Military Mindset: 5 Ways to Build Mental Toughness
You can’t jump on Facebook or YouTube without seeing someone talk about “the hustle.”
Working 100 hours per week, hitting the gym fives times a day, and running seven companies.They talk about it like it’s an exclusive club.
Meanwhile, the elite athletes, the top business owners, and the real hustlers are quietly pushing through doubt and working away toward their deepest purpose. They aren’t making a big scene about it on social media.
So, what’s the difference between the YouTube gurus and the real deals?
There’s been a lot of talk about mental toughness in the last decade or so, but not all of it has been quality information.
Let’s take a closer look at what mental toughness really is, why it’s important to build up your mental toughness, and how to become mentally tough.
What is Mental Toughness?
You can look at mental toughness in two keys: as an idea and as a form of measurement.
Mental toughness calls to the idea of being able to enter a headspace that allows you to overcome a current negative feeling or situation in favor of progressive and productive action.
Mental toughness can also be used as a measuring stick to see how much grit you have; how likely you are to give up when the going gets tough.
Why is Mental Toughness Important?
Many experts believe that mental toughness is a primary factor for pursuing and achieving high-level goals. It’s also a tool that can be used to get through the toughest moments in our lives.
When you want to be an “elite” version of anything – business owner, athlete, etc. – you must be mentally tough.
That means looking at a stressful situation, one that might knock out an average person, and have the belief in yourself that you’ll be able to avoid distractions and do what is necessary to overcome it.
Mentally tough people tend to be more ambitious, handle stress better, show up more, and perform better. Those who are mentally tough see a goal and keep going at it until they reach their destination.
But let’s say that you experience tragedy. This isn’t a goal or a destination. Quite the opposite – It’s where you don’t want to be.
Mental toughness can prepare you for the day when a loved one passes away, your business flops, or you are hit with an illness that’s tough to kick.
Being mentally tough helps you calm down, assess the situation for what it really is, stoically accept what’s happening, and push forward.
As Jordan Peterson says,
“It is necessary to be strong in the face of death because death is intrinsic to life. It is for this reason that I tell my students: aim to be the person at your father's funeral that everyone, in their grief and misery, can rely on. There's a worthy and noble ambition: strength in the face of adversity.”
Mental Toughness Exercises: How to Develop Mental Toughness
Maybe you’re not as mentally tough as you would want to be. How can you fix that? Here are some ways to develop that mental toughness:
1. Find Your Why
It’s almost cliché at this point, but I cannot stress this enough:
If you want to push yourself to achieve new heights of personal development, you must find your why or your deepest purpose.
Why are you waking up everyday when you could just as easily sleep the day away?
What’s driving you to live?
If you don’t know, take time with yourself, sit down and really think about this question. It’s the foundation for everything else that will follow.
2. Get Uncomfortable
Most of us are blessed with lives of comfort. We’ve forgotten what it means to truly struggle and test ourselves with the elements and with fate.
One solution for this is to put yourself in unfavorable conditions.
David Goggins is an extreme example of this as he went through the notorious Hell Week three times.
He went from being an exterminator getting paid less than $1,000 per month to being considered one of the toughest men alive.
Now, I wouldn’t expect you to achieve a Goggins level of mental toughness, but you can certainly start doing things today that help you get used to the uncomfortable.
- Take cold showers every morning
- Practice intermittent fasting
- Incrementally make your workouts tougher such as exercising in different environments such as running in heat or cold
- Take unessential comforts away from yourself for a few months such as television or one-click buying from Amazon
3. Practice Stoic Principles
Stoics are mistakenly thought to be apathetic in that nothing bothers them because they don’t care.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Stoics feel just as much as the next person, but they can internalize those feelings, deal with them logically, see the situation for what it is, and act appropriately.
Being stoic means facing your emotions directly and figuring out the best way to handle them that doesn’t involve outbursts or extreme action.
Before you react to a situation, remember that the only thing you can control is your thoughts, your beliefs, and your actions.
Try your best not to take things personally because almost every time, a situation has nothing to do with you personally. Someone could be having a terrible day and their outburst at you has nothing to do with you, but whatever they are going through.
Be stoic in those moments.
Pause, assess what’s really happening, and consider all sides before you react.
4. Daily Obstacles
Everyday, try or do something that pushes you outside of your comfort zone.
Talk to that person you’re interested in.
Try that hobby or activity that you’ve been putting off for fear of looking silly (because you definitely will mess up as a beginner).
Be the first to volunteer for something that takes guts like going first on a zip line.
Find opportunities every day to challenge that initial gut reaction that prevents you from living life.
5. Practice Gratitude
Finally, I firmly believe that practicing gratitude each and every day should be a part of everyone’s routine.
Most of us have so much in our life to be thankful for, but we tend to forget about those things thanks to little inconveniences.
A storm knocked out your electricity, but you forget that you live in a beautiful house protecting you from that same storm.
You get a cold, but you also have access to modern comforts to ease the symptoms and get you better faster.
You had a fight with your significant other, but you don’t realize that there are literally millions of people without someone to call a partner.
Chances are, your life is probably pretty amazing even during the worst time. Never forget that.
Books on Mental Toughness
For those who enjoy taking self-development one step further, here are some great books on mental toughness from guys who have been to hell and back.
- Discipline Equals Freedom (Field Manual) by Jocko Willink
- Can't Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins
- Special Operations Mental Toughness: The Invincible Mindset of Delta Force Operators, Navy SEALs, Army Rangers & Other Elite Warriors! Paperback by Lawrence Colebrooke
- Military Mental Toughness: Elite Training for Critical Situations by Chris McNab
- 28 Day Mental Strength Trial Challenges