Build your reserves of mental toughness when you don’t need to, so they are there when you do. Here are fifteen ways to build mental toughness.

Do the hard thing first

Look at your to-do list and see which task you have been avoiding or putting off. Do it first and do it well. Seek out the resistance and overcome it. Make the call, finish the project, give the feedback. Make what was once difficult seem easy.

Put your work out there

Share your story, publish your work, get on stage. Practice being in the arena and do whatever terrifies you. Work out why it scares you so much. Remove the excuses for inaction and start to produce.

Do one more

Whenever you hit a wall or you feel like quitting, do one more. One more rep, one more practice paper, one more cold call. Over time, that extra effort compounds to make a big difference. Even when you feel like you have nothing left, you can always do one more.

Ask the tough questions

When something doesn’t go your way, ask why. Dig into the parts of your being that need to improve. Be honest with yourself. Identify where you can be better and work on it. Most people compensate for these aspects instead of addressing them head on.

Breathing exercises

The Wim Hof Method recommends 30-40 deep inhalations followed by a full exhalation and then a breath hold. Hold until you have to breathe. Repeat for three rounds and see Wim Hof’s website for the theory, science and more guidance. Repeat every morning and do it even when you don’t feel like it.

Negative visualisation

Make a list of the worst things that could happen to you and leave nothing out. Now make a second list, of what you would do in response to each of these events. What’s the worst that could happen? Your best team member leaves. Someone important to you becomes ill. You lose your job or biggest client. Someone steals your car or breaks into your house. You injure your leg. Make a plan for each of them happening and realise that nothing would be insurmountable.

Cold showers

Also recommended by Wim Hof. Detach from the need to be warm and comfortable. Start by adding 10 seconds of cold at the end of your normal shower, then 20, then 30, then have no need for a warm shower. Breathe into the cold and feel unshakable.

Be first

Most people don’t want to be first to say hi, or volunteer, or stand out in any way. They fear looking silly. Get good at being first. Say hi first, put your name forward, get it out the way. Realise it’s not daunting and be the example of confidence that others need to see.

Show kindness

To everyone, no matter what, show kindness. It’s easy to show kindness to friends and family whom you know and love. It’s harder with the slow walking pedestrian or the bad driver or the person at the bar who cut in front of you. Give the benefit of the doubt. Assume the best. Be kind about people who aren’t there. There’s a compassionate way of addressing every situation and kindness is a strength, not a weakness.

Eat spicy food

Pass the hot sauce. No, seriously. Build mental toughness by getting good with spicy food. Progress along the Nandos scale to extra hot to become invincible. It feels like pain but it’s just a sensation; train your brain to notice the difference. If you can handle the heat, you can handle anything.

Identify as mentally strong

If you think of yourself as being a mentally strong person, you will act as a mentally strong person acts. Fake it ‘til you make it. Think of someone who inspires you or step into the toughest version of you and channel resilience. At every turn, be the person you want to be.

Get perspective

Remember that we are single human beings on one road, of one city, of one country, of one planet, of an entire solar system of matter. So nothing matters. Zoom out of every situation and see it from afar. Get some space to find a sense of calm and respond from that place. Composed and confident not frantic or ruffled. Practice remembering it when times are great so it's second nature when they’re not.

Notice the good

In every moment there is something good. A silver lining. There’s always something to be grateful for and you can train your brain to find it. Practice noticing what’s good about every place, every person, every object. Train your mind to notice it first. Ask what’s good about this? even when it seems like nothing is.

Be uncomfortable

Find ways of being uncomfortable and hang out there. Don’t wear a coat, don’t recline your seat, don’t take your headphones on a walk. Sit on the floor, let your food go cold, walk a bit faster up the hill. Sit at the back, take the stairs instead of the lift, go to the top of the tallest building and look over the edge. Realise that everything doesn’t need to be perfect and take pride in being low maintenance. Even if you lost everything, you’d still be fine.

Reframe change

Think of your life ten years ago and the best changes that have happened since then. Think of everything you have overcome or worked through. The progress you’ve made and the achievements you’ve had. Everything you thought you’d never get over that you did. Everything you thought would break you that didn’t. See that everything good comes from change to always welcome change in the future.