Mental Toughness

February / 2021
Mental Health
Author: Jason Gardner

How much further should you go?

Let’s talk about toughness. Toughness is a trait that can be developed over time with practice.

Take cold exposure as an example. When I first experimented with cold exposure I would be hard pressed to spend two minutes immersed in an ice bath. It wasn’t too long before four minutes was my regular, and eventually I went as long as ten minutes. 

That is physical discomfort. How about mental discomfort? 

Here is one method that I use to exercise my mental toughness:

I will purposely look at something that triggers me. Most often this will be a social media post by someone who has a different political or philosophical outlook than me. I will digest the post, taking notice of my reaction to it. Internally I discuss whether this post is worth getting angry over, AND even though this is an opposing view from mine, does it have any merit?

It takes practice, but it’s the same as the cold exposure. I am much better at not allowing my buttons to get pressed by social media after a lot of practice doing this. I find this bleeds over to other triggering external situations as well.

In the end, it takes the greatest strength to be kind, to return a frown with a smile, to look for the positive in every situation.

The more we practice mental toughness, the easier our lives will become.


Jason Gardner is a former U.S. Navy SEAL, combat leader, and now a leadership instructor and speaker with Echelon Front. Jason spent nearly three decades in the SEAL Teams with nine deployments across the globe. With experience operating in violent cities in both Iraq and Afghanistan, Jason has seen first-hand the power of the leadership lessons taught at Echelon Front. He brings perspective from every level of leadership from a front line SEAL sniper to the SEAL Team FIVE Command Master Chief . As a lead instructor for Naval Special Warfare Group One Training Detachment, he created and implemented realistic and challenging special operations combat training to better prepare SEAL units for the real-world battlefield. Throughout his career, he worked alongside Jocko, Leif, and several members of the Echelon Front team developing the same principles and mindsets taught to companies across every industry. He is the recipient of the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, a Purple Heart and numerous other awards. After his retirement from the US Navy, Jason brings unmatched experience with combat leadership in dynamic environments, building winning teams, and developing relationships across all levels of an organization. He serves as a leadership instructor, speaker, and strategic advisor at Echelon Front.