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This question originally appeared on Quora. Answer by Ronald Fry, 3rd generation veteran.

Mental toughness is, as inferred, a state of mind. An average person can develop this without being part of the military. Mental toughness is resilience, an ability to stick to something regardless of obstacles, to be goal oriented, to be always trying to improve, to be dependable and consistent. I feel mental toughness is fueled by either a dedication to self or a dedication to a higher cause. Ideally it is both.

Any human can develop mental toughness by setting goals, pushing oneself a little harder, and working for small victories. Mentally tough people are always willing to (metaphorically) run up steep hills in the rain because they know the prize is at the top of the hill. Being true to oneself is what keeps people on goals, sticking to a workout regimen, attempting marathons, triathlons, new hobbies, dropping bad habits, and picking up new habits. Mentally tough people know what is good for themselves, their future, and are willing to show discipline, patience, and sacrifice to achieve their objectives. This is why we often see the most successful people are not the ones with natural talent, but those that had to overcome obstacles through hard work, focus, and dedication to achieve their goals.

The military does a great job in tapping into the motivation and personal goals of an individual. If you want to be a paratrooper, a Ranger, a SEAL, or a Green Beret you must volunteer, train for, discipline yourself, and prove that you are mentally tough. In Ranger School, limited sleep, long walks, limited food, and stresses of leadership are piled on the students to see if they will stand up to the pressure or quit. SEAL and Special Forces training offer similar challenges to see who will quit and who has “grit”. Mentally tough people do not quit.

The military also taps into the other driver or motivator for mental toughness, a higher cause. Those that join the military have a love for our institutions, our way of life, the flag, the constitution, and the values that make this nation great. They are trained to fight for the continued existence of these values. A deep loyalty and willingness to sacrifice for the mission and the soldiers they fight alongside is stamped on their souls. The 6th stanza of the Ranger Creed states “Readily will I display the intestinal fortitude required to fight on to the Ranger objective and complete the mission though I be the lone survivor.” It is this mindset and dedication to the cause of freedom that generates the self-sacrifice, dedication, and heroism that we have seen for generations from our military members.

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