Mentally tough and mindful: The tools of the mental warrior


When things get difficult in life, you need some mental toughness.  During the tough times, it is important to remain mindful and in the moment even though we all want the tough times to pass as quickly as possible.  Let’s take a look at how these two mental skills make you a mental warrior. 

Mental Toughness:

When mental toughness is talked about or mentioned as to how one develops it, it is usually about sports.  So I will give you my sports story on how I developed my mental toughness.  I was like many young teenagers who didn’t have much discipline.  My mother did the best she could, but my father worked 60 – 70 hours a week and wasn’t around much which was not so bad, he could be a mean SOB.  However, I was an unruly kid.  A kid full of anger and endless energy is on a path to trouble which I certainly was traveling on.  The mentor who I met in 1984 who planted and cultivated mental toughness was my high school football coach, John Burke.  Coach Burke, like many football coaches, was, a stern disciplinarian, but what set Coach Burke apart from other coaches is that he, at times, was more like a Marine Drill Sergeant than a coach.  To give you an illustration how difficult his coaching style could be let us go back to his first year at Douglas County High School, which was 1984.  We started training camp with a little over sixty boys looking to play some football.  By the time the season started, we were down to twenty-seven.  We barely had enough to have a full team, and several of the guys played both sides of the ball, offense, and defense.  Why did so many young men drop off?  Because Coach Burke ran us, drilled us, and beat us into the ground, literally.  He broke us like a horse trainer breaks a wild horse.  In doing that he accomplished what I believe he wanted, he taught us mental toughness.  He taught us that we had much more in us than we thought we had.  He taught us that our actual potential was greater than our lack of belief in ourselves.  When we thought we were at the end of the line, there was always more within us.  One last sprint, on last Lombardi drill, one last ounce of energy to get past the goal line.  We didn’t have a great record that year, we had much greater success the following years, but no high school football team in the country was in better physical condition and was as mentally tough as we twenty-seven were. 

I carry that mental fortitude with me to this day.  When the valley was low and believe me it was low I was able to withstand the storm.  The interesting thing about the many lows was that I have come to now realize I was the creator of them.  Things happen in life.  They happen to all of us.  No one gets through it unscathed.  It comes down to how you operate in the face of adversity.  How you react to circumstance and challenges is what matters, which is the second half of a mental warrior.

Mental Awareness:

Now I may have been carrying this mental fortitude with me since I was fifteen but I spent much of the remainder of my time creating my own problems.  I was unaware that the chattering monkey mind was running the show.  The Roman writer and philosopher Horace once said, “Rule your mind, or it will rule you.”  My mind ruled me completely.  I was a slave who wore my chains proudly.  I was not aware of how past programming determined my fate.  I couldn’t see the mind forest through he mind trees.  Fortunately, I was able to survive myself and train my mind to be still.  It is this awareness that will make the mental warrior complete.  We can subject ourselves to all the difficulties that this life can present.   We can survive those difficulties but if we don’t come to see that we are the ones who create them and repeat them we are lost.  Lost in the valley of thoughts and unconsciousness.

Do you want to be a mental warrior?  Do you wish to withstand the stones that will be thrown at you?  If so, you need to create the daily habits that will establish both of these qualities.  Our habits are who we are.  This cannot be understated.

I have one concern, it is for the Millennials, and it will be interesting to see how this plays out.  Within my generation, the generation that gave birth to the millennials I have witnessed a lot of helicopter parenting.  In trying to protect their children from every possible thing that can harm them have they created mental weaklings instead of mental warriors?  Time will tell its tale as it always does.  Thanks for reading!


Until Next Time,

Rich Decker – Mindful Accord