Mental toughness has nothing to do with killer instinct, ruthless play, or talent. Instead, it has everything to do with the art and science of increasing our ability to handle all kinds of stress-physical, mental, and emotional – so that we can be more effective in our everyday lives and in our ability to lead.

Do you think you’re mentally tough? I was asked this question by one of my trainers when I use to race professionally. My initial reaction was, “Yeah I’m mentally tough, why”.

He said, “Danny, you are far from mentally tough, look at you on the line preparing to race, you are a mess. You’re nervous, weak, and stressed out. You lost the race before you even began. You have so much to learn”.

This was a shocker for me. I always knew that these crazy things went through my head, just like every other person, right? But how was I to control them? I had know idea. I guess I did have allot to learn, and I’m still learning today. Becoming mentally tough is a process and happens over time. If you’re not mentally tough, you’re probably losing every day before you even start. Do you want to become mentally tough and start winning?

How are you dealing with your stress and emotions today? Maybe you have it all figured out. If this is you, you can stop reading and start thanking God. For the rest of you, you can keep reading and I will give you some ideas on how to become mentally tough.

Most people struggle with stress and emotions, causing them to be far from mentally tough. In fact their lives are probably falling apart because of it. This sucks and I’ve been there both as an athlete and as an individual. What I can tell you though is, if you want to change it can be done.

Here are six ways you can start becoming more mentally tough.

  1. Balance your energy piggy bank. To be mentally tough, you can take from the piggy bank only as much energy in the form of work or stress as you have put in the piggy bank in the form of rest and recovery. If you are constantly working without periods of rest, it leads to energy burnout. In the same way that taking to much money from the piggy bank, without putting money in, leads to an empty piggy bank.
  2. Practice meditation. Rachel Cosgrove, says mentally tough people slow down their brain waves during stress, whereas the average person speeds up brain wave activity under stress, which can lead to panic. She suggests that you learn any form of meditation so you can access that relaxed “zone” in times of stress.
  3. Maintain good physical health. Mental toughness requires physical stamina, meaning that you have to be able to last. How do you have good physical health? Make sure you have a proper diet, exercise regularly, and work on breath control in your mental training.
  4. Face fear. In order to build mental toughness requires you to stretch and challenge yourself. You can do that by stepping outside your comfort zone and doing things you’ve never done before. If you have fearful thoughts they can lead to the avoidance of challenges. Think positive and go for it. Loehr and McLaughlin say you can’t achieve mental toughness until you “learn to love the problems.” It’s in facing the problems where you develop mental toughness.
  5. Be optimistic. Having a positive attitude contributes to building mental toughness. If you think negative, expect negative. If you think positive, expect positive. I would also recommend visualization to see mentally successful challenging situations. Loehr and McLaughlin say the ability to see the possible humor in any given stressful situation is an element of a positive mental attitude.
  6. Positive self talk. If you’ve heard of self talk then you’re already on your way. If not, that’s ok too. You can start right now positive self talking your way to a place you want to be, rather a place you already are. You must talk to yourself as a coach, giving positive encouragement in uncomfortable situations. This will help as you move to this place of mental toughness.

I hope these things can help you as you become more mentally tough. Like I said, it’s not an easy path and it will require lots of time and energy. However, if you want to start winning, then I would start working.

Discussion Question: Are you mentally tough? What have you found that works for you when dealing with stress and emotions? Let me know if these things help you.