A former Marine starts off mental-toughness coaching with an exercise anyone can do

Mental toughness training with Andrew D. Wittman starts off with a deceptively difficult question.

“Who are you?”

It’s deceptively difficult because we’re asked versions of this question all the time — as in, “What do you do?” at a networking event. And we usually answer with, “I’m a journalist,” or “I’m a lawyer,” or “I’m an entrepreneur.”

But Wittman, who is a former Marine, police officer, and federal agent, and current mental toughness coach, is looking for something different.

“Those are all roles you play,” he told Business Insider when we spoke by phone in October. “What happens when you stop?”

In other words, if tomorrow you quit your job or were laid off, who would you be?

What Wittman wants to hear from clients is who they are on the inside. What are their strengths and what do they aspire to?

So he helps them devise an identity statement that reads: “I am a _____, who does _____.”

In his book, “Ground Zero Leadership: CEO of You” (available on Wittman’s website, but not on Amazon), Wittman outlines four steps to crafting your own identity statement:

1. Who do I want to be?

2. What are the internals by which I want to define myself?

3. What strength do I need to highlight?

4. What virtue do I aspire to?

It usually takes clients about three weeks to come up with an identity statement that’s true to them. From then on, Wittman said, every other choice they make in their lives must line up with the character they have outlined.

His personal identity statement is: “I am a man of excellence, who always keeps his word.”

Wittman’s exercise sounds similar to crafting a personal mission statement, a strategy popularised in Stephen Covey’s bestselling book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” A personal mission statement, Covey wrote, should focus on what you want to be and do as well as your most important values.

“I aspire to always keep my word,” Wittman writes in the book. “No matter what. Even if it costs me, time, money or pain. That’s who I am.”

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