By Tyler Murphy, BEd, CPT and mentally tough trainer!
Arnold Schwarzenegger once said, “Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.” The mental toughness of the greatest athletes set them apart from the rest of the population. Mental toughness is defined as the measure of individual resilience and confidence that may predict success in sport, education, and the workplace.
Where does someone FIND mental toughness? Can we just ride on over to Dick’s Sporting Goods and pick it up in the team sports section next to the basketball hoops? Mental toughness is something that the elite athletes, educators, business people, and special-forces are born with, just ask NBA Final’s Michael Jordan in 1997, hitting the game winning shot in Game 5 after almost collapsing from exhaustion due to the flu.
The root of mental toughness lies in the intrinsic motivation of the individual. A study in Psychology of Motor Behavior and Sport defined it as the desire to be self-determining. What this means is that the true root of mental toughness is in someone’s need to become the best they can or to accomplish a specific task.
Michael Jordan’s 1997 NBA Finals performance is an excellent example of the perseverance to succeed that comes from being mentally tough (not to mention physically tough). Jordan showed up to Game 5 with the flu, visibly weakened on the court. Jordan went 13-of-27 from the floor, scoring 38 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, and a block, collapsing on the bench and attempting to replenish fluids at each timeout. The iconic picture from that series is Scotty Pippen practically carrying Jordan off the floor at the end of the game, Jordan being completely exhausted. Nothing was going to stop him that day.
Sports rely heavily on the mental toughness of athletes to overcome adversities or make big plays at big times, but there is no other profession or calling that requires the mental fortitude that is required to become a Special Forces Operator. Whether the Army Rangers, Navy SEALs, or Green Berets, those in the Special Forces take mental toughness to an all-time high. Their training is the hardest job interview anyone can ever endure, forging these men into strong, unbreakable human beings. Marcus Luttrell, the author of Lone Survivor, once said that it wasn’t the strongest man or the smartest man that would make it out of BUDS training. It was the man willing to go past his previous limitations and go the extra mile for his brother.
The thing about mental toughness is that it’s something that each person must develop in their own way and at their own pace, an internal battle between giving up and pushing through whatever obstacle may be in your way. Now ask yourself a question, what’s in your way and how are you going to smash through that wall?