The Science Behind Doing Hard Things With Human Performance Expert Steve Magness

Steve Magness

Verywell / Julie Bang

Every Monday on The Verywell Mind Podcast, Editor-in-Chief Amy Morin, LCSW, interviews authors, experts, entrepreneurs, athletes, musicians, and other inspirational people about the strategies that help them think, feel, and do their best in life.

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Meet Steve Magness

Steve Magness is a world-renowned expert on human performance. He’s worked as a consultant on mental skills development for professional sports teams, including some of the top NBA teams. 

He co-authored the books "Peak Performance" and "The Passion Paradox" with our former guest Brad Stulberg. He also wrote "The Science of Running" and now he has a new book called "Do Hard Things."

Why Steve Magness Is Mentally Strong

Steve can run a mile in just over four minutes. Clearly, he can push his body well past the point of when his brain tells him to slow down or stop. But he also knows how to avoid pushing himself so hard that he injures himself. That’s a true sign of mental strength.

Fortunately, he’s spent a lot of years studying the science of human performance–both on the track and off. And he shares his knowledge about how to stay passionate and perform at your peak with his audience.

What You’ll Hear on the Show

  • Why our brains work so hard to keep us inside our comfort zones
  • What we learn when we push ourselves to do hard things
  • Why it’s important to accept that failure is always an option
  • Steve’s favorite strategy for changing the way you talk to yourself
  • The most helpful ways to change your inner dialogue
  • Why it’s so important to learn how to manage your emotions (and the skills you can use to do that)
  • Why you shouldn’t put yourself in a harsh environment just to toughen yourself up (and what you should do instead)
  • What it really means to be mentally tough

What You’ll Learn About Mental Health and Mental Strength

Some people think they’re mentally strong because they don’t have much anxiety. But, a lack of anxiety isn’t exactly the hallmark of mental strength. Instead, it might indicate someone is living really far inside their comfort zone because they’re afraid of doing things where they might fail.

Other people think putting yourself in a harsh environment is the key to building mental strength. But you don’t need to punish yourself or put yourself in harm’s way to get tough. Instead, you can get proactive about challenging yourself in productive ways.

That’s why Steve talks about doing hard things. You can create a nurturing environment for yourself that will prepare you to tackle healthy challenges for yourself.

Quotes From Steve

Steve Magness

All those feelings–emotions, doubt, fatigue, insecurities—that come at you, that's all information. And you get to decide whether it's information that is valid and useful in this situation.

— Steve Magness
  • "Real toughness is acceptance, right? It's, it's accepting the difficult thing. It's accepting that you might fail. It's accepting that you might even struggle or have doubts. And that's OK. Once you have that acceptance, you can actually navigate it. When you deny reality, you can't really navigate it."
  • "Emotions are just a way for our body to communicate, right? It's to tell us, ‘Hey, you might wanna pay attention to this’ or ‘Hey, this might be a dangerous situation.’ Now the thing is, our body sometimes gets it wrong, right? It hits the alarm button, the panic, the anxiety button when we don't need that. It's like a protective mechanism."

More About the Podcast

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Links and Resources

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By Amy Morin, LCSW, Editor-in-Chief
Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist, and international bestselling author. Her books, including "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," have been translated into more than 40 languages. Her TEDx talk,  "The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong," is one of the most viewed talks of all time.