How to Build mental toughness with the 40% rule

9 minute read
Do you want to learn how to push through your mental barriers when things get tough? Are you tired of carrying the burden of your limiting beliefs? Do you want to see what you are truly capable of? If so, you need to understand the 40% rule!

What is the 40% rule?

The 40% rule by David Goggins

The 40% rule, first coined by David Goggins, is a term used to explain that when your mind and body are starting to tire and you feel like giving up, you’re only at 40 percent of what you are truly capable of achieving.
 The reason why this happens is because your brain instinctively sets up boundaries and barriers to protect you from uncomfortable and harmful situations, whether this is by making you physically exhausted or pushing limiting beliefs to the front of your head.
Before we teach you how to push past your limits and live to your full potential, we first need to give you a bit of a better understanding of where the story began.
A guy called Jesse Itzler was running a 100-mile run in San Diego with 6 of his friends who were prepared with all the equipment you would need for a marathon like this, when he came across a 260 pound, intimidating, muscley guy who was running all by himself, with just a folding chair, a bottle of water and some crackers.
During the race, this mysterious figure had broken all of the small bones in his feet and had serious kidney damage yet, he kept going and completed the entire race without any assistance, unlike many others who couldn’t even complete the race.
After Jesse also finished the race, he was so amazed by the other guys determination that he decided to Google him to find out who he was. He found out that he was an ex navy seal with an interesting story, so he decided to cold call him.
After their phone call, Jesse decided to fly out to meet the ex navy seal. After a few minutes chatting, Jesse realized that there was a lot to learn from this man and invited him to come and live with his family for a month, to try and understand what makes him tick and hope that some of his “can do” attitude would rub off.
The first day that the navy seal came to live with the family, he asked Jesse how many pull ups he could do to which Jesse replied: “I’m not great at pull ups.” And then proceeded to struggle to do 8. He then said wait 30 seconds and try again, to which Jesse managed 6 pull ups. After repeating once more with arms that he could barely move, he achieved 3, the navy seal then said “we’re not leaving until you do 100 more!” which Jesse thought was impossible.
Slowly but surely Jesse did 100 pull ups 1 by 1, proving to himself that there is so much he is capable of, if only he kept going when he thought he had reached his limits. You can learn more about Jesse’s story in his book Living with a seal from Amazon.
Living with a seal by Jesse Itzler
The navy seal who Jesse Itzler was referring to in this book was David Goggins, who we’ve written about previously, which you can check out here! David who is known as the hardest man on the planet, believes that if it doesn’t suck you shouldn’t do it and you should enjoy the struggles of life because of the lessons they teach you.
David explains that when your mind is telling you that you are done, you’re only forty percent done. Your mind has a huge advantage over you. It knows your fears, it knows your insecurities and all of your self-doubts that have ability to stop you in your tracks and make you give up.
The only way that you can combat this is to build the mental toughness and fortitude to take back control of your mind and ultimately, your life.
Look at it this way.
Most modern cars have a setting on them called a speed limiter, which is what the factories set to stop you from using your car at its highest speed, for your safety and the cars longevity, however, you never get to experience the true power of your car.
As soon as you turn off this setting, your car might be under a little bit more stress but, you can unleash its full potential and achieve more with it, just like your brain.
40 percent rule: Limiting beliefs  The  40 percent rule where life becomes limitless

Is the 40% rule real

We love a good acronym or rule that teaches us a valuable lesson in a memorable way, but for many (including us) we like these tips to actually be true and have some scientific evidence behind them instead of just some “guru” with an ulterior motive, so what’s the case with the 40% rule? Well… along with David Goggins and many other people’s stories being a great example of the 40 percent rule working, there is actually some research showing that your brain is very powerful and by believing that you can do something, it allows you to have the strength and resilience to be able to do it.
In one study, researchers gave 1 group of participants a placebo of a pill that they thought was a high dose of caffeine and another group actual caffeine. They found that the placebo group lifted significantly more weight than the other group.
Although there needs to be a lot more research and just by believing in something, doesn’t mean you can become limitless, this does suggest that you are more then capable of pushing way beyond your perceived limitations by believing in yourself.
So, how can you build the Mental attitude to push past your 40% limit? I hear you ask.

How to build mental toughness

How to build mental toughness

Step 1. Get rid of limiting beliefs

Just like with the limiter on the car, you need to get rid of your limiting beliefs to allow you to be faster, stronger and better! All of the negative thoughts in your mind need to be dealt with so that you can gain back control and stop overthinking everything you can’t do.

The best way to get rid of your negative thoughts and limiting beliefs, is to replace them with a positive mindset and a great way to do this is with your self-talk. You can use positive affirmations like “I can do this.” To train your brain to start believing in yourself.

Step 2. Break out your comfort zone

The only way that you can become comfortable in uncomfortable positions, is by exposing yourself to them. Yes, doing the things you don’t want to do is horrible but, when you don’t set yourself the challenge of facing your fears, they grow bigger and bigger making you even more withdrawn from trying something new.

To stop this, you need to learn how to break out of your comfort zone and start putting yourself in positions you don’t like. Try something new or something that scares you, go skydiving, push your limits by climbing a mountain, do anything that you feel uncomfortable doing.

Step 3. Have a purpose

When you’re in a tough situation and you need your mental toughness the most, it can be hard to put things into perspective and you can easily lose sight of why you are there in the first place. Whether you’re going through money struggles, starting your own business or you’ve just been rejected by a girl, you need to have a purpose and use it as your guiding star.

David doesn’t care about all the fame and accolades, the reason why David started his running in grueling ultramarathon’s, is because his purpose was to raise money for the special operations warrior foundation, who provide money for scholarships to children who’s parents have died in the line of duty.

Step 4. Stay disciplined

Motivation is fleeting, meaning that you can feel motivated one moment and not the next and that’s why you need to build discipline in your life so, no matter whether you feel like getting up and getting to work or not, you do it any way.

A great way to stay disciplined is to create habits that help you to achieve your ultimate goal. The navy teaches their seals how to be mentally tough by breaking down their goals in to more bite-sized pieces to keep them focused.

Step 5. Never give up

No matter whether you’re an athlete or an entrepreneur, life is going to throw everything at you to try and stop you. It’s not going to be easy, you’re going to fail and just as you feel like things are going your way, life will come back and slap you in the face but, you must never give up!

See failure as a way forward and when things are going wrong, it’s because you are facing your fears. Visualize your dreams and don’t stop until you have achieved them. Anything is possible when you put your mind to it.

If you would like to learn more tips from the toughest man on the planet, you can do by buying his book can't Hurt me. from Amazon by clicking on this link.

Cant hurt me by David Goggins


The 40% rule is a limit inside your mind that stops you from reaching your full potential and the only way to push past it is to build mental toughness.

5 steps to build mental toughness and push past your limits:

  1. Get rid of limiting beliefs
  2. Break out your comfort zone
  3. Have a purpose
  4. Stay disciplined
  5. Never give up
If you have any further questions, remarks or requests for what you would like to see more of, you can comment here on the blog, or message us on our social media channels below.
Some of the links in this blog may be affiliate links which means if you make purchase on a product, I will make a commission of it but, IT WILL NOT be at an extra cost to you. Any money I make through this is put towards the upkeep and improvement of this blog. Thank you in advance, Jake.
The content in this article is not meant as a substitute for professional medical advice and should only be used for informational purposes. If you are struggling with the topic discussed in this article, we advise that you seek the help from a professional.


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