Mental toughness is back!
The phrase is once again hitting the headlines in the world of leadership, performance and development whether in sport or business. It is a term used by many people to refer to the attributes that enable people to perform under pressure in different situations.
It is also one of those over used phrases that appear to capture the drive, determination and perseverance shown by athletes and many people in business who out perform others in their field. However, ask people what mental toughness actually is and how you develop it produces a range of adjectives and leaves others speechless.
People know the words and the phrases yet fail to move into the pragmatic arena of ‘How I become mentally tough’?
Definitions of Mental Toughness
Suzanne Kubasa originally described mental toughness in terms of ‘hardiness’ consisting of control, commitment and challenge. Clough and Earle (2002) then added confidence to that list. Today, others have included well-being, values and emotions whilst Jones, Hanton and Connaughton in 2007 described it “as a person’s attitude or mindset, specifically the performer focus and self belief”.
What does resonate with forward thinking people is that although some of us may have more of a natural propensity to mental toughness than others, the good news is that it can be developed.
Is mental toughness enough?
The level of mental toughness that a person has determines how well they will perform when exposed to stresses and challenges irrespective of the prevailing situation, which is why it is an integral part of the Mind Fit process. Ask an Olympic athlete if ‘mental toughness’ is all you need and they’ll give a long list of other attributes.
We describe Mind Fitness as ‘choosing to use your natural abilities to perform to your optimum in different situations, through ‘Can Do’ attitudes and a winning mind’. Mental toughness is only part of what enables a person to perform to their optimum as it contains elements of personal drivers and emotional control. What else is missing?
Being Mind Fit requires a person needs to use their natural abilities from parts the brain over which they have some control. The core components and descriptions are:
- Thinking brain – able to think objectively, flexibly, innovatively and focus appropriately
- Feeling brain – has positive energy, emotionally competent and resilient
- Driving brain – has a ‘Can Do’ attitude and a clear sense of purpose
- Social brain – ability to connect competently and meaningfully with others to build effective relationships
It follows that if a person is to perform to their optimum in different situations then mental toughness has to be there. However, in the world of work unless people know how to focus on what is important, have real aspirations and sense of purpose, and develop relationships which incorporates all the elements of communication, being mentally tough will not get you very far.
Developing mental toughness
Developing any skill requires focused ‘actions’ on whatever is necessary; practising over and over again and making mistakes. That way you can keep improving through ‘doing’ rather than ‘knowing’ which is why a ‘winning mind’ is essential instead of taking the give up option. Unless people keep improving they soon become disengaged and lose their drive and determination resulting in poorer levels of performance.
So once you develop ‘mental toughness’ it will give you a degree of self-control and know how to remain calm under ‘fire’.