Lifers: An Interview on Mental Toughness Training with the Paolinis | The Mental Toughness Coach - Chris Dorris

Lifers: An Interview on Mental Toughness Training with the Paolinis


When they started their 1st round of Mental Toughness Training sessions, Brielle was 12 and Brinson was 9 years old. That was 13 years ago. And they haven’t taken a day off in the interim. Meet the Paolinis.

To describe this sister/brother duo as powerful or impressive or even as three standard deviations above the norm in every measurable category feels like a miserably weak understatement.

Brielle is currently in her third year in Wake Forest’s MD/PhD Program in Neuroscience (click here for her bio). She graduated Summa Cum Laude from William and Mary – the athlete with the highest GPA (golf). In addition to golf, Brielle is an artist, a photographer and a yoga instructor.

Brinson is in his senior year at Duke and is one of the top golfers in the University’s history. He’ll be turning professional in the next year. (click here for his bio) His list of awards and accomplishments is longer than every blog I’ve ever written put together.

I interviewed them both on their thoughts and their experiences having been engaged in the practice of Mental Toughness Training for more than half of their lives. And I thought I’d share their responses here with you.

Chris: “You’ve been training your mind for more than half of your life. What have been the most valuable practices/disciplines for you and how have these practices served you?”

Brielle: “I would say the most valuable practice that I have acquired is my ability to self-reflect on my emotions – to be curious about my emotions and to witness them non-judgmentally.  Because then I have the opportunity to transform those emotions by altering my interpretation of reality. I do this constantly – on a daily basis. Eventually, the ‘witness-self’ gets stronger, more curious, and more entertained by the influence of the conditioning of our pasts.”

Brinson: “Three things:

a. Getting in the Gap – It is amazing how noisy our minds can be. After being introduced to the Gap, I have learned to disassociate myself from my thoughts and realize they are not absolute truths. The fact is our brain produces thoughts, just as our heart pumps blood. Through the Gap Practice, I have been able to become a witness to my thoughts but not attached to them and thus not allowing them to dictate my mood. Also, I have been able to operate more frequently from this gap between thoughts, which is the place of infinite intelligence and opportunity. (clcik here to see a video intro to the Gap practice.)

b. Game Face – Realizing how you are when you are at your best is a powerful tool. For many years I felt this was out of my control and that sometimes I would obtain flow by happenstance. That couldn’t be further from the truth, by analyzing how I am when I’m at my best, I can just create the state whenever I want, no need to wait for it to happen to me. With practice, I have been able to put on my game face in a matter of seconds, and I can do it multiple times throughout the day.

c. The Pre-Game Routine – Instead of worrying about what can do wrong before the biggest events in my life, my pre-game routine has given me an opportunity to get in my game face and prepare myself to be in the best state of mind possible. Worrying comes from believing a lie that something bad is going to happen, but my pregame brings me back to my truth that my life is unfolding perfectly and the only reason I want to do well in this endeavor is because in this moment it is fun.”

Chris: “Even though you’ve been training for 13 years, you still need to return on a daily basis to the fundamentals. Why is that?”

Brielle: “I have been ‘training’ my mind. Notice the tense on that verb—present tense. The training happens in the present moment! The game that we all get to play as humans is to forget our Truth, to forget the inextricable beauty of our lives. We must forget to get a chance to remember! Every time we remember our Truth, we get a rush of excitement and are immediately lighter. What a cool opportunity we have as humans to get to remember our Truth and to feel fully juiced on a daily basis!!”

Brinson: “Because the conditioning from society is so strong everyday that it is easy to bring us away from the truth. Conditioning is so often telling us to believe what we could refer to as lies – limiting beliefs. Therefore, we have to be vigilantly aware of our thoughts and always practice bringing ourselves back to truth.”

Chris: “We refer here to this work as “Mental Toughness Training”.  How else could you – do you – describe it?”

Brielle: “I would call it an awakening to the truth of my existence. The training allows us to notice and to dismiss the conditioning of our past so that we can come in full alignment with our Truth. Being in alignment with your overall Truth is like having the ultimate compass. This magic compass directs you daily towards the life of your wildest dreams. Ironically, when you are living the life of your wildest dreams in alignment with your Truth, you are making infinite contributions to this world effortlessly! In short, the training helps you flourish, it helps you achieve your greatest exuberance, it helps you to transform this world, and most of all it helps you become the master of your own life.”

Brinson: “Disciplined thinking. For me, it all comes back to my thoughts (Think > Feel > Do). Therefore, in my training I have been learning how to increase my awareness and understand how I am thinking. In doing so, I am able to create my state based on my thoughts, which then leads to action. When I operate from my optimal state I am able to create miracles.”

Chris: “What do you think is one of the biggest public misconceptions or misunderstandings with respect to Mental Toughness Training?”

Brielle: “I would say the biggest public misconception is that it is in some way ‘therapy.’ It is for those who have minds that are ‘out-of-control.’ However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The people who embark on mental toughness training and who make it a part of their lives are some of the strongest, smartest, and most successful people you will ever meet. Ironically, their minds generally are more ‘in-control.’ It doesn’t take the crazy and make them normal. It takes a human and makes them super-human. This isn’t about fixing the problems; it is about awakening to your life and about learning to be the driver of that life.”

Brinson: “That it is just psychological theory that sounds great on paper, but doesn’t have actual practical application in daily life. The bottom line is that you are going to use your mind either way, so you might as well use it as tool to create what you want. From this perspective, you can understand that your mind is your most powerful tool, and training yourself to utilize your mind in effective ways can help you change your life in ways you never imagined.”

Chris: “What is one piece of advice that you would offer someone who is embarking upon their own training, whether that be on their own or with a coach? What do you think, from your wealth of experience, would be one of the most important and valuable things for them to keep in mind?”

Brielle: “I would say the best advice I could offer is: Prepare for the ride of your life. I had absolutely NO idea how much my personal and professional life would be radically altered by this training. I have achieved things that I never knew existed– things that I would have laughed at years ago. Once you are in alignment with your Truth, the impact you will have on the world will be remarkable and will fill you with inextricable joy. I recently told my mom one of my new crazy, far-out dreams. She smiled and said, “I don’t doubt that you will do it. I don’t know how it happens but everything you touch turns to gold.” No matter what your ‘gold’ is: happiness, money, service, peace, health, or exuberance you will effortlessly achieve it with mental training and trust me, the world will thank you!”

Brinson: “Don’t wait! Understand that you co-create everything in your life. If you feel like changing your circumstances, then do it. Accept where you are today and ask how you can get to where you want to go. However, realize that it isn’t the destination that will bring you joy. I have learned through my journey that every moment is perfect, and my happiness is contingent only upon being fully present. If you are fully engaged in the present moment, no problems exist, and you have access to infinite joy.”


  1. Mike Garrick says:

    I never get tired of studying and applying your work Chris AND I love hearing about amazing people like the Paolinis family. These guys rock! Thank you.

  2. Cy Garrick says:

    Great story Chris. Thanks for sharing.

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