I’ve taken my workouts to a new level in the past four weeks.  I run, hike, swim, lift weights and now do yoga.  On some days, I even work out in the morning and in the evening.  While I’m definitely feeling slimmer and stronger, I’ve noticed that soreness is a regular companion.

It’s not a pain that takes my breathe away or causes me to stop.  It’s the kind of pain that reminds me that I’m working out and building strength.  

That’s the thing about strength, you build strength over time and through effort.  In order to have career success on your terms – in a way that builds a flexible and fulfilling career – you have to have mental strength. Building that kind of strength doesn’t come easy.  Every time you get stronger there’s a bit of soreness that comes with it.

You have to be willing to do things your own way.  When I work with lawyers that want to build a successful practice, they have to readjust their belief that the billable hour means everything.  It’s difficult to have the mental toughness to say that your career success is not equal to the number of hours you’ve billed.  Until you work on your terms, you’ll never have the time to build the success that gives you the autonomy to enjoy your career.  This is true regardless of your profession. If you don’t control how you spend your time, your career satisfaction is bound to be low.

You have to be willing to get better.  You have to practice things with which you are uncomfortable. I don’t just mean learning a new skill.  You need to become just as good at confronting bias as you are at learning the newest technology.  Remember that discomfort is a signal you are on the right track.

You have to be willing to become the person who has the type of success you want.  We wait. Yep, we dream and we wait. The problem with dreaming is that usually it isn’t painful. If you want a better job or a promotion, then you need to become the person who fits that position. I want a healthy body. It will only be healthy due the to efforts I make to become a healthy person.  There’s no other way to success, you have to become successful.

You have to be willing to leave the excuses behind.  We try something new and something goes wrong. A new approach doesn’t work out the way we want it to.  Mental toughness requires that you push aside the setback and try again.  By now we’ve all heard that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert. But this doesn’t mean practicing the same thing over and over again.  It’s pushing past the thing you thought would work and trying something different. 

Whenever I counsel people on tough human resources issues, they want to know the possible options or recourse.  I tell them that anything is possible – you just have to have the will to do it.  It’s hard for an organization to build the consensus to change or to even take a risk.  

But as an individual, you can decide to take the risk that inspires the mental strength and confidence you need to build the career you want.  Be clear though, that the soreness you will inevitably feel is a sign that you are on the right path.