> TEOTWAWKI Blog: 3 Techniques to improve your Mental Toughness



3 Techniques to improve your Mental Toughness

There's a reason why special operations forces use grueling, nearly torturous selection courses...they want to weed out the quitters and the weak...those without the mental toughness to keep going, even when they're completely, totally and utterly exhausted.

If your will is broken, you're done for.

Mental fortitude is the oft undervalued trait that more often makes the difference between triumph or defeat.

Even in every day life, you need self discipline and willpower to do what you need to and keep making progress towards your goals. 

Most of our caveman brains have a hard wired aversion to things that are difficult, uncomfortable or downright painful...even if they're things we know and believe we should be doing. Instead, our brains want the easy, quick fix.

Case in point: physical training of any kind. Everyone knows you should exercise--but how many people don't do it, or struggle to do so consistently.

Our brains are awesome at coming up with reasons for why we shouldn't do those hard, uncomfortable things:
"I'm too tired."
"I'm too busy."
"I deserve a break."
"This isn't worth it."
"I'm not having fun."

It's natural. It's normal. There's a big part of our brains that wants us to sit around and eat donuts. Eat, drink and be merry.

But, guess what? You can't let that part of your brain win.

Luckily, there are simple mental techniques that you can use help to overcome your inner weakling. These may seem like minor, but they're used by some of the toughest, disciplined and successful people in the world.

Here are three of my favorites:

A large number of big, daunting problems can be daunting, discouraging and overwhelming.

Breaking those problems down into smaller, more manageable pieces can make them easier to handle. Focus on the obstacle right in front of you; get over it and move onto the next.

That can mean breaking things down to one day at a time, one minute at a time or one footstep at a time. However small and manageable you need to in order to make progress.

Small goals lead to small victories, and small victories add up fast.

"Just get through the next day and you're golden."
"Just make it to the top of that next hill."
"Just one more step...one step is no big deal."

I've read dozens of accounts of special operation soldiers, survivors and others, and this is one of the most commonly used and powerful coping mechanisms.
Just Get Started
This ties in with compartmentalization. You can't make progress if you never start, and starting is often the hardest part. Maybe it's overwhelming, maybe you're tired--whatever. 

So, tell yourself that you just need to do one, small thing--that's it--and then you'll be done.

And then you do that one thing, and hey--not so bad. Why not keep going?

I do this frequently with PT, when I'm tired and don't feel like diving into an hour long workout session. I'll tell that inner weakling to just do the one main exercise--squats, deadlift or bench--and then it's okay to be done. That way I'll at least get my workout in.

Sure enough, 95% of the time, that turns into the full workout session.

Give it a try.

Remember the Big Goal
"A lifetime of glory is worth a moment of pain." -- Unbroken

Keeping your eye on the prize--your ultimate goal--is a powerful motivator for making progress. Adopt the attitude that you are going to achieve that goal, no matter what--because it's worth doing whatever it takes.

Great, meaningful victories require work. A lot of work. Years or even lifetimes of work.

That could be success at physical training, winning some competition or making it home to see your family again.

Visual reminders of your goal or motivation can be inspirational here. Arnold or Bruce Lee posters slapped on wall of your home gym. A picture of your family tucked in your wallet. Whatever you need to help keep you focused and working towards your goal.

Have another technique that helps you stick to your plans? Favorite motivational quote, person or book you'd like to share? Let the TEOTWAWKI Tribe know in the comments section.


  1. PineslayerJuly 21, 2015

    I guess my motivation is simple, I want to win and be there for my girls. The wanting to win, always, has kept me from getting too complacent.

  2. AnonymousJuly 21, 2015

    Ugly Rooster
    Do like the veterans of AA or NA do... One of their tenants is to build your life for success so that your external environment forces success. Example is: Its time to get a new job? Get a job that makes you climb ladders or carry a load instead of flipping burgers or a sit down job (assuming equal wages of course) = automatic exercise! Self employment should be reserved for self-driven people. In the same way, this of us who are natural sluggard folks should exploit others to kick our asses into gear.... Free fitness training that makes good habit.

  3. One technique I use that relates to compartmentalization is inverse procrastination... "I'll sleep in tomorrow"... "I'll take a break once I get to the top of that next hill"... etc. Keep promising yourself a break and keep moving it forward. I find it is particularly useful for crisis situations, with the caveat that once the crisis really is over, you actually do give yourself some time to recover.

  4. Thank you for this article. I just overcame a slump in my own training sessions for competitive matches. My takeaway from this article is that slumps are all temporary and its easy to get stuck looking at your belly button because you're lacking motivation.

    I mean, looking at the bigger picture always helps so if you play the long game. And your bummer days, the ones where you feel like you suck no matter what, is just part of the whole trip and getting past it will pay off big time. I would have not gotten where I am if I quit, and I can't wait to see where this goes next year and the one after that.

    I'm just talking about my sports. And I'm always hoping that this discipline finds its way in other aspects of life! hahaha

  5. Thanks for posting this. Just watched "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World" with Steve Carell about an asteroid heading for Earth. It was listed as a comedy-drama and there were a few humorous moments, thanks to Steve Carell, but it called attention to the different ways in which people are motivated to face death. Made me think more carefully about my own priorities. What and who is really important? Even if we're not expecting to die in the next few weeks or months? We are all heading for the end of the world. Our end. None of us will get off this planet alive. Here are a few quotes I've collected that others might enjoy...

    Men were born to hunt. If you don't have a target for your life, you are not a man. ~ Jamaican Lore

    It’s at the borders of pain and suffering that the men are separated from the boys. ~Emil Zatopek

    A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects. ~Robert A. Heinlein

    Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid. ~Anthony Hopkins

    The only true wisdom lives far from mankind, out in the great loneliness, and can be reached only through suffering. ~Igjurgarjuk

    It is not the strongest nor the smartest who survive but those who best manage change. ~Charles Darwin

    When the shit hits the fan, be prepared to deal with it as a survivor, not as a victim. ~Billy Dean

  6. summer is over, time to post.