Mental Toughness in Sports and Life

How do you define mental toughness? For me, that definition is intertwined with athletics due to 14 years of competitive swimming. It starts with strength of will, the ability to make yourself do something even though it will be unpleasant. Mohammed Ali famously commented “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.'” Just about any athlete will related to you a similar sentiment about training. It takes a certain strength of will to push through those feelings.

I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.

But is that all mental toughness is? I would argue no. Another part of athletics is, inevitably, failure. It’s not just hard work; it’s working hard and failing anyways. This is also a part of mental toughness: not only pushing through that feeling, but accepting that it may happen.

Most importantly, mental toughness is a sense of self. Mental toughness is Ian Thorpe, when asked how he felt about being seeded in an outside lane at the Olympics for his final, saying “There is water in every lane, so it is OK”.

There is water in every lane, so it is OK.

Weaker minds see something like that and think “oh no”. He looked at it and thought “bring it on, I can win this race from any lane”. Mental toughness is the quite confidence that great men carry in their hearts and in their heads, that knowledge that no matter what happens they will find a way. Mental toughness is being able to stay calm and carry on no matter how the situation changes. Life throws us curve balls every day – things almost never go how we expect them to. To be mentally tough is to know this, to know that things might change suddenly and be totally out of your control, and knowing that you are going to do everything in your power regardless.

Be mentally tough today.

Author Introduction

Hello readers of The Evolutionary Mind! My name is Ryan Taylor, I’m a new contributor here. You can check out my personal site at for more about me.

I look forward to engaging with all of you, making you think, and hopefully providing some inspiration along the way!

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Dustin Meyer

Free thinking, somewhat radical, and very passionate. Take a trip through the mind of the creator and dreamer behind The Evolutionary Mind.


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