Mental Toughness for Peak Performance, Leadership Development, and Success

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Without mental toughness, regardless of how talented you are, peak performance will not be reached. Whether you are trying to run your fastest marathon or lose 10 pounds, Mental Toughness by J. Barnes will give you the tools you need to push past any difficulties and achieve your goals.

The Peak Performance Progression

Peak performance usually comes when you are both in a peak physical and mental condition and performing against others in competition. Mental fitness is often disregarded during training, but it is what may be the difference between success and failure. “Mental fitness is the ability to remain strong, directed, and positive through your thoughts, feelings, and actions in the face of physical, mental, and emotional stressors.” You can train your mental fitness and reach peak performance just like you can train your body. The Peak Performance Progression (TM by J. Barnes) is a method used to make this mental toughness training more productive. The progression is made up of 5 key elements: mental toughness, mental performance, emotional performance, physical performance, and results.

The Mental Toughness Loop

You can use the Mental Toughness Loop to progress your peak performance. This loop suggests that mental toughness is comprised of motivation, willpower, self-discipline, focus, mental stamina, and self-confidence. Barnes offers tips to train each of these, here are a few that I found particularly useful. You need to train your mind to eradicate self-doubt and negativity. If you find yourself being negative or lacking confidence, talk to yourself using positive thoughts, the way you practice or train often dictates your performance. You must approach practice the same way you will approach game day. 5 minutes of concentrated training is often more productive than 30 minutes of lackadaisical training. Focus.

The Mind Power Principles

Programming: You need to consciously program your mind to be strong. What you say, hear, imagine, see, feel, and do has a definite impact on your mental functioning and performance. Don’t allow yourself to be re-programmed by negative people or adverse circumstances.
Training: Like any activity, you must train your mind to have great mental toughness.
Attitude: It’s ok to be frustrated, regretful, and disappointed some of the time, but most the time you should think positively. You can think of this as thoughts that empower you or thoughts that disempower you. To help keep a good attitude, let go of perfectionist tendencies and habits. A champion’s attitude is focused on making mistakes and improving their skills.
Clarity: Be very clear about what you really want to achieve. By maintaining your clarity of goals, you will minimize wasted energy on actions that do not contribute to your success.
Commitment: Focus 100% of your efforts toward your goals and developing your mental toughness.
Passion: Have enthusiasm for what you are learning and doing.
Simplicity: Master the critical few techniques and skills that make the difference between winning and losing. Follow the 80/20 rule, focus 80% of your time on the critical skills, and 20% on everything else.
Reality: Acknowledge things are they currently are as opposed to how you want them to be.
Actions: This is the single most important and controllable determinant of success or failure. Don’t talk about it, be about it. Get out there and do it.

The Mind Power Attributes

The Mind Power Attributes are characteristics or qualities of an individual’s psychological or mental functioning. The goal is to develop all 5 of the mental attributes to have the greatest impact on the mental toughness loop.

Ambition: The strong desire to achieve something that is not common or easy.

Knowledge: Mastery of something does not mean you can stop learning, successful people are always acquiring new knowledge.

Belief: Have trust, faith, and confidence that you can achieve peak performance. “You cannot conceive or achieve what you cannot believe.”

Persistence: Despite difficulty or opposition, always persevere and carry on. Most people don’t realize that winners typically have failed more times than losers, but it’s the persistence and learning through these failures that make them a success.

Adaptability: If something isn’t working, adapt to the task at hand and change your strategy.


Motivation is the desire to do something driven by emotions. You are intrinsically motivated if you believe you have or can develop the skills to reach your goals, have the commitment to learning and mastering the required skills, and the acceptance of your power to influence your performance, results, and success. You are extrinsically motivated if the motivation comes from outside of yourself, such as receiving a paycheck. Barnes recommends using both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation methods to improve mental toughness. Try using music, friends, your family, or a coach to fuel your motivation. Visualizing your goal can also increase your motivation.

Willpower and Self-Control

Not having willpower is the number one reason people are unable to reach their health goals. You can strengthen your willpower by doing anything that gets your brain out of its comfort zone in a healthy manner. It’s also important to conserve your willpower for what matters. You can conserve your willpower by clarifying and prioritizing your goals, planning and preparing, simplifying your life, getting enough sleep and rest, staying healthy, tracking your results, and eliminating willpower killers such as negative people, drugs and alcohol, and excessive training. You can activate your willpower using 3 steps: pause, erase, then replace.

Pause: Before making a decision or taking action, engage your conscious mind and refuse to let emotions drive your decision.

Erase: Once you are in physical control of your thoughts, erase any unproductive or distracting thoughts. Throw away any thoughts based on temptation or emotions.

Replace: This is where your willpower is activated. Replace any unproductive thoughts with productive thoughts, such as your primary success goal.

You can train your willpower and self-control by doing small things that you otherwise wouldn’t want to do. Resist the urge to hit the snooze button in the morning. Practice the art of delay where if you want something, wait seconds, days, or years to get it. If you are distracted by something, consciously reroute your attention to your original task. Finally, take immediate action, if you notice you need to do something, don’t delay, go do it.


Would you rather be super intelligent or highly disciplined? Studies have shown that those who are highly disciplined are more likely to succeed than those who are highly intelligent. Discipline is extremely important to form habits, which are formed through “context-dependent repetition”. To form new habits, you must practice doing an action under a specific context until it becomes second nature. For example, a workout habit will form if you go to the gym every day after work, but may not form if you go at different times every day. New habits usually take at least 2 months to form, but for some people, for some habits, it takes as much as 8 months. Here are 12 steps to creating new habits:

  1. Clarify your motivation
  2. Prioritize your habit
  3. Focus on frequency
  4. Make it easy
  5. Use micro goals
  6. Schedule it
  7. Create environmental support
  8. Use your willpower
  9. Do it!
  10. Enjoy the habit
  11. Record it in a log
  12. Program the habit

To maintain your habits, it’s helpful to invest some time in the conscious maintenance of the habit. Every once in awhile go back through these steps and reform your habit. Remember that self-discipline is freedom! Some people believe that self-discipline represents restriction, difficulty, pain, and boredom, but really it opens up your life to better decision making, greater success, and greater happiness. Be patient with your training and development of self-discipline. Just like all habits, it will take time to develop.

Mental Stamina

To reach your health goals, you must be able to maintain focus during intense and prolonged periods. Just like you can train your body to run long distances, your brain can be trained for endurance as well. One way to improve mental stamina is to self-talk. Positive self-talk allows you to stimulate your action, direct your action, and evaluate your action as if you are looking from the outside in. You can use phrases such as “you can do this” or “let’s go!” to self-motivate yourself. You can use instructional self-talk to guide yourself to your goals. If you know how to do something but are having trouble taking action, then talk yourself through the actions like you are instructing someone else. Visualization is another way to improve your mental stamina. Barnes talks about visualization more than any other topic in this book. Visualization is a mental rehearsal for success.


You must believe in your own personal power and skills in order to be mentally tough. “Self-confidence is a feeling of belief and trust in one’s abilities, qualities, and judgment”. Lack of confidence is not always associated with lack of ability and is usually caused by being a perfectionist and focusing on unrealistic goals. You can increase your self-confidence by using the following strategies: gain experience through practice, take risks, model the behavior of successful people, learn vicariously through others, practice positive self-talk and self-praise, and reach out for social support. There are 7 key habits of self-confidence:

  1. Being optimistic
  2. Being knowledgeable
  3. Being prepared
  4. Being a doer
  5. Being supportive
  6. Being healthy
  7. Being grateful

To be self-confident you must also manage your fears. “Fear is an unpleasant anxiety or apprehension caused by the presence or anticipation of danger.” Fear is a biological action, but can be managed using these 5 steps:

  1. Acknowledge the fear
  2. Relax
  3. Know your motivation
  4. Trust your skills and training
  5. Stay in the present

Fear is often future-oriented, so don’t look too far into the future and that should alleviate the anxiety of future events.

Mental Toughness Exercises

In order to exercise your mental toughness, you must experience and overcome one or more of the five stressor conditions.

  1. Mental confusion
  2. Mental fatigue
  3. Emotional distress
  4. Physical fatigue
  5. Physical pain

To have mental toughness you must be able to have the ability to perform effectively even under one or more of these stressors. Your mental toughness level is determined by how close you can perform to your peak performance under these stressors. You can build your own mental toughness training programs based on the pillars of fitness, skill, application, and education. Here is a sample training program to increase your mental toughness!

  • Cardiovascular training (3-4x weekly)
  • Strength Training (1-3x weekly)
  • Nutrition – Eat a healthy diet daily
  • Meditation (3-6x weekly)
  • Power Breathing (3-6x weekly)
  • Light stretching (3-6x weekly)
  • Focus on increasing your motivation, willpower, self-discipline, self-confidence, focus and concentration, and mental stamina

The Mental Toughness Pledge

Commit to the following behaviors to take to mental toughness pledge!

  1. Never complain
  2. Never criticize
  3. Never resent
  4. Always respect reality
  5. Always take responsibility
  6. Always focus on solutions
  7. Always use results as a guide
  8. Always learn from mistakes
  9. Always celebrate success as a team
  10. Always appreciate what you have

I hope you enjoyed the book summary for Mental Toughness by J. Barnes.


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