Can’t Hurt Me: 5 Strategies for Building Mental Strength

David Goggins’s Can’t Hurt Me is two parts autobiography to one part guidebook for maximizing your life’s potential. It might sound like a strange combination but Goggins is uniquely qualified to talk about mental strength: He might just be the toughest man alive.

Not only is Goggins the only member of the US Armed Forces to complete SEAL training, US Army Ranger School, and Air Force Tactical Air Controller training, he’s also completed multiple ultramarathons and holds the Guinness World Record for greatest number of pull-ups done in 24 hours. Any of this would be impressive enough on its own, but when you consider where Goggins came from and everything he suffered through to get where he is now, his achievements become even more extraordinary.

He credits one thing for his success: Mental toughness. Life is one big mind game, he says, and in Can’t Hurt Me, he teaches readers how to go to war with themselves… and win.

Find Purpose, Not Motivation

We’ve discussed the problem with motivation in previous posts. The carrot-on-a-stick approach to motivation we traditionally use simply doesn’t work in the long run. External motivation is not sustainable; if you want to maintain that fire in your belly, it needs to be fueled from within.

Goggins takes this idea one step further and says you should do away with the concept of motivation altogether. Instead, you should direct your focus toward your purpose. Figuring out who you are and your greater purpose in life can push you through the moments of suffering. No amount of pain can stop you from being who you are.

Need help discovering your purpose? Check out Unlock the Fierce Power of your Purpose in the Fabulous app!

Own Your Shortcomings

Admit it: You’re not perfect. There’s nothing wrong with being imperfect; it’s a side-effect of being a person. But just because we’re imperfect doesn’t mean we should settle for who we are right now. According to Goggins, our imperfections should fuel our transformations.

Sometimes it takes brutal honesty to truly see and understand your reality. Get out your journal and write down as many of your flaws as you can think of. Take all of your imperfections and screw-ups and get them down on paper. Then, once you have it all down, start to analyze what you’ve written. What can you improve upon? What should you let go? Once you acknowledge the places where you don’t measure up, you can use that knowledge to guide you on your self-improvement journey.

Alternatively, you can try Fabulous’s Write Your Story exercise, located in the Make Me Fabulous section of the app.

Build Your Mental Calluses

If you spend a lot of time on your feet, you’ve probably developed some calluses, or extra thick skin on the bottoms of your feet. It might not look attractive but that thick skin is how your body protects itself from repeated exposure to things that hurt it. According to Can’t Hurt Me, If you want to be mentally strong, you need to build up some mental calluses.

There are two ways to accomplish this. The first is to deliberately seek out discomfort by trying new things and taking more risks. By deliberately stepping outside your comfort zone, you build resilience to discomfort, which makes it easier to be uncomfortable later. The second way is to push yourself, even when your whole body feels like giving up. According to Goggins, at any given moment, we’re only utilizing about 40% of our maximum potential. If we want to build those mental calluses, however, we need to consistently tap into that extra 60%, no matter how much it hurts. Suffering isn’t permanent: Sooner or later, whatever agony you’re going through will end. You just have to keep enduring until then.

Assemble Your Cookie Jar

Warning: This cookie jar doesn’t actually contain cookies! Remember when you got out your journal and wrote about all your shortcomings? For this journal assignment, you’ll want to write down every time you’ve ever overcome obstacles and succeeded at something. They don’t have to be big, grand achievements; write down anything that, when you think back on it, makes you realize just how tough and incredible you are.

That list is your cookie jar. When you find yourself at the end of your rope, reach into the cookie jar and reflect on those accomplishments. Don’t rest on your laurels–you’re not done succeeding yet!–but use the cookie jar to periodically remind yourself that you’re capable of more than you think.

Tip: You can also turn to other Fabulous users for inspiration and advice!

Make An Accountability Mirror

Sometimes, you need an accountability partner to see you through the tougher times in your life. Having another person to build you up and push you forward can make a significant difference in how much you accomplish. But the most important accountability partner you can have is yourself.

Goggins writes down all his dreams, goals, and fears on Post-It notes and attaches them to a mirror in his house, which he calls his Accountability Mirror. Every night, he faces himself and those notes as a reminder to hold himself accountable and stay on track toward his goals. It’s hard to hide from your goals when they’re staring you right in the face!

Maximize Your Mental Fitness

Goggins’s approach to mental fitness is an incredibly intense one. He shuns mediocrity and sets the bar higher and higher for himself, going so far as to make a habit out of causing himself pain. While this aggressive and no-holds-barred approach clearly works for him, it may not work for everyone.

However, many of the techniques Goggins describes in his book can be easily adapted to any lifestyle, any goals, and anybody. You don’t need to run 100 miles (or even want to!) to become the best version of yourself. You just have to want to be the best version of yourself and be willing to put in the work to get there.

If you’re ready to maximize your mental fitness, sign up for Fabulous’s Mental Fitness journey, available for Sphere users. We’ll help you build up your mental toughness step by step so you, too, can live your life to its fullest potential.

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