If you want nice, ‘easy to digest with lots of lightbulb moment’ performance psychology tweets, Steve Magness (@stevemagness) is the guy to follow. To get all the wisdom in one book he has just bought out ‘Do Hard Things’.

I was a little wary from the title. As a sport psych I recoil when I hear people bang on about mental toughness and this title felt similar. I find mental toughness and the ‘harden up’ mentality so unhelpful and feels rather outdated when it is actually mental flexibility that helps athletes thrive in both performance and wellbeing.

But Magness cleverly takes the ‘Do Hard Things’ title to draw in the ‘mentally tough types’ and turns them into seeing how flexibility, acceptance and value led approaches are really beneficial. So much of what he writes is matched to the psychological approach I use with clients where we don’t try to hide from the difficult stuff but instead accept it, learn to live alongside it and put in place value led systems to thrive. As a result I got neck ache with all the nodding along to the book.

Surprisingly I even liked his definition of toughness: “Real toughness is experiencing discomfort or distress, leaning in, paying attention, and creating space to take thoughtful action. It is navigating discomfort to make the best decision you can.” And I loved a quote from Rich Roll in there too: “Everyone goes through shit in their life. Nobody escapes obstacles.” If we are going to face obstacles, we might as well figure out the best way to navigate them.

Magness’s book helps us to see that by leaning into discomfort, anxiety and all the stressors that coming from trying to achieve difficult things we can learn to respond to things in ways that work successfully rather than instantly reacting and causing ourselves further stresses.

He breaks his approach into 4 pillars of toughness:

  • Ditch the Façade, Embrace Reality (My psychologist head would label this acceptance) – this section has a great description of why and how our brain tries to protect us and the influence of our identity.
  • Listen to your body (I’d label this awareness)
  • Respond, instead of react (Or keeping your logic zone in control)
  • Transcend Discomfort (The Psychologist head would call this the commitment side).

There are some really nice messages in here that can keep you working within his approach:

  • ‘You emotions are messengers, not dictators’
  • ‘Own the voice in your head’
  • ‘Find Meaning in Discomfort’.

I love all the stories Magness has fed in. He has real skill in bringing his concepts to life with a mixture of lovely language, peer-reviewed studies and fascinating anecdotes and stories. It is a book that just makes it all make sense. And I love a book that completely redefines concepts you previously disliked so you can see them in a much more positive light. With ‘toughness’ Magness does this brilliantly.

It is now out in the UK and you can get a copy at: Amazon or Waterstones