Toughness Training For Life Highlights

Toughness Training For Life Highlights

I recently read Toughness Training for Life: A Revolutionary Program for Maximizing Health, Happiness, and Productivity by James E. Loehr. One of my development plans last year was to focus on mindset and mental toughness. Loehr knows a thing or two about mental toughness since he is a sports psychologist who helped out some of the top professional tennis players in the 90s.

Below are some of my highlights, taken directly from the book during my reading… 


  • This book shows you how to toughen up so that you can handle more stress and be healthier, happier, and more productive. (Pg.1)
  • [Toughness means] nice guys and gals who know how to lead happy, productive, and healthy lives. Toughness Training for Life is a system of thinking, feeling, doing, and living that offers practical ways to solve some of life’s most challenging problems. (Pg. 1)

How You Can Get Tough

  • Health is health, whether physical or emotional. In addition, I realized that toughness, as I had come to use the term, is health at a very high level. This is the fundamental element of Toughness Training for Life. (pg. 19)
  • Whether emotionally or physically, the capacity to respond with flexibility is an indication of health. (pg. 24)
  • But to be emotionally tough–a key element in every kind of success–we need to learn how to control our emotions through a toughening adaptation. Emotions are based on body chemistry, not on that “old black magic.” Understanding this fact is the first step toward emotional toughening…Emotions are biochemical events. (pg. 30)
  • Physical and emotional stress share common biochemical and neurochemical foundations, and because of this, physical toughening often leads to automatic increases in emotional toughening. Similarly, emotional toughening generally brings about a higher level of physical toughness…Everything we do has energy expenditure and energy recovery properties. Life itself can be viewed in terms of expending and recapturing energy. For those reasons, balancing stress and recovery on a daily basis is essential for achieving maximum happiness and health. (pg. 32)

The Importance of Laughter and Fun

  • Motivation is a great barometer of the vital balance between stress and recovery. (pg. 58)
  • The best single measure of the balance of stress and recovery in your life is pure positive energy: fun. As the amount of negative stress in your life increases, your sense of fun and joy tends to decrease–although you don’t have to let this happen…Fun means excitement and arousal (energy expenditure) without physical or psychological pain (negative stress). The more you love an activity and continue to have fun doing it, the lower your risk of overtraining. (pg. 59)
  • Key point: When fun stops, pay attention; pain is probably not far behind. (pg. 59)
  • Laughter quickly reduces the flow of emotional stress hormones. In terms of recovery, laughter is serious business. (pg. 85)
  • Fun is the single best barometer of your recovery strategy’s effectiveness, and often of the recovery itself. Fun generally indicates a healthy relationship between stress and recovery. When you’re having fun, you’re literally recovering emotional energy. (pg. 89)

Getting Tough Emotionally

  • Emotionally tough does not mean emotionally hard, cold insensitive, or calloused. It simply means being in control, as opposed to being controlled. Being tough emotionally means being able to deal with life in flexible, responsive, strong, and resilient ways. It means you control your emotions rather than the other way around. It means you can weather life’s storms and seize life’s opportunities. It means that when the going gets tough, you’re tougher. (pg. 120)
  • Emotions are the key to productivity,  health, and happiness. Therefore, to control our lives we must learn to control our emotions. (pg. 123)
  • Keep in mind that feelings and emotions should be messengers not controllers…Think of feelings and emotions as flight data from Mission Control, faithfully guiding your journey through life. (pg. 124)
  • If the emotion is a negative feeling–either a physical or a psychological one–it indicates imbalance. The imbalance could be too little stress against too much recovery, but more often it reflects too much stress against insufficient recovery. (pg. 124-125)
  • A healthy person consistently sees through and ignores unimportant feelings while at the same time correctly interpreting and responding to genuine and appropriate needs. (pg. 125)
  • Negative emotions are like a phone ringing in your body. Don’t block the call; instead, give it a clear line into your brain…The feelings and emotions you’re hearing are stress/recovery talk. Work at learning the skill of understanding and interpreting the meanings of negative emotions. (pg. 131)
  • Five steps for taking emotional control (pg. 133-134)
    1. When the phone starts ringing (when you start feeling negative), answer the phone by asking, “What am I feeling?” For example, are you sad, lonely, depressed, tired, angry, or what?
    2. What is the unfulfilled need? Is it physical, mental, or emotional? Write it down. Be as specific as possible. If you’re not sure, take a guess.
    3. Tell yourself, “Thanks for the call,” and commit to yourself that you will fulfill the need as soon as possible in the healthiest and most appropriate way.
    4. Change your emotional state back to a positive one–an empowering one, if possible.
    5. After you change your emotional state to a positive state–preferably an empowered one–begin to problem-solve how best to meet your most pressing unfulfilled recovery needs. Then put your best plan into action.

Getting Tough Mentally

  • The key to all success is having –and using–enough mental toughness to control our emotions and thus our actions. (pg. 180-181)
  • Develop your ability to visualize positive images by loading them with positive emotion. (pg. 181)
  • Mental toughness means that under pressure you can continue to think constructively, non defensively, positively, and realistically with calmness and clarity. (pg. 182)
  • Find challenging subjects and activities, and spend a few hours each week studying them. Look for things that exercise your mind. Learn and play chess and other mentally challenging games, learn and use memorization systems (a lot of good books have been published on this subject), and study astronomy and math, do crossword puzzles, increase your vocabulary by looking up every unfamiliar word you encounter, learn a foreign language, master a new computer program. (pg. 183)

It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over!

  • If you want to get better at something, you’ve got to track it. (pg. 259)
  • In many ways, balancing stress and recovery is like balancing a checkbook. Stress is writing checks and recovery is making deposits. It’s much easier to write checks than it is to deposit money. For most, it’s much easier to expend energy than it is to recapture it. (pg. 264)
  • The most important factor is clearly our emotional state during the work situation. When we are feeling motivated, relaxed, determined, energized, calm, and confident, high productivity will naturally follow. Sustaining an Ideal Performance State during work is the most important factor in productivity. 

Game Plan

  1. What area of toughness do you need to focus the most on: mental or emotional?
  2. Based upon the highlights above, what is one step you can take to start increasing your toughness in that area?

Tweetable Lesson

“The key to all success is having –and using–enough mental toughness to control our emotions and thus our actions.” James E. Loehr