How to Build Mental Strength: Building Resilience

Building Resilience

Humans are visual creatures, especially men. We place value on what we can see, feel and touch. It’s why we chase material things like nice cars, good looking partners, big houses and nice clothes. It’s why we spend hours in the gym to look in top physical shape. In fact, we often spend all of our focus on physical appearance and strength, but totally neglect our mind.

“The mind is more important than the body.” - Arnold Schwarzenegger

One of the most important if not the most important things is our mind. If you’re spending more time training your body than your mind, it’s like having the body work of a Ferrari and the engine of a Yugo 55. You’ll look good, but that’ll be the extent of your ability.

I’ll be the first to admit I spent my youth focusing on my body and I massively neglected the mind. While certain aspects of physical training do benefit the mind, unless you’re consciously training for mindset you won’t gain the full benefits.

I want to dedicate a series of articles to the mind and training the mind. Now there are different types of mental strength including: focus, concentration, patience, resilience, creativity, being relaxed, unshakeable, intelligence, emotional intelligence, confidence, ability to handle stress, etc.

While all these mental strengths happen in the mind, they are different and they’re trained differently. This article will focus on resilience.

The Oxford English dictionary defines resilience as “The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.” In other words, your resilience is your ability to achieve your goal(s) / mission regardless of the obstacles and setbacks you face.

Why is this important? Everyone faces challenges in life, but the more ambitious your goals the more obstacles, failures, rejections and setbacks you’ll face. Whether you’re trying to achieve good grades in education, seeking your dream career, win at sports or build your business, you need resilience. Any ambitious goal cannot be achieved without resilience.

Before I go into the exercises to teach you resilience let's look at some examples of how resilience got some people through tough times to reach success and fame.

J.K. Rowling: living in poverty and barely able to feed her baby Rowling was in a deep depression and was considering suicide. Living on benefits Rowling spent her time writing Harry Potter in cafés with her baby sleeping in the pram next to her. She was rejected 12 times before getting Harry Potter published

Stephen King: was another broke and struggling writer. He was living in a trailer with his wife (also a writer) both working several jobs to support their family. He was rejected 60 times before selling his first story. Even then it was for a small amount. Now King is one of the world's most famous writers with his books being turned into films, much like J.K Rowling.

Colonel Sanders (KFC): was living off a $105 a month pension cheque. He was rejected 1000 times before finding a partner to franchise his fried chicken.

Oprah Winfrey: went through a difficult life that included sexual abuse and the loss of her first child. She was even fired from her news reporter job. Oprah persevered to become an international superstar and creator of her own network.

Steve Jobs: was fired from Apple the very company he founded. “"I was out and very publicly out, What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating." said Jobs in a 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University. Jobs later launched Pixar Animation Studios, but it was losing him money until the release of the great success Toy Story. Pixar was later sold to Disney. Jobs then returned to Apple around a decade later bringing out the iPod, iPhone, and iPad.

Conor McGregor: Despite there being no highly successful MMA fighter to ever come out of Ireland Conor had a dream to be a UFC champion, extremely famous and extremely rich. He gave up his job as a commercial plumber to pursuit his UFC dream by living off government benefits. Conor got into the UFC, but suffered a torn knee ligament. His opponent José Aldo pulled out last minute before the title fight and Dos Anjos also pulled out last minute for the lightweight title. Regardless of these setback he pushed forward. Having a personality and reputation like Conor’s means losing is a greater risk. However, Conor takes risks. He lost his fight to Nate Diaz, but came back to win the second fight at the same weight. That fight was voted the best UFC fight to date. Conor later become a two weight UFC champion and went on to fight Floyd Mayweather in boxing.

These short examples won’t even give you a tiny flavour of the hardship these people went through before they achieved success, but I hope you at least understand that before you set any ambitious goals, the road ahead is full of setbacks.  

So now we understand what resilience is and how important it is for achieving our goals, how do we train it? Some people are born naturally resilient or they’ve been nurtured through their environment to be resilient. If these aren’t your circumstances and you find you give up on things too easily, don't worry these exercises will help you.

In order to develop resistance you need to put your body under conditions that makes your mind want to quit. Situations which that voice in your head comes out and says “This is hurting”, “This is too difficult.”, “I want to stop”, “That’s enough now.”, “I don’t like this, it’s uncomfortable.” It is in these situations that you learn to battle or ignore that voice.

Note: You must consult a doctor before you try any of the exercises below.

Long distance running

Ditch the earphones and iPhone and go long distance running to a set distance. You need to be alone with your voice so you can learn to control it. Depending on your fitness levels, pick a distance that will stretch you physically. You don’t need to run at a fast pace a jog will do, but it needs to be at a pace and distance that will push you.

Cold bath or ice bath

This is my favorite one, because I feel it’s the most difficult one. Every so often I will have a cold bath for no reason other than to let the mind know I’m in control. Simply just running the cold bath will make your mind go into panic mode and it’ll tell you all the reasons why this isn’t a good idea. Then getting into the bath is another mental battle. Then staying in for 8 minutes is torture if you’re not experienced. Your mind will do everything to try and get you out. You have to battle this and stay in until the 8 minutes is over. Start with a cold bath, which is just water from the old tap then progress into ice baths.

Here is a video of UFC Champion Rose Namajunas taking an ice bath for now other reason than mindset:


The other temperature extreme is heat, but don’t mistake this as an easy replacement for a cold bath. 30 minutes in the sauna is hard work, your mind will try it’s best to get up and leave the sauna. Stay strong. Take a large bottle of water with you so you can keep hydrated throughout.


Try these and see how you get on, while obstacles and setbacks will never become easy, developing your resilience will enable you to keep moving forward.


Watch this video to see a true display of resilience.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published