In 2017, superstar comedian Kevin Hart debuted as an author with “I Can't Make This Up,” in his modest opinion, “the funniest, most heartfelt, and most inspirational memoir on survival, success, and the importance of believing in yourself since ‘Old Yeller.’” Jokes aside, the memoir was well received by both critics and fans and it became an instant No. 1 New York Times bestseller.
Available only as an audiobook (hilariously narrated by Hart himself), “The Decision” serves as a self-help follow-up to “I Can’t Make This Up.” By breaking down the “tools and rules” Hart developed to elevate his own life, the book aims to inspire and help you transform yours. So, don your uniform and get ready to join “Coach Kevin” as he puts you through the paces of what he dubs the Kevin Hart Mental Fitness Bootcamp!
11 things to throw away to clear your mind
“How do you keep going?” – that’s the question Hart is most often asked by the people around him. His answer: “I’m not easily shaken or broken.” That’s what mental fitness is – the strength to keep going when the going inevitably gets tough. Life, in essence, is a series of decisions. In Hart’s experience, the ability to make the right decisions when you’re down and under pressure is the single most important factor determining your future health and success. That’s what Hart’s Mental Fitness Bootcamp is all about. Before entering it, you are advised to leave the following 11 things at home:
- Jealousy. To paraphrase the Bible, don’t covet what someone else has or you will be ensnared by it.
- Perfectionism. Perfect people don’t exist. So, perfectionism is a waste of time and valuable mental resources.
- Comparison. Your path is all that matters. Don’t lose focus by constantly comparing yourself to others.
- Unhealthy fear. Unhealthy fears are triggered by our uncertainty to cope in a situation. They are usually rooted in the past or in the future and they always end up freezing us in the present – the place where we make all our decisions. So, leave your unhealthy fears behind. Take a leap of faith.
- Fear of failure. Failure is a stepping-stone to success. Some of the best lessons you’ll learn in life will be from failure. Moreover, failure builds character better than success does.
- Resistance. Resistance means straying away from your plan and falling back into your comfort zone. Change is difficult because our mind likes the familiar. So, learn to challenge yourself.
- Self-doubt. Shakespeare was right when he wrote, in “Measure for Measure,” that “our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.” So, contrary to what Yoda might say, there is try. Self-doubt ends where “leap of faith” attempts begin.
- Anger. Anger is the enemy of progress: by definition, it pushes back rather than forward. The best way to handle it is just to analyze and assess the situation.
- Blame. Victim playing is great – if you need excuses not to succeed. If you want to find ways to prosper, then stop playing the blame game.
- Judgement of others. “Those that judge can’t do,” says Hart. “Those that do don’t judge.”
- Self-judgement. When you want to help someone overcome something, you don’t judge them, do you? Well, stop judging yourself as well! Be the friend you wish you had.
15 core weapons of mental toughness
To obtain mental toughness, start by assembling these 15 weapons:
- Positive mindset. The best way to prepare yourself for greatness is to expect greatness from yourself. Choose to see things positively at all times.
- What-is-ness. Stop thinking in terms of “what ifs” and deal with the “what is” instead. There are some things you can change, and others you can’t. Learn to accept the latter so that you can make room in your mind to deal with the former. Be like water: “allow, adapt and keep on moving.”
- Consistency. There are no shortcuts in life. The difference between professionals and amateurs is nott talent or tricks, but consistency.
- Reliability. Being reliable means being able to keep your promises. Don’t let yourself, or others, down. Know your commitments and stick to your schedule.
- Determination. Determination is nothing other than being respectful toward your efforts. If you’re in it to win it, you will inevitably be resolute and purposeful.
- Cowboying up. “Cowboying up” means getting back up on your feet when you’re down, dusting yourself off and making a second attempt. It means, more fundamentally, taking ownership for your words and actions, your successes and failures. Ownership shows strength and earns respect.
- Teddy-bearing. Be likable, pleasant, and personable. As often as you can, radiate positivity, comfort, safety and affection – just like a teddy bear.
- Dissatisfaction. Comfort does not lead to success; dissatisfaction does. Being healthily discontent with your present is the only way to continuously grow and develop.
- Non-reactivity. When others are negative toward you, don’t react. That invalidates their attack and gives you the upper hand in the situation.
- Self-generating power. Don’t expect others to guide you toward your own triumphs; take the matters in your hands, instead. If you’re not sufficiently motivated to be a self-starter, then you are not motivated at all to succeed in life.
- Sponginess. Soak up knowledge – from the people around you, your role models, your idols. “The smartest person in the room,” remarks Hart, “is the spongiest.”
- Relatability. Make connections. The more people you meet from different backgrounds, the more tolerant, well-rounded and creative you become.
- Eye-on-the-prizeness. You are the only one who can define your prize. Ask yourself, “What kind of reward do I expect at the end of the journey?” Be honest with yourself. Don’t get thrown off by comparisons or personal insecurity.
- Put-up-with-ness. Winners put up with a lot more discomfort than losers do. It’s as simple as that. The more you want to achieve in life, the more of your comfort you must be willing to sacrifice.
- Humility. No matter where your journey takes you, never forget where you started from. At the heart of it, you are just another human being and you are no better than anyone else.
The seven crucial components of mental fitness
There are many components to mental fitness, but the following seven are arguably the most crucial:
- Fuel. Your diet is closely connected to your mood. Eat healthy to set yourself up for fewer mood fluctuations, an improved ability to focus, and an overall happier outlook.
- Energy. Fuel is what you put in your body, and energy is what is released once that fuel is burned. If you do not treat your body well, it will not transform the fuel properly. A strong mind is the expression of a strong body – and vice versa.
- Input. Nowadays, it is difficult to insulate yourself from negative energy, information noise, and overwhelming emotions. However, you must strive to beat the social media algorithms and ever-present distractions in the modern world. Hart aptly notes that being able to select what you expose yourself to is the mental equivalent of choosing what you eat.
- Company. In addition to information noise, you must also learn to insulate yourself from toxic people. Unless your friends make you feel better and lift you up when you’re down, they are not your friends and shouldn’t be around you.
- Environment. Try to cultivate a positive environment and atmosphere for yourself and the people around you, rather than erecting barriers between you and your goal. Remove the friction by surrounding yourself with things that affect your thoughts positively.
- Solitude. It’s easy to lose yourself in the 21st century. Many people do. That’s why it’s essential to find ways to disconnect yourself from the company you keep, external inputs, and even the immediate environment from time to time. Solitude brings clarity, stability and strength. More significantly, it reconnects you with yourself and realigns you with your values. Nothing is more important than that.
- The work. If you’re not getting anything done, then you’re not working, no matter how many hours you might spend in your office or in front of your computer. Success is about action and about moving forward. Always choose progress over perfection.
The mental fitness training program: 10 practices
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” wrote Chinese mystic Lao Tzu 2,500 years ago. Nothing could be truer, suggests Hart. Every single transformation, no matter how big, starts with a small change. The following 10 practices should help you introduce such small changes in your daily routine that will eventually result in building the mental fortitude of a champion.
- Discomfort. When you exercise, you’re putting your muscles in a position of temporary discomfort so that they can adapt and grow stronger. Make that your life strategy: choose temporary discomfort so that you may enjoy lasting success. You cannot progress in comfort – that’s a contradiction in terms.
- Visualization. Mentally rehearse for the outcomes you want. The ability to see things before they actually happen prepares you for them. In fact, it is what enables you to pursue your dreams and ultimately achieve them.
- Energy assessment. If you don’t assess your energy levels from time to time, you risk burning out. Take a rest when you feel exhausted. Try to sleep well. Take power naps now and again.
- Force field. In case you’re not a fan of science fiction, a force field is an invisible barrier made up of energy which protects a person from external attacks or intrusions. Put one up around yourself to guard against negativity and bad stuff people say about you. Even if imaginary, it works.
- Antivirus software. Just like your computer, you too need antivirus software. Because no matter how carefully you “browse” – and no matter how impenetrable your force field – you will inevitably be exposed to “viruses.” If you’re not prepared to fight them, they will cause damage.
- Self-challenging. Don’t wait for others to challenge you: challenge yourself. Ask yourself if you are doing your best. If the answer is “no,” then ask yourself how you can do better.
- Iconoclasm. Back in ninth-century Byzantium, an iconoclast was a person who opposed the veneration of religious icons and advocated for their destruction. An iconoclast in today’s world is a person who attacks settled beliefs, institutions and established values. All great trailblazers are iconoclasts. If you don’t tear down traditions, you will never start a new one.
- Negative-to-positive. Find the positive in all negative situations. Consider them as nothing more than roadblocks. After all, if you want to repair the surface of the road you need to block the traffic temporarily.
- No chips challenge. Everybody has their own weakness – their own “kryptonite” in the Superman-inspired terminology of Hart. Start your transformation by committing to spending a month away from your guilty pleasures. Since consistency breeds consistency, the second month will be a lot easier.
- Final exam: the ultimate 30-day challenge. In addition to staying away from your weaknesses, make a “no excuses” commitment: for the next 30 days, you’re not allowed to make a single complaint. Starting now.
“The Decision” may not be as personal and as heartfelt as “I Can’t Make This Up,” but it is still real, amusing and inspirational. If you need a self-help guru, Kevin Hart proves as good as any. At the very least, he’ll make you laugh.
Try to become a spongy teddy bear: soak up knowledge while radiating comfort and positivity.