Get ready to have your mind blown (literally).
When it comes to “mental toughness”, most people have totally got it all wrong.
Most people think that mental toughness is simply all about just “thinking tough”.
Well, there’s a LOT more to it then just that as you’ll be finding out below.
Check out this powerful guest article from my buddy Riley Holland of “Neuromuscular Release Work” below on what REAL mental toughness is.
How To Build REAL Mental Toughness
Have you seen the movie Pumping Iron?
The classic documentary follows a young Arnold Schwarzenegger and other bodybuilders through training for the 1975 Mr. Universe competition.
There are lots of memorable moments in the film. But one thing struck me most:
How mentally weak most of the competitors were.
I mean, really. These guys looked like the biggest badasses in the world—cut and jacked beyond reason. But when they opened their mouths, they’d talk shyly about being picked on in school, or worry nervously about who looked better in their bathing suits.
They had the bodies of elite warriors, and the minds of 13-year-old girls.
And Arnold, ruthless and savvy as he was, walked all over them.
This is a tough but critical lesson: Your level of physical fitness doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with your level of Mental Toughness.
You can be the leanest, meanest badass on the planet in terms of your physical condition, and still be the guy who asks his girlfriend to kill the spider.
A strong mindset doesn’t come as a magical side effect of strength training. If you want real, hardcore Mental Toughness, you have to train for Mental Toughness.
And to do that, you need to know what Mental Toughness is—and maybe more importantly, what it isn’t.
The Inmates Are Running the Asylum
Ask anyone to define Mental Toughness, including the “experts,” and you’ll probably get a list of loosely strung-together qualities like confidence, motivation, resilience, staying flexible when things go wrong, maintaining control over your point of view, etc.
Or you’ll get advice, like, “be a self-starter,” “get in your Zone,” “set goals,” or my favorite gag-inducer—“be positive.”
Nothing wrong with all that, in principle at least.
But it’s a little bit like your track coach telling you to just run faster, or your nutritionist telling you to just eat healthier. Fair enough, but not exactly helpful from a get-there-from-here perspective.
Even traditional sports psychology tends to focus on fluffy, surface-level techniques that would hardly fly with a drum circle of New Age hippies.
Pretty weak sauce.
So we settle for inspirational quotes, pep talks, or just “going hard.” Anything that temporarily gives us a little boost and makes us feel like we have the situation under control.
Meanwhile, no one’s making any real, significant gains in Mental Toughness. And it all comes down to the simple fact that no one really knows what it is.
What Is Mental Toughness?
My definition of Mental Toughness is simple and scientific.
Mental Toughness means high dominance, and low stress.
When you have high dominance and low stress, all those other qualities—confidence, motivation, mental flexibility, focus, etc.—come naturally and effortlessly.
When you don’t, they don’t.
You can rephrase this basic Mental Toughness formula in a few ways. Instead of high dominance and low stress, you could say, high energy, low tension. Or, high testosterone (dominance hormone), low cortisol (stress hormone).
This last one might actually be the most helpful, because it shows that the real problem isn’t really in your mind—it’s in your brain.
Hormones are real, physical things. And when you have a rush of cortisol blasting through your body, no amount of motivational quotes or clever cliches is going to do you any good. Your brain is going to get hijacked.
And when you’re not stressed—when your whole nervous system is relaxed and energized—you don’t need any of that stuff anyway.
You’re Not a Wild Animal—But You Should Be
Animals in the wild have perfect Mental Toughness.
They experience stressful, life-threatening events all the time. But they release the stress afterwards by shaking it out of their bodies. That brings them back to baseline, so the stress never builds up.
Only domesticated animals have problems with stress and anxiety.
When an animal is taken out of its natural environment, its stress-regulation mechanism goes haywire. Instead of releasing its stress, it hangs onto it and lets it build up.
We humans have the same problem.
And that’s because we are, quite literally, domesticated animals.
(If don’t believe me about this, just go to your nearest 24-Hour Fitness and watch people on the treadmills. Then go to a pet store and watch the hamsters.)
Our brains and bodies were designed for the wild. And here we are, living in civilization, and our primal wetware is going a little haywire. Instead of releasing neuromuscular tensions, we hold onto them and build them up, layer upon layer, our whole lives.
We breathe shallowly and meekly, as though we’re always in danger. We carry layers of deep, chronic tension all over our bodies, constantly sending our brains stress signals that we have to suppress and ignore just to get through the day.
Most of us are literally in a numbed-out state of fight-or-flight survival anxiety all the time.
And this is considered normal.
No wonder it’s so hard to keep a strong mindset, especially once you get into a high-pressure situation, and even more nerves get stacked on top.
How to Become a Lean, Mean Mental Toughness Machine
There’s only one mission-critical task for getting real, hardcore Mental Toughness: You have to drain the layers of tension that have been building up your whole life, and get yourself back to your primal, natural state.
Until you do that, your stress will always be working against you in the form of worry, negative thinking, self-doubt, fatigue, and distraction.
But when do do that, you’ll release a vast inner reservoir of raw, primal, instinctual energy—and a capacity for deep, profound, almost diabolical relaxation.
That’s Mental Toughness.
And that’s what Neuromuscular Release Work (NRW) gives you.
NRW is a type of workout that that releases your deep, chronic neuromuscular tension and liberates the energies trapped there.
As you release those energies, your stress goes DOWN, and your dominance go UP.
Hence, your Mental Toughness increases dramatically.
It’s that simple.
And having explored countless methods of mental training over the years—in sport, martial arts, yoga, Tai Chi, hypnosis etc.—I can say with total confidence that NRW is the only method that really gets the job done.
That means we can finally take Mental Toughness out of the airy-fairy realm of positive thinking and other fluffy stuff, and actually make something happen.
But I should warn you, NRW is not for everyone. Truly transforming your brain and unleashing the raw, electrical energy of the nervous system can be scary for some people.
A lot if people like being domesticated. It makes them feel safe.
But if you’re ready to step out of the hamster wheel and into true, hardcore Mental Toughness, that’s exactly what you have to do.
You can get started right away by downloading the FREE report, “The Science of Mental Toughness,” and trying the 3 simple and easy NRW exercises inside.