Develop Mental Toughness

Whether you are an athlete on the gridiron or in the boardroom, a certain quality is always found in the guys who remain standing when the storm winds blow.  When rejection hits these guys it bounces off them like spitballs off of a battleship.  They chuckle at groundless criticism.  They bounce back quickly from setbacks.  They feel energized to try even harder after a defeat.  That special quality these warriors are showing is something called “mental toughness”.  Wikipedia defines this as “a term commonly used by coaches, sport psychologists, sport commentators, and business leaders – generally describes a collection of attributes that allow a person to persevere through difficult circumstances (such as difficult training or difficult competitive situations in games) and emerge without losing confidence.” (Emphasis added.)

Each of us will receive a gut shot at some point in our lives that knocks the wind right out of us.  It’s not a matter of whether you will be struck by disaster, but when.  In my first book, Voyage of a Viking, I describe in detail many of the challenges I faced through my life.  I’ve faced my storms and I know that I have more storms awaiting me.  I also know that you do as well.  Rather than sitting around moaning and complaining when we are being pelted by chunks of hail the size of golf balls, we can put on a suit of armor to deflect whatever life throws at us.  That suit of armor is your mental toughness.

You can’t measure mental toughness; you measure its effect.  You can’t measure what’s going on inside a leaders head, but you sure can measure their behavior!  You see it when they lose their biggest customer one month, and it ticks them off just enough to go smash a sales record the next month.    You can see mental toughness when someone is running a marathon and they are gasping for breath, and the only thing keeping them putting one painful footstep in front of the next is their strength of will.  You see it when someone is totally exhausted, yet they keep throwing hundreds of shots into the basketball hoop to perfect their free throw (like my awesome daughter Mya!).  In fact, Mya had to make 1000 free throws; in order to reach that goal, she had to shoot a couple of thousand.   She wanted to quit many times during that experience, but she had committed to a number of people that she would reach her goal.  It’s amazing how a twelve year old girl will follow through on her committment more effectively than most adults.  Mental toughness is courage in action.  When you’ve got it, you cope better than your opponents with the demands you face.

How do we develop mental toughness?  Here are a few principles to get you started:

Principle #1: Realize Mental Toughness Can Be Developed.

Some people might be born with a certain personality, like a “Choleric” or “D” personality type, and maybe this personality type handles adversity a little more effectively than others.  But that’s not always the case, and either way, anyone can develop this side of their personality.  Don’t cop out on yourself by selling yourself any victim thinking, like “That’s just the way I am.”  Brothers and sisters, you can CHANGE.  How do you build mental toughness?  The same way you build muscles in the gym: by pushing yourself to new limits and increasing the pressure or resistance you are pushing against.

Principle #2: Mental Toughness in the Gym Correlates to Mental Toughness in life.

The gym is the ultimate proving ground for “tough guys” and “tough gals”.  You really find out what you’re made of when you’re doing hack squats or leg extensions.  Most people get into the gym, start doing bicep curls, and as soon as it starts to get uncomfortable, they say, “Okay, I’ve done enough for now,” and they stop exercising.  This is actually the exact wrong thing to do, if your goal is to develop your muscles.  You see, when it starts to hurt, that’s the lactic acid burn in your muscles screaming, “Great job! Keep going!  You’re making progress!”  But when most people start to feel discomfort they choose to ease off.

You don’t become successful at anything by letting your foot off of the gas pedal when the going gets tough.  This includes the gym, your marriage, and your business.  When it hurts to do even one more rep of an exercise, that’s when the real muscle development starts!  (By the way, I’m not talking about pushing through pain when you are actually injured; I’m referring to the normal discomfort we feel when we are tearing down our muscles during a workout.)  If you throw in the towel on the bench press, you train your brain to quit when things get tough.  When you force yourself to keep pushing the weight even when you want to give up, you are training your brain to keep pushing.

Principle #3: Champions Fall in Love with Discomfort

Winners know that the path to success is steep and rocky, and the path to defeat is like a sign pointing at a waterslide that says, “Slippery, Fun and Easy to Reach the Bottom in a Jiffy!”  Bad habits are easy to slip into, like a warm bed when you’re exhausted.  Good habits are pretty much guaranteed to feel tough for most people because you end up denying yourself luxuries and pleasures. You must learn to do what is uncomfortable for you. To develop the psychological edge, you must have extreme discipline to give up the comfort zone that you train and live in. Delaying immediate satisfaction is the ultimate sacrifice that all warriors must choose.

 Become a champion and develop mental toughness in your business, your health, your relationships and in life!

God Bless, Tim Marks


37 thoughts on “Develop Mental Toughness”

  1. Awesome post Tim! Mental toughness is a skill that takes a lot of discipline to develop but once developed, the sky is the limit. Thank you Tim for being the ultimate example of mental toughness by overcoming obstacles and being victorious in situations where most people would bury their head in the sand. I needed this, thank you!

  2. Tim, thanks for being the ultimate example of “mental toughness”. When I think of the circumstances you faced in your sprint for PC, I laugh at the tiny challenges that I might face!

  3. Mr. Marks, I cant wait for this second book of yours to come out. God has blessed you with uncanny ability and heart to make points of value that penetrate people’s heart in the most concise fashion. As the olympics kick off at the end of this month, we will witness the mental toughness take take stage on the world stage. Yet there are so many people who demonstrate this, people all around us in their daily lives. The LIFE business allows to have that front seat to witness among seemingly common men and women with uncommon mental toughness. Love you very much.

    –thank you

  4. Great post!! Tim, you are an awesome leader, everytime I get my LIFE subscription and TEAM CDs yours are the first listen to!!

  5. Tim, thanks for the post – especially the three principals to focus on in practice toward a higher level of mental toughness.

    Also, this last Tuesday, I heard a great comment from a Challenge Group participant, who is a marathoner, when we discussed the topic – Attitude. His comment regarded being aware of thought while facing adversity, “The first thing to go is the mind!”

  6. Tim,
    Your timing is impeccable! Thank you for sharing this inspiring post. I’m listening to a cd right now called “Your the Project” and I hit your blog at the same time. Today’s the Day. Great start to a Sunday morning, on my way to church service.
    God Bless,
    Micah Kramer
    Team Braveheart

  7. Tim, What a great inspiring post! After reading this I realized that I haven’t pushed through to the end in a lot of things in my LIFE like I should be! I RESOLVE to push through and develop the mental toughness and push through any obstacle that shows up in my LIFE! You truly are an inspiration and are changing many more lives than you realize! I know your book “Voyage of a Viking” has given many people hope that they too can succeed in anything that they push for! (including me)

    Jeremy Pethke

  8. These are thoughts that created the champion you are, and the accomplishments that followed you.
    I want my friends to understand “fully” what you have laid out. Thanks Tim
    Bill Newton

  9. Timely ! Keep these posts coming ! Shirley grew up on a dairy farm in Kentucky and learned about hard work watching and helping her daddy. He told her the way he got the hay bailed was to” take the tractor around just one more time, then one more time, then one more time.” Thanks for your encouragement Tim!

  10. Thanks Tim, Mental toughness, an area of my life I feel I’m in a in a serious battle for. Your words, your actions your testimony are the possitive reinforcements against the enemy!!!! Thanks again for the armor!

  11. Great post Tim we have been without internet for a week because of the storms so great to get on to your site and read so much true.

  12. Sometimes in life we have to be reminded that we are doing the right thing. Your article is wonderful support reinforcing our attitude for greater success.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Lloyd Lam

  13. Tim, Thanks for pointing out that WE all have the ability to get mentally “tough”. While it may hurt it, it will feel good in the long run.

  14. Mr. Marks, that was amazing. Great viewpoints and insight. Thank you for being who you are….an inspiration to us all

    Mike Dotterman

  15. Thanks Tim for the great post! Mental toughness is something that I constantly struggle with and this post helps so much!

  16. Thanks for the encouragement just what I needed this week. Blessing to you and Amy and children.
    Thank you for being a Rascal!

  17. What a fantastic post! It does not come naturally to me, but I do my best to train myself and to keep thinking of myself as a success story even when I actually fail at something. I believe in, and have experienced the Law of Attraction! The challenge is to stay on track:-).

  18. Great post! I also heard you speak about “Mental Toughness” in Southfield and am so thankful you are sharing what you’ve learned. It’s not an option for those who want to win! I’m so glad it can be developed and that I can create the habits that exercise mental toughness just like exercising my body. Expecting it to be tough and falling in love with the challenge is a great “reframing” to achieving that mental toughness and success. Thanks so much for teaching!!

    1. I could not agree more! This is a completely new concept for me and grateful that it can not only be developed, but that there are those who are willing to teach by example like you and so many others, Peggi, including our own Marc & Kristine Millitello 🙂

  19. Great Post Tim!! Thanks for sharing!! Wow those 3 priniciple’s have been hitting me upside the head lately!! Perhaps God is trying to tell me something. Get out there with our your armour and shield on and build up your mental toughness!! Getting out of our comfort zone is the only way we are going to change the world for the better one household at a time!!! : )

  20. Gold medal post! Reading it + listening to your ‘extra’ ( return of the Night Owl? ) talk last evening on the webinar is an excellent combo.

    Thank you as always, Tim. Happy belated B-Day to your daughter & nothing but God’s blessings to your entire Marks tribe from the Kaizen community :->

  21. This is the message I needed to hear today, and already heard it in another context. Thanks, Tim, for always pushing us to be our best.

  22. Thank you Tim,
    I loved the talk you did on this on the open webcast. You have such a way of minimizing excuses. Thanks for the kick in the rear!!!

  23. Tim, thank you for sharing these words of wisdom. Mental toughness had to be developed early in my career but outside of my career, I haven’t been so tough. Loving the MFC to develop more mental toughness.

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