What is it?

How do we define it?

The term Mental Toughness provokes a number of responses. Most of them readily grasp that it is about mental capability of some form. Most people understand that it is about the mind and that it is something to do with being mentally strong. This is true to a certain extent. However, the term is often misunderstood. Therefore, we will start by dispelling some of the myths.

Mental Toughness is a personality trait, which determines, in large part, how individuals deal with stressors, pressure and challenge...irrespective of the prevailing situation

Myth 1

Mental Toughness is NOT about being macho

It is not a masculine aggressive notion. Mental Toughness is all about the ability to deal with challenge, setback, demanding opportunities and life’s “grotty” bits. However, this is in the sense of resilience, which Mental Toughness embraces. It is all about taking these issues in your stride, not being derailed by them and it is especially about being positive about dealing with these challenges.

Peter Clough often describes being Mentally Tough as being comfortable in your own skin. You have that inner sense of confidence, challenge and resilience that enable you to deal with things as they come.

Myth 2

Is it all about winning? – especially winning at all costs.

The evidence is that Mentally Tough people win more often than Mentally Sensitive people do. It is a component of a winning mindset but the nature of winning will usually involve other aspects of personality such as aggressiveness and motivation.

Peter Clough, and others, often describes Mental Toughness as being about “The best I can be”. 

Myth 3

Being Mentally Tough somehow goes hand in hand with being uncaring and being self-centred.

If you think that Mental Toughness is about winning at all costs then this might seem reasonable.

However, we have seen that Mental Toughness is not about winning at all costs at all. The evidence shows that people who are comfortable in their own skin are better at being sensitive to the needs of others. They are much more relaxed about building relationships with others because they believe they can deal with whatever emerges.

Myth 4

everyone should be Mentally Tough.

There is no suggestion that everyone should be Mentally Tough. In the first place, diversity is very valuable for healthy societies and organisations. Secondly, whereas it is true that on average a Mentally Tough person does better at most things than a Mentally Sensitive person, it is not always true that Mentally Sensitive people fail and that all Mentally Tough people succeed. Some Mentally Sensitive people are extremely successful, especially when they are self-aware.

Moreover, Mental Toughness is a personality trait. However, it is one of many traits, and it can be the combination of these traits that determines attainment, wellbeing and general satisfaction. Nevertheless, the evidence does show that Mental Toughness is a very important trait and that it is significant for most people.

It is important to understand what Mental Toughness is and to understand how it explains differences between individuals. Self- awareness is the key. It is up to the individual to decide whether to try to change or to learn to cope.