Mental Toughness: What Exactly is It?

By Lu Lastra, Master Chief SEAL (Ret.), Naval Special Warfare Director of Mentorship

Your mind can be your best friend or worst enemy. Here are common questions I have been asked on Mental Toughness and my responses to each:

1 – What is the definition of mental toughness?

  • Mental Toughness is found in all aspects of life. It can come in many forms and isn’t inherent to any single profession. Physical strength has little to do with mental toughness.
  • A never quit attitude, no matter how bad.
  • Turning negatives into positives.
  • Embracing failures and conquering them.
  • Having relentless initiative and determination.

2 – Are you born with mental toughness or can you achieve it through training?

  • Having to deal with adversity and negatives while growing up does help.
  • It can be developed doing things that challenge, scare you and you may not necessarily enjoy.
  • Failure helps build mental toughness. It all depends on what you do with it.
  • Adversity is relative to the individual. What sucks for one person may not be a big deal to another.

3 – What can I do to develop mental toughness?

  • Thrive on adversity, train in discomfort, embrace the suck and conquer it.
  • Set goals and challenges. Segment the approach towards your goal.
  • Never leave goals unfinished or give up on them. Always complete!
  • Embrace setbacks! Rethink your plan, back up if needed and course correct.
  • Embrace failure! Initial failures can become some of your greatest accomplishment.
  • Failure builds humility and appreciation.
  • Solid basics! Applying solid basics must come first with any subject.
  • Advancing skills and knowledge without the ability to apply basics first is worthless.
  • Doing less, but correctly, is better than doing more wrong! More wrong builds bad habits and bad technique.
  • Smooth is fast! Smarter, not harder! Think ahead (but not too far) and stay on track.
  • Prior plan in all aspects of life, develop situational awareness and focus priorities.
  • Learn to prioritize and control your focus. Practice it daily and live it!
  • Focus on what matters, on what you can affect, not on what you can’t control.
  • K.I.S.S. – Keep it Simple and SMART. That’s right…nothing stupid about keeping things simple.
  • Do not let people’s opinions keep you from your goal. Take negatives as challenges and prove them wrong.
  • Accept constructive criticism. Listen to those willing to give it, even when it hurts.
  • Listen! Apply! Adjust!
  • Breathe! Oxygen is a must! It clears the mind, helps control emotions and improves your focus.

4 – How do I keep it?

  • Use it…do things that suck…often!


Lu has spent 35 years in Naval Special Warfare. He is a retied 30 year active duty SEAL Master Chief who currently serves as the Naval Special Warfare Director of Mentorship. His duties include the mentoring, counseling and mental toughness coaching to over 1600 SEAL/ SWCC students, instructors and staff. Master Chief Lastra has provided leadership, mental toughness, team building and core values mentoring to various NCAA colleges, professional sports team, professional organizations and NASA. Additionally, he has over 9,700 parachute jumps, holds two World Records, three National Championships and has Captained/ Coached Team USA to the World Combat Teams Competition on five separate occasions.

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