Most people, if told they were ‘mentally tough’ and were partial to impersonation, might respond with Robert De Niro’s most famous line from Taxi Driver: “You talkin’ to me?”
‘Mentally tough’ is a label few people would give themselves. We’re compelled to apply it to people who have acted heroically, achieved sporting greatness, or risen from adversity. We understandably admire these people, talk about their incredible feats and marvel at how different they are to the rest of us.
But if you were to scan your own personal history and magnify various qualities you’ve drawn on, you’d see that at particular times you too have displayed mental toughness. The ways in which you’ve done so and the intensity might differ to your role models, but nonetheless you have performed and pushed through using Control, Commitment, Challenge and Confidence.
Control, Commitment, Challenge and Confidence are the four components – the 4 C’s – of mental toughness as identified by Professor Peter Clough, Professor of Applied Psychology at Manchester Metropolitan University, and a leading researcher on mental toughness.
If you think your mental toughness trait has always been AWOL, see if you answer yes to any of these questions:
- Have you ever handled an offensive remark with grace?
- Have you ever completed a challenging project or met a tight deadline at work?
- Have you ever instigated a difficult conversation with a loved one or co-worker?
- Have you ever significantly improved your physical health and fitness?
- Have you ever worked towards and achieved your desired goal in an educational setting or sporting pursuit?
All of the above scenarios require you to be mentally tough.
And of course there’s the universal experience of loss we’ve each endured and often learnt and grown from. Whether it was loss of a job, a friendship, or a romantic relationship. We’ve adapted when life expectations have had to change shape and accepted reality when good efforts haven’t paid off. Disappointing academic results, not getting promoted, health challenges, a business failure – all feature in our collective journey.
Once we remember we do have a mental toughness springboard (however light or neglected) to launch from, the possibilities of deliberately and consistently harnessing and developing this trait seem very exciting. Imagine the results … with how you guide your children, navigate and influence the workplace, realise a dream.
So now that you know I am most definitely “talkin’ to you!” Whaddya gonna do about building your mental toughness to reach your potential?
This article on becoming mentally tough was authored by Emma Delahey, a freelance wellbeing writer with a communications and client services background. Emma is passionate about applying positive psychology to help people achieve their goals and to enhance organisations. She can be contacted via LinkedIn.