Mental Toughness – Are you mentally tough?
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Mental Toughness – Are you mentally tough?

Why is mental toughness important?

In a world of much change, the EU Referendum for example, and ever increasing pace, where technology is advancing at a rate of knots and we, as professionals, are required and expected to adapt to these changes efficiently and effectively with little disruption. It struck me how the challenges we face in work now are totally different to those faced 20 years ago. It made me think about me, and how I deal with challenging situations.
So I have always thought of myself as a resilient and mentally tough individual, in that I can deal with most things and take them in my stride; when the going gets tough I can knuckle down, grit my teeth and get on with it;  Most of the time I can see difficulties as a challenge and an opportunity to improve – either myself, a process or an outcome. But let’s look at these two terms – Resilient and Mental Toughness – what do they mean and are they the same? The answer is no, they are not the same – let me explain:

What is resilience?

Resilience is a state of being. It is the ability to be able to “grin and bear it” to struggle on regardless of the situation or the challenge faced, to be able to deal with the situation and recover from it quickly even if you see the situation in a negative light. This in itself infers that should the situation last for too long a time that a resilient individual may well start to struggle – for example being under excessive pressure for a long period of time.

What is mental toughness?

Mental toughness is about how you perceive a situation. Whether you see it as a positive opportunity and whether you possibly seek challenge and adversity. Being mentally tough means that you have the confidence in your own ability to be able to deal with stress, pressure and challenge in a positive way regardless of the circumstances. The key aspect is the positive approach to the situation. The ability to be able to deal positively to situations of pressure and stress.

So if you are mentally tough does that mean you are also resilient? Yes, however, not all people who are resilient are mentally tough and that is because of the positive aspect of being mentally tough.  You can be resilient but quite negative, you can’t be mentally tough and also negative.

How do you measure mental toughness?

It was with great interest that I completed an assessment which measures how mentally tough I am (known as MTQ48). The overall score I achieved was 10 out of 10 which I thought was fantastic! “What does this score mean?” I hear you say.  It means that I scored highly on the 4 elements of mental toughness that are measured. These are Challenge, Commitment, Confidence and Control. (More to come on these over the following weeks). So this means that essentially I am mentally “rock hard”! This must only be a good thing I thought, but upon further consideration and analysis of my report it seems that receiving a high score is not necessarily a good thing. Why is that?

Well, let’s look at what a 10 in each of the 4 areas may mean:
Challenge – this may mean that I seek out challenge, adversity and change all the time. Which, as a manager may be exhausting for my staff to deal with.
Commitment – I may commit to targets that are too stretching and challenging. Which, as a manager may mean that I am overstretching my team.
Confidence – I may come across as over confident and arrogant, or my confidence in my ability to do things may be misguided in certain situations. As a manager, this may mean that my staff can’t relate to me or my ability to influence people may be affected.
Control – I may seem like I have an over inflated self-belief as I believe my success is my own doing.  I may also have a very strong handle on showing my emotions. Which as a manager may mean that my staff think I am cold and unapproachable, and also egotistical!
As you can see, being “mentally rock hard” is not necessarily the best thing! So what have I learned from this experience?

As with everything, having a positive attitude to continuous improvement and personal development, and being comfortable “in your own skin” will help you to succeed in all that you aim to achieve.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story. Over the forthcoming weeks I want to share with you some free useful exercises, tips and information on mental toughness.  That means you can develop and improve your own mental toughness – though not too much!

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