How to Become Mentally Tougher in Your Personal Life (part 1)

shutterstock_91489868In this article I wrote for Mark’s Daily Apple, I wrote about the four mental strategies that you will need to help you get through the brutal workouts in this mental toughness program. It more like an introduction to the four mental strategies as I will go into greater depth explaining them to you all on this site. However, due to a limited word count on the article, Mark’s Daily Apple was only able to published the first part of the article. The second half of the piece was on using the same 4 mental strategies to help you get over adversity in your personal life as well. Reading only the first half is incomplete and not enough if your goal is to be able to persevere in all areas of your life and not just in the gym.

When you read both sections you will get a better understanding behind the principals to get you to be mentally tougher in the gym and when you walk out of the gym. In other words, you want to be unstoppable regardless of where you are. 

Here is the original second part of the article that will help you overcome anything that stands in the way of your career goals, health issues or stopping you from reaching your life long dreams:

How to Become Mentally Tougher in Your Personal Life


Jackson Yee

The whole concept behind the mental toughness training in the primal world is that you must go through some pretty awful misery and then becoming tougher because of it. With the physical aspect of this training, you have some very brutal challenges with the CrossFit and primal blueprint workouts. In life, you don’t have to manipulate any external factor to make you go through some miserable situation. Just living a daily life and you will have an abundance of problems to deal with. This mental toughness program will teach you how to triumph over your personal adversity, but how to decipher and deconstruct the process so you can become stronger because of it. If emotional pain is enviable in life you might as well be taught a skill to help you gain benefit from the suffering.

One of major problems with how the masses workout is they don’t see the direct relationship with what they do in the gym and how they live their life. They see strength training as how much they can lift and not how one can be emotional stronger in life. The typical gym goer is preoccupied only with physical strength and rarely considers how to improve the mental aspects of their life. They may have huge arms, but weak minds. Some may have the ability to bench press a lot of weight, but are major pushovers in their daily life. They don’t see the connection with how physical strength training can improve their mental power.

The goal of this mental toughness program in the primal world is teach you how to feel unstoppable in all areas of your life. The system is designed for you to be physically stronger in the gym and mentally tougher when you walk out of it. If what you do at the gym only makes you feel confident while you work out and not when you get home, you are not getting the full potential of strength training. The more you understand how everything is linked together, you will improve your chances for making it through this long process of mind strength progression.

In order to do so, your thought process when facing adversity should be the same when you are in the gym or out of it. You must use the same 4 mental strategies that you in use during the physical training as well in your personal life.  So it doesn’t matter if you need to find a way to help you get through a tough WOD or finding a solution so you don’t lose your home to the bank. The goal is still the same. You got to do whatever it takes for you to overcome the adversity.

Strategy #1 Prepare Yourself to be the Aggressor

Many people think of aggression as only physical action. Toughness is not about beating the crap out those who have done you wrong. In a civilized society, violence is never the solution. Being aggressive is not about how “mean” you can be or look; it is about your attitude. Never allow adversity to get the best of you. The brashness you displayed during the WODs must now be applied to your personal challenges as well.  Life is about multi-tasking. It is a balancing act between doing many different things.

The main problem we all have when threaten by adversity is that we become way too passive. During the part of my life when I was most mentally weak, I would spend days and weeks fantasizing about me coming ahead of the situation. My action plan back then was wishing that things would go my way and hoping that somebody would come save me. Looking back at the many missed opportunities in my past, there could have been a millions things I could have done, but I did very little.

The best way to get yourself in aggressive state of mind is start off the day by reviewing your current challenges. It could be anywhere from your unfinished adversities, health fitness goals, career objectives, life-long dreams, or any situation that poses a great challenge to you. Pick a couple of these challenges and come with at least three things that you do today to help you come closer to achieving your difficulty. They could be small behaviors, but an action plan that is attainable is one hundred times better than relying on luck or fate.

Strategy #2 – You Must Strengthen Your Connection with Your Will

Your will is what imposes your thoughts and desire into action.  Having a strong will is the trademark of those who are mentally tough. Most of you probably have a strong will, but are very inconsistent in activating it. It’s too elusive and not concrete enough to use at your disposal at any time. Like any other skill, the more you use it, the better you get at. So the more time you invest training your will in your personal life, the more tangible it will be to you.

To do this, you got to get used to putting yourself in uncomfortable situations. I’m talking about those scenarios that you used to routinely dodge before you began this mental toughness program. Get out of our comfort zone. It doesn’t always have to be something drastic, but even those mundane situations like paying a bill that you have been putting off or working on your new job application that you should have done last week will help you improve your ability on activating your will. By putting your will into daily practice, you are training your will to be courageous instead of cowardly running away from your problems.

So the challenge for you in your daily life is to train yourself to be focused yet patient. With the workouts, there is a usually a time limit for you to finish the WOD. This time frame forces you to respond with urgency. In life, there is no literal clock ticking in the background. In the past, when a bad situation got worse, you probably quit and caved in. But, with this training your will is going to be harder to be killed. Way harder. Instead of quitting, the training will teach and prove to you that your will is resilient. Your will has the ability to handle levels of frustrations that you never knew you could handle.  Now instead of surrendering to your foes, you want to extend the battle.  With all your current personal challenges that continue to elude you, you now want to lengthen the time frame of the fight.

A powerful will was what you need when the world knocks you down. You want to find your will when things seem most hopeless. Having the ability to go from the extreme of a low point to a rush of power is a sign of an indomitable will. Most people don’t lack strength, they lack a strong will. Having a relentless will is how battles are won in the playing field, business world, war zones, cancer wards, anywhere you must withstand extreme levels of frustration and disappointments. It is the hidden capacity of mental strength that we all have if we don’t give up.

Strategy #3 – Optimizing Positive Self-Talk

For some of you permanent cynics out there, getting you to have a positive outlook for 30 minutes during a WOD may seem like an eternity to you. However, this short amount of time is reasonable even those with the most negative outlooks. The challenge then is to continue this positive mindset and apply the skill of positive self-talk to your daily life. The thought of being in positive state of mind for 24/7 may be so far-fetched that it may seem impossible especially to those who live in the gloom cave. Nor is it totally realistic to believe that one can go from being negative to being completely positive. One can never be one hundred percent positive as there will always be some doubt in the back of your head. This training is not about eliminating all doubt, but working through the negativity before it over comes you.  Mental toughness is always about the effort.

As you develop of a positive mindset, you will notice how much you have changed especially when you first encounter a new adversity. The potential problem will still get you down, but instead of accepting defeat, you will begin to search for possibilities to get you out the mess. How you view an adversity before it blows up completely is crucial to how you approach it. By remaining positive, even if a little, can help you dissect the problem in a more realistic and attainable matter. Having a positive mindset just raises your energy level while heavy self-complaining puts you in a constant state of tiredness. Focusing on the negative aspects is just so draining, it wears you out. A good technique you can do right now is to change negative statements to positive empowering questions. For example, instead of saying negative comment like “I can’t stay on this diet” change it into a positive question like “What healthy foods can I eat today?” Another example of this technique can be “I hate my job” can be change to something uplifting like “What three things I can do today at my job to make it more enjoyable?” This technique is quite effective in not only getting positive thoughts but also desirable actions.

Strategy #4 The Power of Mantras

Many times in life, the pressure and stress is so great we can barely think straight. You just don’t have the focus and mental clarity to give yourself a long and drawn-out positive pep talk. When this happens, mantras are very helpful.  In order to prevent myself from getting overly despair I repeat a calming mantra over and over to help myself keep my composure like “Stay cool and don’t panic.”  This type of mantra is hypnotic and can slow your breath and clear your mind to help you reassert the situation. Mantras will help ground you during these life straining moments when your mind is racing, heart pounding and you simply just can’t be rational.

Other times, when I feel that I don’t have a chance in hell to overcome an insurmountable problem and am so mentally drained to even think straight, I’ll declare a mantra like “I refuse to quit and let people walk over me” repeatedly. Sometimes, a mantra works immediately, but other times, I have to repeat it often during the day. If a proven mantra that has worked in the past, be patient and stay with it; it may some time to strike a chord with you. A powerful mantra that incites you is like a good slap in the face from a buddy. Not only are you suddenly reloaded with determination, but also loaded with fury at yourself for nearly giving up. This double shot of enthusiasm is typically what you get from mantras that light a fire under your belly.

So create a variety of mantras that inspire you, calm you down and provide some much needed rage when necessary.  If a mantra works for you during the physical aspect of your training, it will most likely have the same effect on you applied them to your personal struggles. All you have to do is make some slight adjustments to them so they can be more applicable to your current life situation.  For example, when I’m near to the point of exhaustion of any WOD, one of my most potent mantras that I use is “I refuse to quit.” You can extend this mantra to fit the current circumstance that you are in. If you are having a frustrating day at work, the mantra that you can say to yourself is “I refuse to quit at work.” If you are feeling a huge road block while pursing your lifelong dream, the mantra could easily be “I refused to quit at reaching my dream.”

Final Thoughts

So in a way, this mentally tough program is training for you to handle life’s worst case scenarios. It is preparing you to deal with the inevitable phone call we all will receive at some time from a doctor that tells you – “The blood test are in. Can you come down today so we can talk about it?” Having big biceps or tight buns will do nothing to help you in a situation when you or a love one has a life threatening disease. When the bad news comes, you better be mentally prepared to go to war for those who need you. Facing these brutal workouts day-in and day-out will help you transform your mind to become the fighter that never quits. Even if it is very unlikely that you will overcome the problem, you relentlessly persist with the fight until you finally overtake it. This is what mental toughness is all about and why it is a must for everybody.  Father or mother, young or old, rich or broke, we all need to learn how to stay in the fight. No matter how hurt, sad, poor you are, you have a reserve of unbelievable strength inside of you that can always be summoned from within.


If you read both articles, you will get a better understanding of the mental toughness concepts that I have for you all. The standards of this system is high and very ambitious. But, if you put in the work, I have no doubt that you will be get in the best shape ever and improve the overall quality of your life.

Today’s Strength WOD:

5 set of 5 reps

1. Deadlifts

2. Push press

3. Overhead squats

4. Bench press using dumbbells

5. Pull-up (five sets as many reps as you can just short of failure)

Appropriate substitutions:

1. You can do strict military presses over the push press.

2. I’m not a huge fan of barbell bench presses, but if you want to do them, you can use a barbell instead. However, be careful as barbell bench presses puts a lot of awkward stress on your shoulders.

3. Use a band to help you with assisted pull-ups. Here’s a great demo.





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