The same way you get physically stronger…
One rep, one set, and one step at a time.
Mental strength isn’t rocket science.
It’s simply learning to be comfortable doing things you don’t want to do.
So how do you cultivate mental strength?
Here are a few ideas to get you started .
Before We Begin: The Principle of Progressive Overload
It’s funny to me how often people ignore this principle in their lives.
In the same way that you can’t go to the gym, deadlift 225 lbs. for 5 reps one week and then expect to lift 405 lbs. for 5 reps the next week, you can’t expect to just wake up one day and be as mentally strong as a Navy SEAL.
It just won’t happen. You have to work up to it and slowly build your mental strength over time.
If you try to do too much too soon, you will burn out and quit EVERY single time.
So apply these strategies slowly. Take small steps and challenge yourself to get 1% tougher every day. After a year has gone by, you’ll be 365% tougher than you were the previous year.
1. Cold Showers
Plain and simple.
Cold showers suck. I’ve taken them (almost) everyday for nearly 6 years and they don’t suck any less today than they did when I started.
I’m just better at handling the suck.
Cold showers are bar none one of the FASTEST ways to build mental toughness.
Start out small with only 10–30 seconds after your normal shower.
Increase the amount of time you spend in the cold by only 10–30 seconds a week and, after a few months, you’ll be able to take 10 minute cold showers with ease.
There’s nothing quite like intentionally subjecting yourself to frigid waters and saying “No” to the wonderful warmth of a hot shower when it’s only one twist of the handle away requires insane amounts of discipline and grit.
Start now, start small, and work your way up.
Within a few months, you’ll be astounded by your levels of mental strength.
2. One More Rep
Anytime you’re training in the gym, challenge yourself, once per workout, to do just “One more rep”.
DON’T do this on the bench press or squat rack if you don’t have a spotter (there’s nothing mentally tough about breaking your back or killing yourself ok?)
But anytime you’re doing an exercise where you can safely push yourself, go for just ONE more rep than you’re comfortable doing.
Do 11 pullups instead of 10.
Do 21 pushups instead of 20.
Do just ONE more rep when you don’t think you can.
And you’ll be amazed by the hidden strength your body has.
This exercise will teach you to keep going even when things are hard and, if applied regularly, will help you become mentally tougher than any other person you know.
3. Turn Off the AC
Our lives are way too easy.
When we get hot, we touch a button and voila! The room cools down to a chilly 68 degrees.
I’d challenge you to stretch your mental toughness by turning the AC off.
Not only will you be saving the environment and helping retrain your body to internally regulate your temperature, but you’ll become stronger by saying “no” to ease, and “yes” to adversity.
Start this off by doing it for one day.
Sit in the car on a hot day without cranking up the AC.
Put up with a cold winter afternoon with no heat.
Try pushing yourself to see how long you can go and, eventually, you’ll wonder why you used climate control in the first place (maybe not… But you’ll still be mentally tougher).
One of the HARDEST thing you can do to build your mental toughness is to meditate.
Sitting down for 5–30 minutes and doing NOTHING is way harder than it sounds.
Try it… You’ll see.
If you want to get mentally tougher, start by meditating for only 3 minutes a day.
Add 1–2 minutes each week and, overtime, not only will you be mentally tougher, but you’ll be more present, less stressed, and more productive in your everyday life.
5. Give Up a Vice
Whether it’s cigarettes, candy, pot, alcohol, or porn, pick a vice that you use everyday, and commit to giving it up for a short period of time.
Start with only 12–24 hours.
Then slowly work your way up until you can easily go 30–60 days without giving into the temptation.
If you are seriously wanting to give up a vice (like smoking or drinking), you’ll want to throw away anything that reminds you of it.
But if you’re doing this SOLELY to test your mental toughness, then add some temptation and make it harder to say “No”.
Leave a bowl of candy on the table. Leave an open pack of cigarettes in your office. Go to an, *ahem* “gentlemanly” website and leave it open in a minimized browser.
Challenge yourself and you’ll be amazed by the results.
6. Wake Up Earlier (Without Sleeping Less)
Another great way to boost your mental toughness is to wake up earlier.
Don’t give up quality sleep to do this.
But rather, turn off Netflix 15 minutes before you normally do, go to bed earlier, and then wake up earlier.
Start small in 10–15 minute increments and eventually, you’ll be waking up at 4:30 a.m. like a Navy SEAL.
7. Go Through Hell Week
In the Navy SEAL training program, there’s an event known as hell week.
And it’s exactly how it sounds.
It’s 7 days of almost no sleep, constant physical exercise, and psychological warfare.
The majority of recruits quit. Those who don’t leave the evolution knowing that they can do ANYTHING they set their minds to.
While I don’t recommend giving up sleep for a week and doing thousands of pushups (unless you have a thing for broken bones and screwed up joints), I challenge you to create your own Hell Week.
Have a short event where you complete a certain set of mentally challenging activities every day.
Whether it’s total sobriety combined with waking up at 5 a.m., daily exercise, and no television for a week.
Or simply one week of giving up your strongest addiction.
Challenge yourself to do something seemingly impossible for a short amount of time and you will walk away with more mental toughness than you’ve ever had before.
– Andrew Ferebee, Knowledge For Men