Michelle Ribiero’s guidebook for mental toughness transcends its goal by being more than a self-help book, but a testament that anyone, anywhere, can achieve their goals with the right advice.
Nowadays, books centering on resilience come with the same tips and tricks for gaining psychological edges.
With enough material on the subject to fill a library, so much of what is published nowadays comes down to recycled, repackaged, and rebranded content from your favorite business school press.
In Level Up, Ribiero deviates from the norm with a far larger number of practical prompts, exercises, and quizzes than is typically offered. In doing so, she allows anyone to accomplish precisely as the title suggests―increase their mental toughness.
A certified life coach specializing in mental health, the author has spent her career helping people suffering from anxiety, stress, and depression. After a decade in the corporate communications sector, Michelle left to enter the wellness field. Now, she calls on teachings from neuroscience, positive psychology, mindfulness, and yoga; having carved out space in this saturated industry by addressing her clients’ holistic health, she seeks to strengthen all parts of the system, a goal that shines true in this book.
Ribiero touches upon key topics that focus on major players in the mental toughness’ approach to self-help from the outset. Similarities can be drawn from books like Grit by Angela Duckworth or Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Lief Babin.
This book separates itself from the latter and aligns itself with the former in the author’s decision to take a scientific route, backing her suggestions with more research than anecdote. Yet this book still takes major learnings from both of those bestsellers to draw a picture of her vision of mental toughness, the key benefits, and how to self-assess if we are mentally tough.
Although there are 120 total exercises offered, where this book differentiates itself is not the exercises themselves but the formula it uses to take readers to ‘The Next Level.’ The formula is as follows: we are introduced to the exercise, but the author informs us not only how to perform the exercise but also to dig deeper into the why.
I enjoyed this aspect of Level Up and found it helped me stick to a couple of the exercises in the days while I was reading the book. Whether making lists or jotting down reflections, Ribiero’s incorporation of mindfulness into practical action helped me appreciate her advice all the more.
My favorite part of this book was, oddly enough, not the exercises. It was the format. Unlike other business and self-help guides, there was a natural progression of the chapter themes that flowed into each other in a manner that allowed me to most easily digest and take action upon its advice.
For example, the early chapters focused on what I’d consider foundational work, such as Emotional Resilience and Maintain Patience and Self-Control. Styling myself as more of a cynic around most of the advice thrown around by ‘experts,’ I actually found that going chronologically helped me come to a time when Ribiero had me in the later chapters Confront Stress and Embrace Failure.
Amidst a time when economic outlooks are bleak at best, Ribiero’s steps are, more than anything, financially accessible. For most of these, the largest expense is that of a notebook to jot down reflections or the cost of the book itself. This opens up the book’s findings to a wider audience and rids the reader of any financial obstacles that other wellness experts promote. Further, the book draws from old wisdom to tackle new issues.
One example I enjoyed was End Doomscrolling, the issue we face surrounding scrolling through endless bad news content thanks to social media. Most books, even those being published for today’s audience, fail even to acknowledge these new problems. In that way, I found this guidebook especially helpful.
In truth, I could not find any knocks on Ribiero’s approach to self-help in Level Up. Maybe that’s a testament to its simplicity. Or, it could be that in providing so many exercises, Ribiero doesn’t expose herself to the possibility of diving in too deep and appropriating from other cultures or suggesting problematic endeavors. She keeps her tips simple throughout.
Perhaps that is the only knock on this book. We are given the what, how, and why. We never get into the history of these exercises, but that wasn’t something I thought about as I eagerly jumped from one exercise to the next.
The Bottom Line
I’m going to have to give Level Up a strong endorsement, despite being daunted at the prospect of 120 exercises.
Whether you stick to them or not, Ribiero’s advice is practical and easy enough to follow that even a half-hearted attempt is sure to offer growth. I will certainly hold onto my copy, and I’m sure prospective readers will want to do the same.