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Do Hard Things: Why We Get Resilience Wrong and the Surprising Science of Real Toughness

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I might be biased because as a runner and someone who works in mental health this book was somehow extremely relevant to both aspects of my life. But the meditators rated the experience as about three times less unpleasant than the non-meditators. As one soldier put it, “When there’s a difference between what you project and what you are capable of, it all crumbles under stressful situations.

This section has a lot of good insight into having different ways to respond to situations and knowing which response is appropriate for which situation. In the popular imagination, being tough means projecting confidence, pushing through pain without complaint, and ignoring soppy emotions.Our definition of toughness has, unfortunately, revolved around a belief that the toughest individuals have thick skin, fear nothing, constrain emotions, and hide vulnerability. There are also summaries at the end of every chapter, to help the reader reinforce what has just been covered. When life feels like it’s spinning out of control, or like the task you have in front of you is insurmountable, it’s easy to default to hopelessness. But you don't train firemen by sending them repeatedly into burning buildings and saying "The good ones will survive". The author’s experience is in sports so there are a lot of sports stories in the book, but he also uses stories from many aspects of life to illustrate his ideas.

Throughout the book Magness explains that when we see movie portrayals of military training and read books about SEALs hell week and watch Master Chef and take lessons from Olympic tryouts, we're trying to learn from the wrong part of the cycle. I have been a fan of Steve Magness' perspective on Twitter for a long time and respect how he spoke out against Alberto Salazar and left Nike back when that scandal was going down. When they dug further, the expert meditators had a “greater ability to fully embrace the feeling of pain and … let go of the appraisal of what the pain meant to them.The section on the brain and the inner voices was helpful and something new I’ve walked away with from this book. If you teach someone to work hard when they're showered in praise, what do you think happens when you're not there to hand out the stickers? Even in terms of discipline, the area that you would think a demanding style would be successful, it falls short. When a team of organizational psychologists studied the NBA, they found that a coach’s behavior in a single season influenced their performance for the rest of their career. It was slightly athlete focused, however he does give examples from other areas so it’s still relevant for everyone.

In this section he gives some concrete ways to change our self-talk to help us push through those mental barriers. I get that sports are as much about the mental game as anything, but just not what I'm really looking for. Small signals that you are in control, that you can have an impact, will be enough to turn our prefrontal cortex back on. You are training your mental muscle to be in control, to be considerate, and deliberate with your response. Read this and find out why expressions like “tough love” and “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” have got it wrong when we embark on the journey to “Do Hard Things”.On the other hand, if we see the stressor as an opportunity for growth or gain, as something that is difficult but that we can handle, we’re more likely to experience a challenge response. In Do Hard Things, Magness not only argues why the old model is broken, but also presents us with a new roadmap; a guide to develop real resiliency, real confidence, and to live a healthier, happier life. Meditation, with its focus on non-judgment and being present in the moment, helps create space between a stimulus – in this case, a hot probe – and how we calibrate our response to it.

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