Mental fitness is a pet topic of mine. I’ve been writing and thinking about it for a while.
I had recently however hit a roadblock.
I am comfortable in explaining what mental fitness is and why it is important to build it, but I had been struggling to find a comprehensive, yet accessible way to describe how to build it. Whilst I understand the mental fitness building process, I am not necessarily very good at explaining it to others.
So, I’ve been thinking a lot about that over the past 6 months or more and have tried using different formats to communicate it.
I run into two main problems when trying to articulate how someone builds mental fitness.
- The explanation is so detailed that anyone encountering the material for the first time would be put off by just how much there is to learn and understand.
- The explanation is memorable but lacks the necessary detail required to really give someone something useful enough to be actioned in their everyday life.
Essentially, either the explanation is too simple or too complex.
To assist in overcoming this challenge, some models use acronyms.
For example, Seligman’s model of happiness is represented by the acronym P.E.R.M.A which captures the five important building blocks of happiness.
P = positive emotion
E = engagement and finding flow
R = relationships and authentic connections
M = meaning and purposeful existence
A = achievement and a sense of accomplishment
If you remember the acronym, you have a greater chance of remembering the five components. It allows for the complexity of the model to remain, but also makes it easier to communicate.
Inspired by this, I have been searching for an acronym that is memorable but also encapsulates the key components of the mental fitness building process.
I think I have found one.
In the physical fitness space, the term ‘ripped’ is often used to describe someone with well-defined and well-developed musculature. Getting ‘ripped’ is the result of significant discipline and effort at the level of physical training and nutrition. It is a physical endpoint of a personal development process.
In the mental fitness space, I think the acronym ‘R.I.P.P.ED’ might be a suitable way of memorising the blueprint for how one builds mental fitness. Just like you can get physically ‘ripped’, maybe you can also get mentally ‘ripped’ [note: the term ‘ripped’ is also used to describe someone under the influence of alcohol or drugs. To be clear, I am not recommending that usage of the word here or suggesting that mental fitness involves illicit drug use].
R.I.P.P.E.D refers to 6 areas, which if an individual has activities in each of these 6 areas, then they are building mental fitness.
R = Repeatedly reflect on how your life is now, your strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, successes and failures (where I am now, where I have been)
I = Imagine your ideal life and self (where I want to be)
P = Build a network of people who support you to be the best version of yourself that you can and for whom you reciprocate that support (the people in my life)
P = Be deliberate in identifying and solving the main problems in your life, from the small daily ones to the bigger life-defining ones (the barriers and obstacles I need to overcome)
E = Experiment with new ways of thinking and behaving, trying new things, having new experiences (a way to practice change and trigger growth)
D = Develop daily and weekly habits and routines that move you closer to your ideal life and self (the small steps that get me to my bigger goals)
Building mental fitness (in the RIPPED model) is therefore about engaging in deliberate activities in each of these 6 areas. For example, the mental fitness blueprint for a student wanting to do well at their studies, but also in life in general might involve the following:
R – regular journalling as an activity to help them develop greater self-awareness and understanding
I – attend careers based seminars to help identify which areas/fields in which they might want to work
P – invest time and effort in maintaining and growing family relationships, so they have a good support base
P – problem-solve daily living or health issues that get in the way of study
E – occasionally participate in some of the many events or activities or clubs available at the university to be exposed to new ideas, people and perspectives
D – develop rock-solid study habits and routines so time spent studying is maximised in terms of learning
For me, someone who is at a different stage of life (old man :)) my mental fitness blueprint might look like:
R – therapy, to better understand my own psychological strengths and blindspots (e.g. learning that I have good instincts in terms of behaviour change, but not as good instincts in terms of close relationships)
I – consider what legacy I want to leave in terms of my contribution to society and how I might do that through my work (e.g. identify that I want to help give other people the toolkits necessary to look after their health and wellbeing)
P – invest time and effort in developing, growing and maintaining supportive relationships with my colleagues (i.e. so I can be supported in achieving my legacy)
P – problem solve health complaints that get in the way of me being present in my work and my relationships (e.g. manage the muscle pain disorder that flares during stressful periods)
E – read widely in areas outside of my areas of competence to get different perspectives on health and wellbeing and trial ideas from these readings in my own life (e.g. I am reading a lot about breathing retraining at the moment and applying those ideas to my physical training)
D – develop efficient workflows at work to handle high work volumes (e.g. prioritise and protect ‘deep work’ time each day)
With the R.I.P.P.E.D model, each person can develop their own mental fitness blueprint, that is comprehensive and covers many of the areas necessary to build mental health and wellbeing over time.
What might your mental fitness blueprint look like?
R = how often do I reflect on how I am doing in my life currently?
I = what future do I want for myself? Who do I want to be as a person?
P = who are the key people in my life that support me?
P = what problems or challenges do I need to solve in my life to move forward?
E = what have I done recently that is new or different?
D = what daily habits do I have in place that help me build a better future for myself?