Most people think mental toughness is a genetic gift. You’re either tough or you aren’t. That is 100% false. Mental toughness, like most other mental skills, can be built just like any physical skill.
When we learn a new sport, we are constantly outside of our comfort zone. Think back to the first time you swung a golf club. It was probably about as awkward as the first time you had sex right? You hit the ground in front of the ball, you’d miss it completely, and every now and then you’d make contact and slice it out of bounds.
If you keep practicing, you start to learn and feel a little more comfortable with the club in your hand. You start making contact every time (even if you do keep hitting it out of bounds). The cycle continues to the point you can hit it relatively straight consistently.
Mental toughness is built the same way. Some people hit their first golf ball when they are 2, and some people have parents that foster mental toughness their entire lives. We adapt to our environment. Kids that grow up playing contact sports, working manual labor, get in lots of fights with their brothers, doing their homework before going outside to play end up being more mentally tough.
So how do you build mental toughness? You live on the edge of your comfort level. I say “on the edge” because part of the problem with mentally weak people is that they have a habit of quitting. If those people go too far, they are only more likely to quit and not progress. So take one step at a time, and your mind will grow stronger. Do things that challenge you physically through exercise and adventure. Do you things that slightly embarrass you. Things that make you feel “exposed.”
How many old men do you know that have played golf for the last 30 years and improved zero? Lots. “Why does that happen Mike, I thought all you said was I had to practice?” It’s because they got comfortable. They got comfortable and just played without practicing. Both are necessary, but you cannot improve past a certain point without directed practice.
Mental toughness is no different. You must remain engaged and present in your life. Regularly ask yourself where in your life you have become complacent. Once you identify it, devise your next step forward.