Mental Toughness

Mental toughness in athletes is a hot topic and we always hear of athletes who are “mentally tough” thriving over their competition. It has been at the forefront of many studies and research papers.

It can be a way for athletes to understand their own capacity, strengths, weaknesses. It also crosses over into the world of business and work, helping managers, leaders and individuals understand the problems people and organizations face when faced with change and more importantly how they deal with it.

So what is Mental toughness and do you have it?

In their book “Developing Mental toughness” Doug Strycharczyk and Peter Clough claim there are 4 pillars to MT that you should be aware of.

CHALLENGE:  Do you see challenge as an opportunity?

CONFIDENCE:  Do you have high levels of self-belief?

COMMITMENT – Are you able to stick at tasks without slipping or wandering.

CONTROL: Do you believe that you can control your own destiny?

Research shows that some people are genetically ‘tougher’ than others and that is just hardwired into us. But the good news is that if you are NOT mentally tough you are not necessarily mentally weak!  We can say you are mentally sensitive.

Mentally tough deal with pressure by not letting it get to them whereas the sensitive will feel uncomfortable in times of pressure or challenge. 

Think about how you react on a start line of a race.  How do you let the pressure of racing or hard training sessions get to you?  Can you keep focus, not moan, push through a pain barrier, not give up when it gets tough, remain relaxed…

Ultimately, we are looking for our ‘ideal performance state’ and there are a few ways we can work towards that.

  1.  IMPROVE SELF AWARENESS:  know your strengths, identify your weaknesses. Action plan for difficult situations in competition and practice that plan.
  2. BECOME RESILIENT:  Develop a refocusing routine to use to bounce back quickly from mistakes.  If… then… Your goal is to achieve the same winning mindset in every situation.
  3. INCREASE CONFIDENCE:  Have your mind full of past successes and remember these tough situations in training
  4. TOUGH THINKING:  Master your self-talk and chose what thoughts you use.  Recognise negative thinking and reframe it to positive.
  5. PERFORM UNDER PRESSURE:  Identify what skills (technical, physical and mental) you need to show up at your best when you really need it.  Write them down, stick them somewhere prominent.

Just like training there are a lot of moving parts to developing mental toughness and just like building your aerobic base it will not happen overnight.  It’s a process that if you put time and effort into, you will reap the rewards.