How many times have we been told to push harder? “Never quit”. “No pain, no gain”. But do you know how to actually become a person who never quits?

People become complacent when things go wrong. “I earn less because I didn’t go to college”. “I don’t have friends because I’m shy”. It’s easy to have excuses. Few hold the belief that we can become whoever we want to be in life.

We just need to take charge. We just need to lay one brick at a time and soon enough we’ll have a strong wall of success. People usually believe that being tough means pushing harder. But sometimes, we need to zoom out and focus on the bigger picture. We need to ask ourselves a very basic question – ­ “What is my purpose?”.

mental toughness strongest

How To Develop Mental Toughness:

1. Purpose

Mark McClusky, head of Business Development at WIRED, mentions that “Overall, exercise performance is ultimately limited by perception of effort rather than cardiorespiratory and musculoenergetic factors.”

I can’t stress on this enough. Everyone ­from Oprah to even Kim Kardashian has a sense of meaning in their lives. So if you want to excel at something, make sure it means something to you. Otherwise, you’ll give up when the going gets tough.

That’s right! Why do you want to succeed at a job if you don’t even like it? Oh, you have the excuse already ­ “I have bills to pay!”. Well, everyone has responsibilities. In that case, save some money or take a loan to pay for your expenses and work on your dream job no matter what!

Every person has a set of values which gives them a sense of purpose. For instance, your purpose might be “to become an MMA fighter” if you were always getting into backyard brawls as a teenager. Or your purpose might be to “test your abilities” if you’ve seen rejection for quite long.

Whatever your purpose is, make sure that it is not about impressing others. Research has proven that intrinsic goals overshadow extrinsic goals. When you do something to fulfill an inner desire, you’ll be able to grind harder than others.

If you can’t seem to find your purpose, here are some questions you need to ask yourself.

  • What do I value most in life and in others? Do I embody my values?
  • Who inspires me? What do I like about them? These people could be athletes, movie stars or somebody you know personally.
  • What do people thank me for? How am I different than others?
  • What is my vision for the future? Am I moving forward towards that vision?

These questions will help you know yourself and lead you to the right path.

2. Self­ Awareness

As I mentioned earlier, strength is not only about pushing harder. Sometimes, we need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. According to Mark Divine, a former Navy SEAL commander, “self­-awareness is a place to start building what I call your unbeatable mind”. When you know what you’re capable of doing, it is easy to soar high.

If you want to learn more about yourself, start keeping a journal. Write for only ten minutes a day, but be consistent. Find a quiet place, take a deep breath, and start reflecting on your life in general.

The great thing about self-­awareness is that it provides us with specific solutions. For instance, you might learn that you work better in the evening and so you decide to make it your ‘do not disturb’ time of the day.

But as Bruce Lee once said, “knowing is not enough, we must act”. That is why we must have goals!

3. Goals

Once you have found your purpose, set goals. Have your daily and monthly goals in place. But also allocate enough downtime. When your work is meaningful, your goals will energize you instead of suffocating you.

If you’re buried in doubt, setting small goals is a good way to fight the darkness. Accomplishing small goals will give you the much-needed drive and build momentum.

In Navy SEAL training, even making your bed in the morning is considered an important goal. Because it gives you a sense of pride and makes you feel ready for the tasks ahead.

But nobody can accomplish great things on their own. We need to learn from others. We need constructive criticism to work on the areas where we can grow.

goals mental toughness

4. Team Support

It is human nature to find strength in relationships. Always have someone who has your back and always be willing to return the favor.

Navy SEAL training is perhaps the toughest thing to go through in life. According to Mark Divine, team spirit is integral to survival in SEAL training.

His advice is to “find a group of like-minded others who will support you. This is how you not only get on the path but stay on the path.”

As humans, we have learned to live in communities. We find strength amongst each other. It is easier to go that extra mile when your team is counting on you and supporting you through each thick and thin.

While having people there for you is essential, it all comes down to preparation.

5. Preparation

UFC Featherweight champion Conor Mcgregor says that “My confidence comes from my work ethic. Nobody works harder than me. They don’t think like I think, they don’t talk like I talk.”

Conor is the cockiest fighter in UFC. In his own words, “They think that all I do is talk, but guess what, I back it up!” And it’s true. One of his famous victories was with Jose Aldo who had never lost a fight in 10 years. Conor knocked him out in just thirteen seconds.

It is obvious that Conor’s confidence stems from his preparation. Therefore, it is about the preparation as much as it is about the mindset. One cannot just say things confidently without actually doing them. When we grind hard every day to master our craft, confidence comes naturally.

Here are some hacks to optimize your preparation.

  • a) Visualization

Our minds cannot differentiate between a real experience and our imagination. Hence, visualization can be a good tool in your arsenal. But when you visualize, be natural and realistic. See the negatives as much as you see the positives. Because if your visualization is unrealistic, your mind will not believe it deep down. And to harness energy, you must believe what you see deep down.

When people fail, their brains automatically visualize everything going wrong. But when you become conscious of your visualizations, you learn how to handle each hurdle that might get in your way.

When you’re visualizing, you’re also attracting the things you want into your life. This is evident in Jim Carrey’s address at Maharishi University. He said, “We’re not the spectators, but also the creators of our own lives”. We create the future by visualizing, saying, believing, and doing things.

Daniel Coyle, featured in The Best American Sports Writing, explains how American Special Forces prepare for a challenging mission.

“…they spend the entire morning going over every possible mistake or disaster that could happen during the mission. Every possible screwup is mercilessly examined, and linked to an appropriate response: if the helicopter crash­lands, we’ll do X. If we are dropped off at the wrong spot, we’ll do Y. If we are outnumbered, we’ll do Z.”

Visualization sounds interesting, right? But you can crank it up a notch! But how? The answer is

The answer is simulation.

  • b) Simulation

Simulation is the closest you can come to your challenge before actually facing it. For example, if you have to give an important presentation, practice it at the same venue in front of your friends.

Note that all fear is fear of uncertainty. And by being in the same situation, you are eliminating most of the uncertainty.

When the SEALs invaded Osama Bin Laden’s premises in Pakistan, they used simulations too. They built the exact same replica of the premises. Then they went through the exact same obstacles that they would face in the real invasion.

While visualization and simulations can help hone your skills, perfection shouldn’t be your primary aim.

6. Improvement, not perfection

A common thing that brings people down is perfection. Everyone wants to win the trophy fast and nobody has the patience to keep honing their skills.

When you are thinking in absolute terms, you put yourself in a win or lose scenario. But when you think about improvement, you can measure your progress and be proud of it.

An important part of improvement is to focus on your weaknesses. While it’s okay to celebrate progress, improvement comes from eliminating your weaknesses one by one. Focus on what went wrong the last time and try to fix it next time.

Navy SEAL commander, James Waters says that “On almost every real world mission I was on – even the most successful ones – we spent 90% of our post ­mission debrief focusing on what we did wrong or could have done better”.

Most people get disheartened from failures. But the strong ones know that failures can be our teachers, telling us exactly what we need to do. So every time you fail, analyze what went wrong and how it can be fixed.

When you hustle day and night, it is possible to feel low at times. Here’s what you need in those times.

Blessed Cause I Got Fight – Motivational Video – WATCH FREE:

7. Positive Self-Talk

We often worry about what others think about us. But we seldom think about how we talk to ourselves. As a matter of fact, we say 300 to ­1000 words to ourselves per minute. If we are constantly hard on ourselves, we’ll never have the energy to focus on our goals.

Let us examine how Navy SEALs talk to themselves. A common SEAL drill includes controlling your breath underwater. Imagine being underwater with an oxygen mask. Your instructor comes behind you, removes the regulator out of your mouth and ties your oxygen lines in a knot. An ordinary person would say “I am going to die”, but Navy SEALs have to say “I can handle it”.

To talk positively to yourself, remind yourself the following:

1. Action brings change while overthinking brings suffering.
2. All pain is temporary.
3. Focusing on what I can control will bring positive change.
4. Take a deep breath to calm your mind and focus on action.

But toughness is not all about hard work. You also need to open your heart and celebrate.

8. Celebration

Last but not the least, celebration is something that should be done every day. Talking and laughing with your loved ones is as important as the hard work. The time we spend with our family reminds us that the struggle is worth it.

Finding joy in the simplest of things is essential to have a tough mind. That is because happiness gives us the energy boost to push harder in our endeavors. Savor your coffee in the morning instead of just sipping it mindlessly. Lose yourself in music with your friends. Happiness is self­-made.

Always celebrate the small wins. Be proud of making your bed in the morning. Be proud of completing that small goal on your to-­do list. When you look back at your hard work, it gives you the motivation to go even further.

A study done by Nelson and Meyvis in 2008 proved that many small pleasures make us happier than few big pleasures. So find joy in the little things.

Be grateful for having a good conversation with your colleague. Laugh like a child, crack silly jokes and let go every once in a while. As human beings, we all want to express ourselves creatively. So always express your love for others and don’t hesitate to shake a leg.

Summing it up

1. Purpose

This is the most important step of attaining mental toughness. Ask yourself, “Do I really want to do what I’m doing?”. If yes, then why? For instance, your purpose may say “I have to provide to my family” or “I have to test my abilities”.

2. Self Awareness

Toughness doesn’t always come from pushing harder. By journaling and ­reflection, we can cultivate self­-awareness. It helps us find creative solutions to our problems. For instance, you can learn whether you’re a morning person or a night owl.

3. Goals

Goals help us measure our progress and serve as an anchor to our dreams. Small goals are especially helpful for getting motivation and building momentum. Always make a to-do list in the morning with 3­-to-5 key tasks.

4. Team Support

As human beings, we always find comfort by being a part of a community. It is necessary to seek help from others and associate with like­-minded people. You may go fast when you’re alone, but you’ll go far when you’re not.

5. Preparation

When all’s said and done, what you sow is what you reap. Prepare hard, learn from your mistakes and improve every day. To get an edge over others, use techniques such as visualization and simulation.

6. Self­ Talk

Our inner dialogue is very important. We need to remind ourselves that hardships are temporary. Everything will be fine if we focus on what we can control.

7. Improvement, not perfection

A rookie mistake is having a winner or loser mentality. We should rather focus on improving ourselves every day. Small improvements every day add up to powerful transformations over a long period of time.

8. Celebrate

While grinding hard is essential, always spend some quality time with your loved ones. We should learn how to laugh, sing and dance without a reason. And we should celebrate small wins every day.

16 Responses

  1. Varun

    Great article!

    I really liked the visualisation part. We should learn how to use visualisation to motivate ourselves and to plan our course to reach our goals.

    I would like to use the simulation technique to give presentations at college. Great idea!

    Thank you!

    • Akshay

      Visualization is indeed a fantastic tool, Varun. And simulation is pure magic.

      I hope these tools help you reach your goals.

  2. Kieren

    Concise, specific and excellent advice that can be easily acted upon, and is not overly complex and overwhelming. Essential qualities for advice regarding self improvement. Awesome article!

  3. Chris J.S.

    Now this is what I am talking about, analyze, make a strategy and the execute the enemy. I honestly believe what is said, we have all the potential to become what we want, all it takes is a dream, patience and persistence. Nice steps.

  4. Raj

    Wow! That’s a great article. I really need some mental toughness at this moment tbh. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Jared Buck

    Solid article!
    Every point resonated with me on some level or another.

    Keep it up!

  6. Aisa Marie Oliver

    Thank You for Your Encouraging Insight. I realized important accomplishment’s I overlooked. I also realized the point of falling back. I have to practice to win. As well, strengthen my weakness, instead of denial from the start. I believe you mean everything can change to My Purpose and Ability. I have to EnCourage MySelf and Strength My Abilites and My Weakness’s. I’m drowning, and it’s cold as hell,where I am in My Life. My InSight remind’s Me of My DownFall’s. Time to Real Focus Before moving On. Mission Accomplished.

    Asia Oliver


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