How is David Goggins personally

The Navy Seals 40% rule of mental strength

The 40 percent rule for mental strength

When it comes to mental strength, perseverance, persistent pursuit of goals, we can learn especially from extreme athletes, fighters and the military. They all have to learn to use their capabilities under extreme circumstances if they want to be successful.

The 40% rule became known through the US special unit of the Navy Seals. It says that only 40% of the actual performance is achieved when you think you can no longer manage. With the right mindset, exceptional results can be achieved.

From failure to Navy Seal and extreme athlete - 40% rule

David Goggins, Navy Seal and Extreme Sportsman describes in his book - "Can`t Hurt Me!", How he could use this 40% rule in connection with special mental techniques.

Goggins has three times the so-called "Hell week", successfully completed a selection process to qualify for Navy Seals training.

He has survived several ultra marathons and ran 100 miles (approx. 161 km) in one go.

With all these extreme stresses, like everyone else, he has reached his limits, or rather his subjectively perceived limits. What is the difference between the “winner” and the “loser”? Why does one person give up and another not despite the most adverse circumstances? While one gives up because of blisters on the feet and muscle cramps, others continue despite a broken boil and achieve their goal?

The answer to the question can be found in the attitude, the absolute will to succeed. In the following article you will find out how you can benefit from the 40% rule in your life.

The 40% rule - experience and develop mental strength

Experiences are based on experiences that you have lived through yourself. They can only be passed on to a limited extent. Experience brings an absolute certainty that can only partially, but never completely, be passed on through knowledge that has been read or passed on in another way.

That is why certain experiences are simply irreplaceable. You will not and will not be able to make every experience yourself in order to find subjective absolute certainty for yourself. But you can adapt the experiences you have already made to different challenges and problems.

Draw mental strength from them and increase your chances of success - regardless of the task at hand.

The essence of the 40% rule can be experienced and checked relatively easily and with little risk. You are having a valuable experience that will definitely make you mentally stronger.

Exercise - experience the 40% rule first-hand:

  • Do as many pull-ups as you can do in one go.

How many were there?

If you're not well trained or a flyweight, it probably won't be more than 10, and possibly significantly less. However, this does not play a major role in the exercise.

  • Take a 30 second break and repeat the process. You will be able to do a few pull-ups less than the previous attempt.
  • After another 30 seconds of rest, try again. At some point, very soon, you will probably only be able to do one or two repetitions. The feeling of not being able to go any further will arise. Your muscular reserves and capacities are completely exhausted and your muscles are on fire.


Well, the muscles may burn, but your performance is far from exhausted. Now the interesting and fun part of the exercise begins.

  • You do 100 more pull-ups for as long as it takes, don't stop until you reach your new goal.

At this point you have the opportunity to experience for yourself what it means to go beyond your own subjective limits. You will learn what you are made of and how assumptions about your own performance limits prevent you from developing your full potential.

40% rule - learning experiences

Once you've reached your exercise goal of 100 more pull-ups, you've learned the following:

Your actual performance potential goes far beyond what you previously thought you were capable of

An extreme example of this is the sheer superhuman strength that people can develop in emergency situations. The example of a "weak" woman who is able to lift a car to save her overrun child is well known. In this case, the body falls back on the so-called "autonomous reserves" that cannot be used at will. These are forces that can only be used in extreme situations for safety reasons.

Usually only a small part of our capabilities is accessible to us. Even highly trained athletes only use a small percentage of their muscle strength.

This protects the athlete from injury. A good example of what can happen when a person uses his muscles "excessively" is the example of the hiker struck by lightning. The electric shock caused the muscles to contract so much that bones break. The skeleton is not stable enough to handle the full performance of the muscles without damage.

As soon as you have made the decision to continue despite all adversities, you will open up unimagined energy reserves

The Chinese general Sun Tzu wrote the art of war in his book:

As soon as you have no other choice or admit yourself, you will mobilize undreamt-of strengths. This not only affects your physical reserves, but also your mind. He will find new ways to solve problems, find ways to circumvent obstacles, and focus all of his skills on successfully completing the mission.

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going

Fatigue and pain are not necessarily reasons to give up.

They can even be mentally hidden.

(Of course, for health reasons, I cannot advise you to continue despite severe pain or severe injuries, for which you should see a doctor. But the decision is always yours. It is your life and you have to face the consequences.)

The body's own hormone cocktail ensures that pain is suppressed or greatly reduced as soon as the signal to continue - giving up is not an option - has arrived. David Goggins describes in his book how, despite broken bones, he was able to walk painlessly at times, even if the pain kept coming back in waves.

Carrying on injured and physically battered is a sign of great mental strength and an iron will. Of course, this is not necessarily healthy, but it shows what is possible in hopeless situations or through sheer determination.

Even if the goal seems unreachable, you focus on the next small step

In our case, the single pull-up, or just bringing your hands to the bar.

This method is called chunking. You divide the task into as many steps as necessary and concentrate only on the next small step at the moment of execution. No matter how small he is. This will prevent you from being overwhelmed in advance by the size of the task and not trying hard at all.

You gain self-confidence through this experience and trust yourself much more in the future

The 40% rule can be applied to many areas of life. Their mode of action based on a sporting exercise offers a good opportunity to gain valuable experience and to realistically evaluate your own possibilities and strengths.

Conclusion - the 40% rule of the Navy Seals

The findings from the 40% rule can be implemented in all areas of life. The rule says that you still have 60% more to give, even if you think you are at the end of your capabilities. The ability to persevere, to carry on even when you think you can’t anymore, make incredible successes possible.

You learn what is actually possible and how far your actual performance limit is from the subjectively perceived.

To achieve your goal, you can:

  • Break the task down into smaller, easier-to-manage bites. So all you have to do is focus on the next step.
  • To fall back on previous experiences, experiences and tasks that you were able to successfully cope with despite difficulties.
  • Always face new challenges and increase your mental strength and self-confidence.
  • Put the situation in a different context. You can - I am injured (tired ...) and can no longer, into a - Despite my injury (tiredness) I will continue and thus prove how strong I am - reinterpretation.

Enjoy the training!