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7 Books About Mental Toughness to Help You Become More Resilient

Because we could all benefit from boosting our resilience these days.

Mental toughness and resilience are always necessary. But right now, the ability to handle whatever bumps, hurdles, and landmines life lays down in front of us is even more so. To be resilient means we don’t lose our heads when things don’t go our way. It means that we don’t shy away from physically or emotionally challenging situations. And that we don’t escape into negative coping mechanisms when the going gets tough. Want to build your resilience? Reading about resilience is a good, low-stakes start. There are a number of excellent mental toughness books from coaches, psychologists, and social scientists. The best offer insight into the science of being mentally tough as well as techniques to help you change your mindset and better face challenges. Here are seven to check out.

Developing mental toughness and resilience requires retraining our brains to think more positively and to change whatever baked-in impulses that hijack the way we react to problems. In this book, psychologist Dr. Rick Hanson walks readers through the science of resilience and draws on positive psychology before laying out 12 core tents of upping your mental toughness. If you’re looking for a kindly, assured, intelligent guide to help you weed out negative thoughts, reframe your thinking, and become less self-critical — a crucial step to building more mental toughness — this is an excellent guide.

This book is similar to the above but takes a slightly more workbook approach. Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatte, both resilience coaches, break down the science of mental toughness and, using CBT-based techniques, offer actionable steps to help readers improve the skill. While some of the anecdotes used may not be useful to everyone, the book’s strength comes from how the authors empower readers to fight their negative impulses and provide strategies for how to bounce back. A questionnaire at the beginning of the book helps readers assess their level of resilience for a hit of self-awareness and the explanations within offer incremental steps for handling issues large and small.

It isn’t the large, sweeping changes that will help us fight burnout, gain more control, and build resilience and mental toughness. Rather, former Olympian Bonnie St. John and leadership trainer Allen P Haines argue, it’s about the smaller adjustments one makes to their daily routine that can reroute their brain to react better to adversity and help us all work and live a bit smarter. Here, they map out practical ways to refocus, reset, reframe, refresh, and renew, using a research-backed approach. If you’re looking to apply manageable changes to your daily life, this is a guide for you.

Searching for a more zoomed-out view about the importance of resilience? Consider Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back. In it, the authors examine everything from coral reefs and Chicago gang members to oil refineries and urban planning to provide a look at why some people, industries, and creatures bounce back from hardship and others do not. This is not at all a self-help book. There’s a lot of policy talk and big picture ideas about sustainability and development. But it offers a lot about what resilience looks like across many areas. And it offers a sense of what it looks like on the large and small scale.

What is Grit? According to Angela Duckworth, grit is 'about having what some researchers call an ‘ultimate concern’ – a goal you care about so much that it organizes and gives meaning to almost everything you do. And grit is holding steadfast to that goal. Even when you fall down. Even when you screw up. Even when progress toward that goal is halting or slow.' Duckworth’s award-winning book is required reading for anyone who wants to understand why some fail and others succeed, what it takes to get up again after suffering setbacks, and how perseverance and passion are crucial for overcoming hurdles.

Setbacks happen. It’s how we react to them that matters. Drawing upon lessons from couples in long-term relationships, members of the military, CEOs, and clergy members, Brene Brown looks at the shared characteristics that help people recover from setbacks and become more resilient. She breaks her book into a three-part process she calls the reckoning, the rumble, and the revolution, and maps out a no-shortcuts route to help readers reframe failures.

This is a book about athletes. Counsellor and mental game coach Jim Afremow lays out the mental skills and strategies top tier players use to perform at their best. But the lessons in offers, including breath control for anxiety, the importance of self-talk, how to focus — and focus on what’s in your control, the power of positive affirmations, and more — provide a window into how athletes at the top of their respective games stay mentally tough and resilient when it counts.