse to flinch, you will
have power. This will, of course, increase your impact on people.
People will admire your courage and look up to you. When this
happens, dont flinch.
To forge mettle:
Resist the temptation to flinch.