There’s one thing that determines your quality of life above all others.
One thing that determines how little or how much you accomplish.
One thing that determines whether you will give up or keep pushing.
One thing that controls how others affect you.
One thing that sets the winners apart from the mediocre.
That one thing is mental toughness.
Your Quality of Life is Most Largely Determined By Your Mental Toughness
This is something I’ve observed since I was just a young child and I’ve yet to see or experience anything to convince me otherwise.
Mentally Tough People are Happier
Happiness is a choice. If you are just sitting around waiting for happiness to find you, you’ll never be happy for long. There are too many things that will get in the way of that happening.
Therefore, being happy requires a certain level of mental toughness.
How else are you going to deal with all of the negative things that happen in life?
Time heals all wounds, but waiting for time to solve your problems is a waste of time.
Money can certainly buy happiness, but there are too many problems that money just simply can’t solve. And if you rely on money solely for happiness, you’ll find that no amount of money can compete with a weak mind.
Life is all about making the hard choices. And making the hard choice requires mental toughness. Sometimes it’s difficult to choose to be happy when everything in your current situation is shit.
It’s not that being miserable makes you a pussy, but you’ll notice that the weakest people are usually the most miserable.
Mentally Tough People Are Healthier
I say this all the time, but it’s worth repeating — your body and mind are one.
Your physical state is deeply connected to your mental state.
You have the body of a person who does the things you do and thinks the things you think.
Why is it that some people can eat fast food on occasion and not get fat? How can some people use drugs and not get addicted?
We all know the benefits and consequences of our actions. But only the mentally tough can control themselves.
One of the biggest reasons that most people workout year after year without making any noticeable progress is that their mind is too weak to allow them to. They think the workout is over when it starts to hurt a little bit.
Obviously you aren’t supposed to push yourself to the point of injury, but you do need to experience a degree of pain when resistance training. Some people think their body is just going to fall apart at the first sign of pain. (Most likely because their mind falls apart at the first sign of pain.)
They don’t even realize how much harder they can push themselves, because they’re too weak to find out.
Mentally Tough People Are More Successful
Mentally tough people get more done.
I’m tired… I don’t feel like it… But it’s hard…. I don’t know how…
The amount of challenges that have to be overcome in our careers are virtually endless. We all know that most successful people have had to overcome multiple failures to get where they are.
It’s the people who just give up and call it a “failure” that are mentally weak and never get anywhere.
And that’s not even considering all of the normal fears and mental barriers that anyone has to overcome if they want to start their own business.
How to Build Mental Toughness
To a degree, I think this is a quality that some people are born with and others aren’t.
Not to say that everyone can’t develop mental toughness, but it definitely comes more naturally to some than others.
Developing mental toughness requires you to:
- Have self-control over your emotions
- Control how your habits are formed when facing adversity
- Win the inner battle with resistance consistently
Controlling your emotional state is the minimum requirement to be mentally tough.
When I was younger, I was always resilient, but I had a difficult time controlling my emotional state.
So, I wouldn’t give up in a tough situation, but I would be miserable. Now, I can push through something tough and stay in a pretty good mood. It takes a lot to really get to me these days.
That didn’t happen by accident.
It took a lot of practice and effort.
I’ve mentioned several of the things I’ve incorporated into my life throughout various articles, but three of those things that have had the biggest impact on my resiliency and emotional toughness are:
- Shifting to a Stoic philosophy of accepting things as they are and not reacting emotionally
- Using body language cues to boost my mood, attitude, and appearance
- Short meditations combined with breathing exercises to relax my body and mind
Obviously, none of these things are groundbreaking and there are plenty of good resources available for each one. However, there is one book that stands out to me above the others.
Gorilla Mindset by Mike Cernovich.
Typically when reading any kind of “self-help” book (I use that term loosely) I have a hard time taking most of the advice seriously. There might be one or two useful things, but the rest of it is feel-good fluff or just plain nonsense.
For example, Think and Grow Rich is a book that I really like and recommend, but most of the advice in it is just terrible. The key takeaways are having an optimistic mindset, always being ready to pounce on opportunities when they come, believing in yourself, and putting yourself in position to be lucky.
However, the book literally tells you that thinking about money will make it magically come to you and people actually buy into that. If you focused more on the “law of attraction” aspect you’d end up wasting a lot of time, but if you took the underlying mindset and applied it to your life, you could see some real benefit. I have and others I know have as well. (That’s why they recommended the book to me.)
The reason why I recommend Gorilla Mindset as the best book to build mental toughness is because the advice is practical and it’s the only book I’ve read that covers the unique combination of things that have all worked in my own life. (If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear that he wrote the book specifically for me.)
Gorilla Mindset is a framework of physical and mental exercises, along with lifestyle choices (diet and exercise) that allow you to be self-reliant and ready for anything. Cernovich pitches it as a way to reach optimal health, make more money, and live a free life. I see it differently:
Gorilla Mindset is the foundation that makes you unbreakable by the challenges of life.
That said, the biggest benefit I’ve received from the book is increased productivity from mindfulness. It seems that mindfulness is the hottest thing since adding butter to coffee in Silicon Valley and among entrepreneurial-types, which is why I assumed it was overrated. However, it is indeed the real deal.
Cernovich shares exercises that he uses to “check in” before starting an activity such as working or going to the gym. “Checking in” is just another way of getting in the moment or in the zone on command. He accomplishes this by diving deep into an observation of his current setting, not judging it, but just observing it as an existence.
Here’s an excerpt of how he checks in before recording a podcast:
“Before speaking, I use self-talk (or sometimes talk out loud, to warm up my vocal cords) to check in. Here’s an example: ‘I’m looking at a microphone. It’s a silver orb with slots cut out that have a black sort of mesh under the slots. There is Blue written on it, the brand of the microphone. The B has a lightning bolt on it. There’s a red light on the side of the microphone.’
Rather than be worried about what the podcast will be about, whether I will make a mistake, or whatever else, I simply become engaged in the process of speaking. While checking in, I’m not trying to think brilliant thoughts. I’m merely becoming mindful and aware.”
That’s great, but what does that have to do with mental toughness?
Mental toughness is not just about being able to withstand pain or pressure, it’s about being resilient through any and all mental challenges.
Maybe I’m just a masochist, but I thrive under pain and pressure. My biggest mental barrier is distraction.
Since I’ve started “checking in” before working, I’ve been able to not only get more work done, but the quality of my work has exponentially improved.
With so much going on between my businesses, this website, and my personal life — I found it very difficult to focus on the task at hand without being distracted by other things on my mind. But since becoming more mindful, I’m able to get in the zone much quicker and block out distractions.
Building the Mental Toughness of a Navy Seal
Realistically, who am I to talk about mental toughness?
Of course I think I’m mentally tough (because I am), but I don’t think I’m as knowledgeable on the subject as a Navy Seal.
In the video below, Mark Divine — retired Navy Seal and founder of SealFit — discusses emotional resiliency and mental toughness. The following are a few quotes I pulled from the video.
“The primary component of emotional resiliency is self-control. Self-control has both a mental and emotional component, they’re really so closely tied.”
Mark talks about how you can’t just tell yourself you’re not going to quit over and over and expect not to quit when a situation gets tough. You have to rely on self-control. This is why I believe it’s important to intentionally build a foundation of mental toughness.
People don’t become Navy Seals because they are the most mentally tough people in the world. They become Navy Seals because they’ve trained themselves to be the most mentally tough people.
“Where the mind leads, the body follows and where the body leads, the mind follows.”
This is where breathing and posture exercises really come into play. Most people think that the body exclusively follows the lead of the mind, but Navy Seals understand that it’s a constant back and forth.
The more we understand how the two are connected and how they communicate, the more tools we have at our disposal to maintain constant self-control. You might not be able to force yourself to stop worrying, but you can force yourself to smile and take deep breaths.
“Don’t quit in darkness. As soon as the sun rises, your spirit lifts…”
Maintaining a positive perspective, or “framing the situation” as Cernovich describes, is crucial in the absolute worst moments of life. The easiest time to quit is right before we have a breakthrough, because the only way we ever get stronger is by pushing ourselves to a point that we’ve never reached. This applies to everything from learning a skill to working out, and even when building a business.
Mental toughness requires practice. It requires you to dictate your actions through self-control and not by emotional response.
It’s not that emotions are bad — they just don’t always have our best interests in mind.
If they did, we would never have any regrets about emotional decisions, now would we?
Mental toughness requires you to make the decisions in the moment that you told yourself you were going to do when that situation occurred.
Once you’ve developed mental toughness, you stop looking back on what you should’ve done and you have the freedom to start looking forward to what you’re going to do next.
Until next time,
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What do you think? Do you agree, disagree or have any thoughts to add? Let me know in the comments below.
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