Are you tough enough?

Oasis Living Magazine, June 01, 2011

Mental Toughness is a term that is gaining popularity in the personal development field, but what does it actually mean? If you were to be described as a “mentally tough” person, how would you interpret this. Stubborn, bossy and demanding? Or perhaps cool in a crisis and resilient? The current interpretation of Mental Toughness actually involves a wide range of attributes.

Mental Toughness has traditionally been aligned with Sports Psychology. Jim Loehr, an American Sports Psychologist, created the term in the 1980s. He was convinced that the difference between losing and winning at the elite level was due to the Mental Toughness factor. He worked with many athletes and turned them into champions by developing their Mental Toughness. Andre Agassi and Jim Courier, both world number one tennis players, are the most famous athletes he supported.

In the late 1990s, the US Military started to use Mental Toughness assessment and development tools. More recently, this term has infiltrated the corporate world and is now considered an aspect of personal development training. Mental Toughness covers a wide range of personal attributes associated with peak performance in business and in our personal lives.

So what is Mental Toughness? Although at this stage there are no universal working definitions, Ralph Jean-Paul has a well-rounded definition: “Having a psychological edge that enables you to be consistent, confident, focused and determined during high pressure situations in order to perform at maximum potential”1. Thus, Mental Toughness is about being confident in your abilities, focusing on things that matter, being motivated and dealing with setbacks.

Mental Toughness has 4 components (the 4 C’s): Commitment, Control, Challenge and Confidence.

Commitment: A promise to yourself or others, goal setting, motivation, discipline, focus & persistence

Control: Emotions: Positive attitude, stress management, self-awareness Life: Time management, organizational skills, responsibility for actions

Challenge: Seeking challenges and opportunities,coping with change, resilience (the ability to bounce back), courage & problem-solving.

Confidence: Ability: Self-belief, confidence in your own skills Interpersonal: Assertiveness, comfortable when speaking up, public speaking

Developing Mental Toughness

Like most other personal traits, Mental Toughness has a genetic element that has to be considered. However, most individuals have the capacity to develop in all areas. Furthermore, different techniques will work for different people. Being open-minded and ready to try a range of techniques will help you identify what works for you.

The process involves 3 steps:

1. Diagnosis

2. Development

3. Evaluation
1. Diagnosis:
The most effective and accurate diagnosis is to use a Mental Toughness Assessment tool (e.g. MTQ48). Alternatively, put your “self-awareness hat” on, ask yourself some questions, and reflect on the 4 C’s:

1. What are my issues or areas of concern?

2. How does this affect me both professionally & personally?

3. Which “C” is my strongest area, and which I should utilize more?

4. Which “C” is my weakest area that I need to develop?

5. How will improving this attribute benefit me?
2. Development:
Depending on which “C” you need to focus on, you may need to utilize different development tools or techniques. Most techniques are inspired by:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): changing your thoughts to change your behavior

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP): reprogramming your mind

Coaching and self-help books

Some of the development tools & techniques include:

Stress management

Goal setting


Creative visualization

Attention training control

Positive thinking
3. Evaluation:
An important aspect of this process is evaluation. Setting specific goals and then being able to track measurable progress is important for success. It is necessary to verify that the technique chosen is working and, if the results are not positive, to identify another technique that works better for you.

Mental Toughness in a nutshell… .

Commitment: I promise to do it.

Control: I really believe I can do it.

Challenge: I am excited about doing it.

Confidence: I can do it even if it’s difficult.

Mental toughness is considered a “leading edge” concept in the UK and USA, and it is in the early stages of introduction into the UAE. It encompasses a wide range of personal development attributes in a coherent and organized fashion and, by developing each of these attributes, you will be ready for whatever work, school, family, friends or life throws your way.


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