Building Mental Toughness

Building Mental Toughness

"Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing.  You have to make the mind run the body.  Never let the body tell the mind what to do.  The body will always give up." – George S. Patton

We all know this quote is referring to mental toughness.  I am convinced that one cannot accomplish anything great, whether it be professionally or in training, if they do not have mental toughness.  Those people who have mental toughness have the ability to maintain a focus and determination to complete a task despite the difficulty, those people never quit, ever.  Many people are simply born with mental toughness or have developed it due to their surroundings.  However, just like getting physically stronger, it is possible to strengthen your capacity for mental toughness.


The core trait of those who are mentally tough is self-motivation.  These people are often referred to as people who are intrinsically motivated.  They are willing to push themselves as far as possible for the love of their sport.  They do not need much encouragement to give their best effort because they are already setting goals for themselves.  Unfortunately, everyone doesn't have intrinsic motivation, some people have achievement motivation.  These are the people who perform best when they have the pressure of competition.

With achievement motivation, there are two types of people, those who are motivated by success and those who are motivated by a fear of failure.  Those motivated by success are people who believe that if they work hard enough they can achieve anything. Quite simply, they are competing with themselves.  While those motivated by fear only respond to challenges that threaten their ego.  And if the challenge is too great, they often will cop-out to avoid a hit to their ego.

It is no surprise that those who are self-motivated or motivated by their own achievement of success are more mentally strong.  These individuals, while they enjoy competition are only looking to beat themselves.  They see obstacles as a chance to overcome something for themselves, making their minds more grounded and positive.  While those who are motivated by ego are constantly just reacting to others.  It is important to take a step back and determine what motivates you.  If it is the fear of failure, try changing your motivating factor.

HAVE A POSITIVE MIND. Regardless of what are doing, everyday each of us has a constant dialog going on in our minds.  This dialog is dependent on outside sources and our own confidence.  Some thoughts will inevitably be negative.  However, to be successful you need to push out the negative thoughts and only think about the ones that make you feel better.  While it sounds cliché, during a race, thinking about how awesome you will feel crossing the finish line will provide much more motivation than thinking there is no way I am going to finish this race.

The best way to stay positive is to have a mantra or a mission statement.  It can be different for everyone, my personal favorite is "if it's important to you, you will find a way, if not you will make an excuse."  Repeating this mantra during your training or difficult obstacle will help create a positive mind.

BE YOUR OWN COACH.  Again, while corny, you should also have an dialog with yourself every time you feel like giving up.  Simply saying "You are going to give this everything you have," can provide an extra bit of motivation that a real coach might give.  Talk yourself into getting that second wind.

VISUALIZE SUCCESS.  Just like when setting up for any lift, all good athletes visualize the movement and the technique required.  Rehearse all aspects of the challenge in your mind will help your success exponentially.  Once you have accomplished the feat in your mind, all you have to do is repeat it with your body. 

GET UNCOMFORTABLE DAILY. We all are guilty of falling into the routines of adult life, but if you are in a routine day in and day out, you cannot expect to make progress.  If you are not trying to be better each time you do something than you aren't building any mental toughness because your body is adapting and what was once hard is now just repetitive.  To gain mental toughness you need to get outside of your comfort zone and test your mind.  Doing something challenging everyday will teach you problem-solve which can help you tough out any number of situations.

BE PREPARED. Preparation is the key to all success.  Meaning, take time to prepare for everything, that way you will be ready for anything.  Anticipate any problems that could arise and have a solution in mind.  Having everything aligned will allow you to go into the event or sport with peace of mind that you have everything possible to accomplish your goal.  This alone will put you ahead of the curve since you have already mapped out any problem areas.

Not everyone may have been born a self-starter or motivated by their own success.  But using the above tactics will help train your mind and increase your mental toughness to set you up for limitless success.