On Mental Toughness

The next time you’re going through a particularly tough moment, or a tough season, remember this:

Did you know that (very generally speaking) it’s physically impossible for your body to remember physical pain (not speaking about chronic pain syndromes here, of course)? There are exceptions to this of course that I’m sure any medical professional reading this would like to argue, but think about it this way: if a horse steps on your foot, you might remember being scared, you may remember how much it hurt….but if you’re telling the story of the incident your foot won’t be able to “remember” or recreate the pain you’d felt in that moment.

This was something my favorite law school professor challenged us to debate via Socratic method one day in class- it related to a debate about punishment.

Not only does your body block out pain, it uses pain as a protective mechanism. It’s a way for your body to protect yourself from danger. This means that any pain you’re going through, right now, your body won’t remember in the next moment. You can let go of this moment.

In tough moments, where I’ve had to reach deep inside and find inner strength to fight something, this has encouraged me- because it means that that tough thing, that pain you’re experiencing: it’s temporary. I decided this means I can get through anything. In the same way, that tough thing you’re going through, that thing that might be keeping you up at night, whether it’s physical or not; it too will pass.

You’ve gotten through every time you’ve felt pain, every hard thing you’ve been faced with before, you can get through this too.


This post is written in memory of Sarah Adams, the first person who taught me that mental toughness was a choice, not an accident.

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