The Old Testament story in the Bible of David fighting Goliath is a story of grit and mental toughness. David was a sheepherder who led a very predictable and ordinary life. He might never have discovered his greatness if he hadn’t taken a risk and stepped into the unknown.
The Philistine army had gathered their troops for war against Israel. The two armies faced each other, camped for battle on opposite sides of a steep valley. Every day for forty days, a Philistine warrior named Goliath broke out from the front line and challenged the Israelites to fight. Goliath was reported to be a giant of a man—he measured over nine feet tall and wore full armor. The Israelites fell back in fear when they saw the huge form of Goliath challenging them.
Described as a runt by his father, David’s job was to run back and forth from herding sheep to bring news of his brothers who were all on the Israelite battle line. He looked at Goliath and asked, “What’s in it for the man who kills that ugly Philistine?”
When he learned that King Saul would offer a huge reward and give his daughter in marriage, David quickly raised his hand and said, “I’m your man!”
The runt of the litter takes on the giant . . . we love stories of the underdog who musters the courage and confidence to defy the odds and move forward. Let’s take a closer look at how David used mental toughness to defeat the giant challenge before him:
1. Mastered a Skill Set
David had never fought in battle as a soldier, but he had other experience. He knew how to use a sling and perfectly weighted stones to protect lambs from large and strong predators like lions and bears. He was prepared to use those same skills to protect the Israelites. Mastery of his skill set had taken years of practice, but David had never become distracted from learning the skills he needed to become a master of his trade.
Mastery is not a function of genius or talent. It is a function of intense focus applied to your area of expertise. Mastery of your own skill set will give you confidence that you will be successful against opponents as big and strong as Goliath.
2. Acknowledged His Weaknesses
The soldiers laughed at David because he did not have a soldier’s training. The first thing they tried to do was turn David into one of them. They suited him up in their armor and gave him a sword. But David was not a soldier and he had never trained as one. He said, “I cannot walk in these because I’m not used to them.” The techniques and skills of a soldier were not his own, and he was wise enough to acknowledge what he didn’t know so he could focus on what he did.
You will excel only if you maximize your strengths and stop trying to fix your weaknesses (click to tweet). Don’t ignore your weaknesses, but by acknowledging them you are better able to manage them. This allows you to free up time and focus on your strengths.
3. Used the Skills He Understood
While others considered David an underdog, he knew he possessed a strong arm and good aim. He understood how to use these skills and adapt to his circumstances. He was authentic, and didn’t try to live by anyone else’s rules—he used the skills and talents given to him by God. In other words, he was unconsciously competent.
When confronted with the unknown in a volatile and hostile environment, lean into the personal strengths and skills that you’ve honed through so much practice that they have become “second nature” for you.
4. Pressed Into The Unknown
According to the Biblical account, “David took off from the front line, running toward the Philistine.” David took leadership of the situation when he broke the pattern of the challenge. He moved toward the threat and pressed into the unknown.
- To increase safety, move toward the unknown.(click to tweet)
- To increase chances for success, move toward the challenge.(click to tweet)
In this case, Goliath may not have expected David to move closer and at such speed. He may have been caught unaware and hesitated, thereby giving David an opportunity to use his slingshot.
But only by moving closer to the threat was David able to see where and how to strike. Opportunities that could not be seen from a distance were made visible as he pressed forward.
The closer Goliath came, the more ways David could see of defeating the giant. He saw a small gap in Goliath’s armor that was not visible from a distance.
As Goliath moved in for the kill, David reached into his bag and slung one of his stones at the gap in the armor that protected Goliath’s head. Once struck in the forehead, the giant fell face down on the ground. David then took Goliath’s own sword, killed him, and cut off his head. When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran.
When confronted with changing environments and overcoming challenges as a leader, you may need to leave your place of safety and press forward.
David possessed the mental toughness to overcome the odds and destroy Goliath. If you possess mental toughness, nothing is impossible—you will find a way.
How can you use mental toughness to approach your giant obstacle?
You can follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LaRaeQuy
Read my book ““Secrets of a Strong Mind,” available now on Amazon.
If you’d like to republish content from laRaeQuy.com, please read our Republication Policy.