On August 8, 2016, I participated in my first Division 1 college football practice. I vividly remember the day being blistering hot and humid. Despite the weather, I was excited to live out my dream of playing college football. This excitement lasted for about two minutes as I quickly realized how difficult college football practices were. The speed, efficiency, and expectations put on the players to perform well was unlike anything I had ever experienced.
Around halfway through practice, I was completely exhausted, both mentally and physically. Not too long after reaching this point, my coach put me through a drill. During the drill, I slowly walked off to the sideline and asked the trainer to look at my leg. I did not have any sort of injury, but I wanted a way out of doing something challenging. I had taken the easy way out and succumbed to the voices in my head telling me this was too hard and that I needed to stop. I had always thought of myself as someone who was able to push through demanding circumstances, but it was not until that moment that I realized how much improvement I needed in my mental toughness.
I was disappointed and frustrated with my performance that day, so I researched how I could improve. That is when I discovered David Goggins and his book ‘Can’t Hurt Me.’ For those that are unfamiliar with David Goggins, he is a former Navy Seal, Army Ranger, and Air Force Tactical Air Controller. As if those titles weren't accomplishment enough, Goggins is most known for his physical achievements and mentality. He has completed more than sixty ultra-marathons, triathlons, and ultra-triathlons, all while setting course records and finishing in the top five places on several occasions.
The book 'Can't Hurt Me' explores his upbringing and the challenges he faced throughout his life. Most people would have significant roadblocks that would get in the way of success if they had lived the life of David Goggins. What allowed him to experience success and live a life filled with impressive accomplishments,
was his mental toughness. He created a term called the “40% Rule.” This idea suggests that humans only tap into 40% of their capabilities. In other words, many people have the potential to accomplish more, but do not because they quit when something is perceived to be too hard. Goggins preaches that often times when a person thinks they have reached their limit they likely can still give 60% more.
After reading the book, I thought about how I could apply this information to football and other physically demanding activities. It was easy to see how I could apply mental toughness to football and exercise, as there is a natural component that comes with exerting oneself. I did see improvements with my mental toughness in sports (I never pretended to be hurt ever again in my life), but I was pleasantly surprised to notice improvements in my mental toughness with school, work, and relationships as well.
As a student, have you ever had a big exam and decided not to study because you perceived the material as being too hard? At work, have you taken a short cut or skipped over details because you weren’t in the mood for it? After having problems in a relationship, has the thought, “This relationship is impossible to repair, it would be easier to never talk to them again.” gone through your head?
In many instances in life, we have more to offer. We have more patience than we think. We have more self-control than we think. We have more bravery than we think. We simply have more strength than we realize. Just as a muscle can be grown through proper stimulation, mental resilience and discipline can be developed in the same way. Whenever you are confronted with a challenge, you can look at it as a chance to build mental strength. It is a process that takes time but is worth pursuing because you have untapped potential which could change your life and the lives of people around you.