build mental toughness.

“The Hangover,” distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.

Stay in touch with The PAIN to Build Mental Toughness

  • I once fell off an 80-foot cliff and lay at the bottom until the EMS unit craned me out. I had a broken wrist, my head was gashed open, and my lower back was in an extreme amount of pain. I had to take a daily regiment of Hydrocodone and still could only make it through half the day.
  • At another low point, I was in a car accident and struck the windshield so hard that it broke my jaw and my collarbone. They had to wire my jaw and 8 weeks later removed the wires from my mouth. It felt like razor blades slicing through my gums.
  • As a sophomore in high school, I was the starting second baseman and made an error to lose a game. I felt like such a loser that my head was in my hands the entire bus ride home. I ended up losing my starting position.
  • As a caddy, I even dropped a golf ball during a professional event and cost my player two shots during the tournament!

These four instances surfaced as either physical or mental pain. However, no physical pain is without mental pain. In all of these, I had messed up, and although the physical pain soon passed, what remained were the beliefs and feelings about myself. The residue of not feeling good enough weighed more heavily than any trophy and that does not build mental toughness. 

If you have broken a bone or failed, then you understand how bad it hurt at the moment.

However, the most interesting part about pain is that it fades… that pain becomes generalized. One cannot go back and recreate just how bad or painful it precisely was, we just remember that it hurt. That is why they say, “time heals…”

Now, time does not heal completely. Pain leaves scars. But, we have a choice in how we move forward; we can choose either the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.

Hold onto that pain until it builds mental toughness.

Yes, we must move on, but try to never forget that pain completely. Addicts call this remembering their rock bottom! Mental Toughness means being able to stay in touch with the pain and still not be consumed by it.  Pain can help us with our gratitude, because we realize we are no longer in that state. It also assists with our focus and motivation. We are now driven toward another goal and way of being.

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build mental toughness

Dr. Rob Bell is a Sport psychology coach based in Indianapolis. He works with Indy Eleven Soccer and University of Notre Dame. He has five books on mental Toughness. Check out how to build mental toughness. 


Kenya’s long-distance runner & two-time Olympic Champion, Kip Keino uttered these words so athletes would consider performance enhancing drugs. “When you stand on the podium, you must ask yourself, did I win this medal?”

I heard Hall of Fame coach, Joe Gibbs, speak recently. (He is in both the NFL and Nascar Hall of Fame.)  He told stories and talked about his faith and gave everyone a copy of his new book, Game Plan for Life.

He had his 1st Superbowl ring with him and announced that everyone could put on the ring and take their picture with him. I was about 10th in line and sure enough, everyone was putting on the illustrious ring and posing with coach.

When I shook his hand, I told him I grew up in Maryland and was a life-long Redskins fan. He proceeded to give me the ring and ask if I wanted my picture with it.

I told him, “Coach, I know what that ring represents and I didn’t earn it, I can’t put it on.” Joe Gibbs, said “ I appreciate that or respect that” and I had my picture with him while the ring lay on the table. Joe Gibbs & Dr. Rob Bell

Anything worth getting in life, we have to work for. Last time I checked, they don’t give championships, scholarships, high-paying jobs, or Super Bowl rings away!

Maybe that is the issue with motivation in general?  We are given too much, feel we deserve it, and don’t really appreciate it. Or worse, we expect it to be easy to earn.

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Rob Bell revised slide3Dr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology coach. DRB & Associates based in Indianapolis works with professional athletes & corporate athletes, coaches, and teams building their Mental Toughness.  His 2nd book is titled The Hinge: The Importance of Mental Toughness. Follow on twitter @drrobbell  or contact

Check out the new film & e-book, NO FEAR: A simple guide to mental toughness .






Can We Hate Ourselves to Success?

Yes, It works! And it is powerful! Although I don’t have research to support this notion, HATE is probably the strongest motivator of all… Many successful people were driven and consumed by this over-arching motivation to prove others wrong!

The hatred manifests itself with a belief that “I’m not good enough,” or ”It’s never good enough.” All perfectionists have this mentality. Future Hall of Fame linebacker, Ray Lewis, was driven by bitterness because his father was never around. As a kid, he would do push-ups and sit-ups until he passed out, as a way to deal with the pain.

This mentality of “never being good enough” and hatred is driven by a rage and burning desire to be successful, no matter what. Work Harder! Strive Harder!

It works, but this driver can also easily turn upon itself and become directed inward. It ends up like a torpedo shot from a submarine, which starts looking for any target. Anger directed inward becomes depression.

Unfortunately, this hatred is toxic and it will never lead to happiness. The motivation behind the striving and achieving is skewed. The unquenchable desire for success is that we just don’t like ourselves and we are not good enough. Our belief is that the only way we can become good enough is through our achievement. Life teaches us that we are actually going to lose more than we are ever going to win, and when we win, it’s not for very long.

Even the best athletes at the pinnacle of their success, winning a super bowl, Masters, or US Open can feel lacking…Bernhard Langer after winning the 1985 Masters stated, “I had just won the Masters, I’m driving to Hilton Head with my beautiful young wife, and I felt empty.”

Now, not many will admit that they don’t like themselves. It requires too much rigorous honesty.

The alternative is more difficult and actually requires more work, because we have hated ourselves for not being good enough our entire life. It’s all we know!

The only way to stop hating ourselves is to not judge ourselves. We are often the hanging judge over ourselves and after mistakes and setbacks would pass sentence, “off with our head.” I mean we would never talk to our loved one’s the way we would actually talk to ourselves.

The solution is the realization that we are good enough, we are sanctified, and we are righteous. We then begin to operate from a different set of beliefs. It doesn’t mean the striving ends, but the motivation now stems from a different place and one where we can make a lasting impact and one of significance.

Which mentality are you?

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Dr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology Coach. His company DRB & associates is based in Indianapolis.  Some clients have included: University of Notre Dame, Marriott, and Walgreens. Check out the most recent book on Mental Toughness- Don’t Should on Your Kid: Build Their Mental Toughness