Mettle is a word you don’t 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 isn’t 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 you’re going to slug me, and I twitch or blink, I flinched.
Let’s expand and extend that idea in a useful way: Let’s say flinching is any form of shrinking back, pulling away or turning aside, when it’s 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 you’re 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, that’s a flinch.
Or say you’re telling someone something she doesn’t want to hear. While you talk, maybe you shift your body’s 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 he’s afraid he might not do well is flinching.
Flinching is an attempt to protect yourself, and it’s very natural. Everybody does it. But there is one major problem with it: Flinching makes you weak. Notice I didn’t 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 don’t, 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 don’t have to spend years getting good at this; you can do it the very next time you talk to someone. It’s 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. You’ll like the result. A fear just goes out of you. This is especially true if you consider yourself shy to any degree. Don’t flinch, and suddenly the sense of shyness becomes somewhat wispy and transparent, and you’ll start to wonder if there has ever been anything there but a shadow.
Don’t 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 be strong.
This is the “how” of courage. It’s not that during a courageous act a person doesn’t want to run away. What makes it courageous is that the person wants to run away but doesn’t. 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, don’t flinch in social situations. If you want to be emotionally strong, don’t flinch at emotional feelings or situations. You would benefit 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, don’t flinch.
Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Antivirus For Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.