Developing Mental Toughness

I’ve been thinking about this recently and thought I’d devote a short productivity-style blog post to the subject of mental toughness. These are just the ideas that came to mind, but hopefully you’ll find something useful here.

Let me say this up front: I think success is a function of mental toughness. Sure there are many other factors that go into success like talent, training, education, expertise, connections, and so on, but I believe the one of the single greatest factors that will determine if you are successful or not is mental toughness.

So what is mental toughness? To me, mental toughness means the following things:

  • It means having the courage to stay the course, through thick and thin
  • It means putting up with criticism, negativity, rejection, and staying true to your vision, your beliefs and your goals
  • It means putting in that extra effort in the middle of the workout and not take the easy way out
  • It means having the courage to take risks, and the belief in yourself that you can do it and overcome whatever odds life throws at you.
  • It means knowing when to say “no” and also when to say “yes”

It is also my belief that many people have not developed their mental toughness to their fullest potential. The main reason: it’s hard! It’s easy to cut corners during your workout, put in a barely adequate effort at work or the projects you’re working on, or giving up when things start to get tough. But with anything, I believe you reap what you sow, and if you sow a mediocre or less than full effort, you’ll end up with a disappointing effort and the only person you’ll be deceiving is yourself.

So now that we’ve gone over what mental toughness is, when and why do you need mental toughness? But first, the question of when:

  • when you’re learning a new skill
  • working towards a short or long term goal
  • when dieting or exercising
  • saving/investing your money for the future (education, house, car, large purchase)
  • resisting the tempation to splurge on impulse purchases

Pretty much in situations where there is a long-term desire to either move away from pain (ex. the pain of finishing strong during a tough workout) and/or towards pleasre (ex. attaining a new skill) is where you will need to utilize your mental toughness. You need to focus on the long term goal, and block out the short term pain.

Why do you need mental toughness?

  • For the times when you want to quit or give up, you need mental toughness to remain focused on your goals
  • For the times when you feel weak and want to give in to the temptation of short term pleasure (but at what cost?)
  • To reach your fullest potential

And now onto the most important part: How do I develop mental toughness? For the most part, it comes down to attitude and how you approach each task, but here are a six specific suggestions you can use:
1. Start small

Set your sights on simple, easy, short term goals. Instead of setting aside a large chunk of time on a project, aim to get 10 good minutes of work in. When the first 10 minutes are up, refocus for another chunk of 10 minutes until before you know it – 60 minutes have passed. For example, if you’re a runner, focus on pushing hard until that next tree or landmark right in front of you (15-20m), then focus on the another one another 15-20m ahead, and so on and before you know it – you’ll have reached your destination. Gradually increase your efforts with each subsequent session.

2. Cut out and refuse to listen to the negative self-talk that goes on inside your brain

Pretend it doesn’t exist and continue to chase after your dreams.

3. Find a friend to help you out along the way

Use this person as an accountability partner or training partner if both of you have the same goals

4. Make your efforts public

Write it down on paper, post it online for anybody to see, and tell your friends and family. Still feeling a little shy? Create a journal/diary that documents your efforts so you can see how you’re doing over time.

5. Have the belief that you can do it – no matter what anyone else says

6. Embrace the challenge and affirm the phrase – ‘no pain, no gain’ 


While this isn’t an exhaustive list, I think it’s a start and something you may want to explore more if you consistently find yourself disappointed with your efforts and not realizing your fullest potential. Carpe diem!

Lemon and herbs

The Lemon/Herb Camping Trip

I’m going on a camping trip and I’m going to bring a canoe, a tent, and a sleeping bag. I’m also going to bring lemon and herbs, a flint and steel, and a fishing rod.

Hopefully we’ll have a tasty and filling dinner – otherwise it’ll be a (maybe cold) soup of lemon/herbs.

Seriously – it should be awesome!

A followup post exploring how successful this camping trip to Algonquin went will be posted after the trip in May.

Starting My Own Seedlings

This past week, I setup my own little grow op in my living room. What am I growing you ask? Veggies – cherry tomatoes, romaine lettuce, and eggplant to be specific.

The setup:

  1. empty yogurt containers
  2. soil mix (peat moss, top soil, and vermiculite)
  3. pizza box
  4. tin foil
  5. incandescent light bulb
  6. plastic bags
  7. seeds

How to assemble it:

  1. Mix together your soil mix in a large container. I used a large Rubbermaid container and had an equal mix of peat moss, top soil and vermiculite.
  2. Add water to the mix to moisten the soil
  3. Spoon your soil mix into the yogurt cups. Ensure that it is packed down and not too loose, but also not too tight with the back of the spoon or the palm of your hand
  4. Create a depression using the back of a pen/pencil about 3/8ths of an inch deep
  5. Insert 1 of 2 seeds into the depression, loosely cover with top soil
  6. Cover with a platic bag. This keeps the moisture and humidity constant for the seed to germinate
  7. Place on pizza tray with incandescent lightbulb underneath. Use tin foil to reflect the light and heat up to the bottom of the box. Temperature should be between 24-30 Celcius
  8. Wait a few days for seeds to sprout, then place in sunny spot

The soil after beeing spooned into the yogurt cups

The grow op

Lettuce seedlings – the first to sprout. Next were the tomatoes, then the eggplants

Stay tuned for more pictures as the eggplants are just about to finish sprouting and the tomatoes have sprouted as well.