Five Secrets to Forging Mental Resilience

The Adventure Coach helps you build mental resilience to overcome your challenges.

Ben Turner
By Ben Turner

08/05/24

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Mental toughness. A term that I think gets used a lot in the extreme sense, making it almost exclusive to those pursuing great and grand things, or taking on SAS Who Dares Wins. But mental toughness is also the courage and conviction to stay cool and calm in the face of adversity in the office, at home, in traffic, or against the wonderings of your internal monologue.

 

My name is Ben Turner, The Adventure Coach, and I dedicate my life to helping people become healthier, fitter, and more mentally resilient, ready for their next big adventure.

 

The Royal Marine Commandos call mental toughness ‘cheerfulness in the face of adversity’, others call it ‘the never give up mentality’, but to me, it is the simple aim of always going further, and always trying to be better. When I look at how to cultivate mental toughness, and when I coach others to build their own, I look to adventure.  Just like the British Army has Adventure Training to bring out a new angle to resilience, problem solving and discomfort, I think that we all need a controlled exposure to risk and the opportunity to cultivate strength.

 

 

When we look to adventure, we look to the ultimate in unbiased environments, a space where nothing is personal, where what happens is only partly predictable, and where there is the perfect stone with which to ‘sharpen the axe’. With this in mind, I’m going to share with you five ‘secrets’ to forging mental toughness, and with this, how adventure might just be the key that you are missing.

 

Competence

 

Competence is where mental resilience, self-confidence, and toughness is forged first and foremost.  When you feel competent, confidence is usually in tow, and with confidence, you can generate more resilience.  The equation is COMPETENCE + CONFIDENCE = OPPORTUNITY, and the more opportunities that you take on, the more competence and subsequent confidence you will generate, and so the cycle goes. 

You become more and more mentally resilient because you have built a stack of undeniable proof that you are who you say you are… OR… you have a stack of undeniable proof that you are who you think you can be. When it comes to building toughness in ANY endeavour and ANY aspect of life, we need to build a level of competence that exceeds where we currently are.  The journey of constant growth and improvement maintains a positive direction.  The more you progress and maintain that positive outlook, the more mentally strong you become.

 

Adventurer Ben Turner runs on a trail through a British woodland



Adventures require competence.  You need to know how to run on trails instead of roads, you need to understand how to navigate, what to do in an emergency, how to look after yourself, how to find the cool places to go, and how to take on your first wild swim. 



But life requires competence also.  You need to have a handle on your emotions and reactions so that you don’t get into arguments with loved ones (or you can deal with them as your best self), how to control your breathing and stress levels to temper your reactions, how to realise when you don’t know something (read that one again).  On adventures, competence is found in application of knowledge and certain skills; in life, competence is found in controlling your reactions.

 

Practise

 

They say that practice makes perfect. It doesn’t.  Practice makes permanence.  What you practice day in and day out, becomes more and more familiar to you, until it becomes an ingrained habit.  You cannot be perfect at confidence; you cannot be perfect at resilience; you cannot be perfect.  But you can make resilience, confidence, and toughness a habit in your life. By constantly reminding yourself of the following question:

Would the version of me whom I am trying to become, do what I am about to do right now?

If the answer is no, why is it no?

 

Ben Turner descends an off road trail on a downhill mountain bike

 

 

Once you have become mindful of the OPPOSITE actions, practice the way that is congruent with who you want to be.  Then and only then, will you start to see your mental toughness and resilience start to grow. One word of warning though, this isn’t something that will just appear after one day.  Like bamboo, you plant the seed and water it for 3 years with no visible sign of growth.  Yet after three years it will grow 30 metres tall in just 6 weeks.

 

Practice and practice, it will pay off in the future.  Be like bamboo.

 

 

Humility

 

Personal development is hard, and the journey of developing mental toughness comes from failure after failure.  It takes a humble mind to be able to see the lesson in each failure.  On adventure, the failures and lessons are more clinical and straight forward; you got lost, cold, wet, forgot something, or ventured out of your depth.  In life, the failures can feel more personal; you dealt with the argument badly, you didn’t accept responsibility, you didn’t hold yourself accountable.



It takes a humble mind with the ego kept in check to be able to see the growth in these situations, and not get bogged down in point scoring, saving face, or not accepting that you are entirely responsible for YOU.



Mentally tough people are humble, in control, and always accept responsibility.  The more you practice this, the more you question and reflect on your responses, the more you will grow and develop.  This is the same in mountain running, as it is at home.

 

A lone mountain runner heads across a trail in front of moody looking snowy Mountains

 

 

Difficulty

 

This is where a lot of mental toughness gets lumped. Doing hard things.  A lot of what we see is often interpreted as the ‘Instagram Effect’, where people are seen to do things just for likes and comments.  The reality here is summed up eloquently in a Les Brown quote:

“If you do what is easy, your life will be hard, if you do what is hard, your life will be easy.”



Mental toughness is born from the acceptance of doing hard things, and the avoidance of constantly taking the easy path.

  • Running is hard.
  • Relationships are hard.
  • Losing weight is hard.
  • Taking ownership is hard.
  • Climbing mountains is hard.
  • Being a better person is hard.
  •  

     

    If you take the hard path, you are conditioning your mind to deal with what life can throw at you, while staying congruent to the best version of you.  If you constantly find the easy way out, and avoid everything that requires effort, involves pain, and will challenge you, then you are in for a hard life.

     

    A gravel rider descends a rough track in front of rocky outcrops.

     

    2020 showed us that anything can and will happen.  Doing the hard things and constantly exposing yourself to hardship will cultivate a growth mentality and forge mental resilience.  All of this will give you a better chance of dealing with whatever comes next, on the trail and in life.

     

    Enjoyment

     

    This one is simple, and yet everyone seems to forget or forgo it. Your journey to your best self needs to be ENJOYABLE. Testing and challenging yourself brings about a deep satisfaction that generates happiness, contentment, and joy.  Building mental toughness is the product of living a more adventurous life, and living a more adventurous life makes for a more enjoyable life.

    Well, that’s what I think anyway.

     

    Road cyclist Ben Turner descends a smooth tarmac road whilst cycling

     

    Your journey is yours, own it, live it, and enjoy it.  Mental toughness is not an online course where you get it in 7 days, it’s the product of a lifetime of living up to your best self.

     

    Embracing adventure can and will help facilitate this along the way, living a more adventurous life will help you bring out your best, and elevate your experience of life.  All it takes sometimes is to hold your breath, jump, and then take on whatever comes next.  Along that journey you will build competence, that you can then practice and implement, with a humble and disciplined mind, while embracing hardship and difficulty, and then realising along the way, that this was always the path of maximum enjoyment!

     

    Good luck, and make sure you follow @benturneradventure on Instagram and Facebook or visit www.benturneadventure.com for more.

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