“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure…than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”
– Theodore Roosevelt
In a time where true masculinity has become a choice, and men are at a loss for how to be men, toughness and resiliency offers a flare in the night to get them on their path. There is a clear need for guidance, as men across the world have discord in their hearts. For what reason? Men don’t have to be men to survive anymore, but men must be men, just as the sun must shine to bring life to the world.
There are two types of toughness: mental and physical. Toughness is commonly associated with a man’s body, and resiliency with his mind. In this guide, we will examine what these are and how to acquire and/or develop them.
Toughness: the ability to withstand hardship, endure pain, and perform under discomfort or stress over time.
Resiliency: the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.
What’s In This Guide?
This guide will provide you with what you need to forge a tougher body and a more resilient mind. Work will be required, and I can’t provide you with willpower or discipline, but I can tell you where to apply it. If you don’t have time right now, bookmark the page and come back later.
Why should you care about being tough or resilient? Learn about toughness through a primitive lens (think cavemen or Neanderthal), and then through a modern one. How did it help men be men in the past, and how can it help now? In what situations would being a tougher man be an asset to you and your loved ones?
How to Become Physically Tougher:
What specifically can a man do to become tougher? Learn the tactics you can employ today.
How to Become Mentally Tougher :
Perhaps more difficult than becoming physically tougher, learn what strategies you can immediately start using to develop a resilient and strong mind.
“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” -Sir Edmund Hillary
If the benefits of being mentally and physically tougher aren’t already clear, let’s examine them. First, we will look at why being tough was important in a more primitive time. Then we will fast forward to modern man and do the same. You will find some similarities among them, but they are not without difference.
Since the beginning of our species, man’s survival was largely dependent on their physical and mental toughness. Man had to be tough in order to hunt for food and not be killed by his prey, the elements, or others from a different species/tribe. He needed to be tough and resilient in the protection of his kin and home from danger or intruders. A weak man had a difficult time surviving and passing on his genes; stronger, tougher men got the best mates. Overall, being a tough man was vital to his survival, and the survival of his bloodline.
Now let’s fast-forward to modern day and the only remaining species of mankind: homo sapiens. It is important to note that homo sapiens means “wise man” in Latin. Using our intellect, we have become the dominant species on Earth. In the developed world, we don’t typically have to worry about being murdered by the food we eat, or the environment we choose to hunt in. Things are easy for us relative to our primitive ancestors. We live in absolute abundance and comfort, sometimes for more than a century, thanks to science, medicine, and technology. We can buy our survival instead of fighting for it.
This boils down to one thing: men do not need to be tough to survive. To become tougher mentally or physically is a choice that must be made every day. In the world we live in, it is actually inconvenient to try and become tougher (in the beginning, at least). It requires discipline. It requires work. It requires pain. But this pursuit separates the willing contender from the masses. He becomes a man among men.
Consider the following well-rounded, but not complete, list of modern benefits:
*I will use brevity here for sake of pacing*
1. A Healthier, Longer Life.
Even though a man can buy his survival, he may end up living it in a wheelchair or strapped to an oxygen tank. Through exercise and conditioning of the body, it can last longer and perform better over time compared to a body that is treated poorly and neglected. A soft man is typically found on a couch or in a chair, whereas a tough man can be found capitalizing on his abilities outdoors or elsewhere. It could also save your life in disaster/survival situations.
2. Competitive Endeavors.
A tough man has a better chance at excelling in sports and other physical competitions. It requires physical endurance as well as mental resiliency to succeed. There are no weak and successful athletes (defined by typical parameters of success for an athlete). Mental competitions fit in here as well. Resiliency is required in the pursuit of a stronger mind.
3. Finding a Mate
It’s not hard to believe that a physically tough man with a strong mind is desirable. Granted, toughness does not necessarily mean good looks and a chiseled body, but it’s reasonable to say that a tough man is physically fit. There is biological hard-wiring at play in a woman’s mind when she is looking for a potential mate. Fit means tough and capable of defending her and her offspring, in addition to the perceived high-quality genetics the man can pass down to said offspring.
From the modern man’s perspective, he is more capable of presenting himself as a desirable mate through his outward appearance but also his confidence. Toughness implies fitness, which begets confidence.
4. Getting Ahead at Work
As mentioned in Number 3, a tough man is probably physically fit. Confidence in oneself skyrockets when one realizes his true potential as a man. This would benefit a man during meetings, presentations in front of his superiors and colleagues, and increase productivity through elevated and more stable energy levels granted by a conditioned body. It would also increase the levels of respect other people have for him. Everybody wants to learn from somebody who exudes confidence and looks like they know how to handle things.
5. Reaching Personal Goals
Cultivating mental toughness requires discipline and determination. The same is required of achieving goals and dreams. It’s easy to get lured in by the seductiveness of relaxation more often than not, whether it’s video games, T.V, or excessively going out and socializing, for example. A tough mind can resist these temptations and consistently work toward goals every day.
6. Protecting Your Family
If you were the only thing standing in the way of something or someone harming your family, could you protect them? Being physically and mentally tough would increase your chances of doing so. This could be from a tangible threat, like a home intruder, or something more abstract like financial danger.
Also check out: How to Protect Your Home From Intruders
7. Become a Role Model
Tough men are at the vanguard of life, legacy, and manhood. By leading through example, we may help others elevate themselves. They, in turn, can then help other men. This can be done as a father, a brother, a co-worker, or a man of the community, to name a few examples.
I’m at a loss on this one. If you can think of anything, please feel free to share in the comments.
“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” – Dale Carnegie
How to Develop Physical Toughness
1. Identify Your “Why”
Everybody has something that motivates them. Determine what your “why” is. Why do you want to get tougher? Take it further. If you’re looking to be more masculine, maybe you’re really looking for confidence and respect (from yourself or others). Maybe you want to be tougher to protect something or someone. Whatever your reason is, let it drive you in this pursuit. If you don’t know what you are going to battle for, what will keep you going when it starts to hurt?
2. Train Your Body
The most obvious way to become tougher is to condition your body through vigorous physical exercise. Lift, push, and pull heavy things. Whether it’s body-weight, dumbbells, barbells, or boulders, exercising to become stronger is a sure-fire way to increase your toughness when used in conjunction with the other methods in this guide. It will force you to push yourself to your limits (as long as you let this happen) and show you what you can achieve as a man.
Be sure to include stretching (and also yoga) and mobility exercising to your routine to protect yourself from injury, increase joint capabilities, and increase performance. Taking martial arts lessons would be a tremendous help, as well.
3. Expose Yourself to the Elements
There are many situations where being able to endure extreme temperatures would be an asset in a man’s life. This is an exercise in physical toughness, but mental toughness as well. Incremental exposure to extreme heat or cold will increase your tolerance to it, and in situations where it matters, you will be able to function and perform at reasonably normal levels. You can toughen yourself through cold showers, or standing outside in either the hot/cold for increasingly longer periods of time. Training in snow, wind, or rain is an excellent method as well. Experience daily discomfort. Just take logical precautions so as not to actually injure yourself.
4. Toughen Your Skin
Having calluses from holding weights and barbells is better than using gloves, the goal is to have toughened skin on the whole of your hands and feet as well. How can you do this? Train in nature. Use tree branches, rocks, go barefoot while walking in the woods, up hills, in dirt or at the beach. Get your body used to more than shoes, smooth metal bars, padded handles, or gloves. Nature is the ultimate playground, and it can transform your body into what man was meant to be.
5. Build Mental Toughness
Read the next part of the guide for help with this. The mind and body are connected, so a strong mind will help you in forging a strong body. You will need focus, discipline, persistence, and will power to reach your goal.
“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion’.” -Muhammad Ali
How to Develop Mental Toughness
1. Face Down Your Fears
Envision your average day. Think about the things you do, the choices you make, and the hundreds of opportunities that come your way. How much of your day is spent doing the comfortable thing? How many of your choices are the ones that evade fear or discomfort? Maybe you avoid a specific person, or a task you have been putting off. Maybe you stopped going to the gym because you are too scared to feel the pain of growing muscles, even though you have convinced yourself you’re tired or you don’t have time.
A mentally strong man meets fear head on. He doesn’t cower behind excuses. There is no shame in admitting that we give into fear more than we defeat it as long as we intend on changing it.
The first step is to identify what your fears even are. Is it people, or doing certain things? Maybe it’s choices that you want to make but don’t have the courage to see what the outcome will be. I’ve been told that on the other side of fear is freedom. A strong mind is free to make choices without the weight of fear weighing them down.
Identify your fears and rank them from weakest to strongest. Do everything in your power to face it down. Use that as a stepping stone and work your way through the list. It can be as simple as wearing that funky tie to work, saying hi to someone you have always wanted to, or saying no even if it’s uncomfortable to do so. Facing your fears gets easier the more you do it, and your mind will get stronger each time. Just take that first look.
2. Build Physical Toughness
Read the previous guide on building physical toughness. As mentioned, the body and mind are connected. They work in synergy. Grow both and see your world open up.
3. Mindfulness and Handling Stress
If you remember anything from this guide, let it be this: the better you are at being mindful and in control of your thoughts and emotions, the more resilient you can become.
Being faced with stressful events– such as an external event like a near-miss while driving or something internal like dealing with your boss– floods our system with cortisol and adrenaline. It’s fight or flight. This response can be lifesaving, but it was designed to save us from saber-tooth tigers and other danger, not the daily stressors of modern life. However, our body can’t tell the difference and reacts the same. According to Psychology Today, “Prolonged or repeated arousal of the stress response, a characteristic of modern life, can have harmful physical and psychological effects, including heart disease and depression.”
It’s clear that stress can wreak havoc on our mental strength, so how can we lessen its influence?
- Meditation– countless studies show that it’s a powerhouse of positive influence on our over-all health, happiness, and ability to handle stress. Sit still for even 1 minute to start and try to just focus on your breathing. Do this everyday, aiming to increase your time. There are free apps (like Headspace) or guided meditation YouTube videos to help you with this. You will start to notice yourself feeling calmer and more in control.
- Exercise- Physical exercise is shown to improve our ability to cope with stress. As seen in this guide, it’s pretty powerful in improving almost all aspects of a man’s life, and accomplishes many things at once.
- Change Your Perception– Our perception of reality becomes our reality. If we think something is a big deal, we react and deal with the consequences as if it truly were a big deal. We give it power. The inverse is also true. That disrespectful coworker or the jerk who just cut you off may not really matter. A barking dog does not offend me, so why would any of this type of nonsense? I repeat this to myself almost every day. It’s hard. It takes time. But health and happiness are worth it.
- Recognize Your Triggers– What are the things you find yourself complaining about to your partner, friends, or other co-workers? If you aren’t sure, pay attention throughout your day. Determine what makes you stressed, angry, or anxious. Identify if it really matters, and if it doesn’t, try to override your response. Breathe. Rationalize. Choose to not respond. Think about the challenges in your life you have overcome. There are surely times where you have been forced to endure and grew stronger as a result. Or, maybe there where events in your life that you thought would be devastating but ended up working out. Use this knowledge when faced with similar situations. With practice, it will get easier.
“All that we are is the result of what we have thought.”
Toughness is a universal manly trait, and one that virtually all men covet. Some have achieved it, while others aspire to. The benefits are many, and with practice and dedication, being truly tough is within reach. In your pursuit, try to remember that mental and physical toughness are both the priority. Focusing on one and not the other may yield unfavorable results. Make the right choices, and stay the course. The world needs tough men.