Using your risk and learning orientation to become mentally tough
Mental toughness is a mindset that provides you with the resilience and confidence to be more successful, more positive and less stressed than those who are not so. It can be measured and then developed through changing habits and adopting a more structured and less emotive approach to work and life.
The Clough and Strycharczyk mental toughness framework, backed by a simple but scientifically valid psychometric measure MTQ-Plus (part of the MTQ48 family) comprises four main scales or traits –Control, Commitment, Challenge and Confidence, each with two sub-scales or traits and each playing an important part within the overall framework.
In the third post of this four part series on the 4C’s, we feature the ‘Challenge’ C, which embraces how to stretch yourself and learn from everything.
CHALLENGE – Seeing change and adversity as opportunities rather than threats
I see Challenge as the New Frontier ‘C’ because it’s about having the mindset that you want to continually expand your knowledge and experience, and in doing that, extend your comfort zone. One of the imperatives in this mindset is managing your fear of failure by mentally reframing a setback or failure as another opportunity to learn and regroup.
There are two sub scales in the Challenge ‘C’, namely Risk Orientation and Learning Orientation.
This is the extent to which you will stretch yourself, take risks and explore outside your comfort zone. It also determines how you respond to change and to surprise events.
If you are low on Risk Orientation you will generally:
- be risk averse and dislike new places, new people and new organisational structures
- dislike change and variety of any sort and certainly not appreciate shocks and surprises
- respond poorly to competitive types or situations
- avoid effort and anything which attracts attention
- you prefer to ‘fly under the radar’.
If you are high on Risk Orientation you will generally:
- like challenge and enjoy working in difficult or exacting circumstances
- become easily bored and will seek or potentially provoke change to generate variety and ‘the thrill of the new’
- you are likely to readily volunteer when an opportunity arises
- like problem solving and work hard and smart to solve them.
There are potential downsides of being too high on Risk Orientation though:
- you can take on too much workload or risk and sometimes fail because of this
- you can enjoy winning the new opportunity far more than the implementation (which can seem boring and mundane)
- you may take on too much risk to ”test” yourself and as a result might not assess risk and opportunity well enough
- because you become easily bored with routine you can create too much change
- as a manager or leader high in Risk Orientation you can often create initiative overload in your team.
This is the extent to which you reflect on and learn from all your experiences and outcomes, whether they be good or bad. You learn from the outcomes of your experiences and the experiences of others. This doesn’t necessarily mean you will continue along this path and work to overcome a setback. A negative experience could influence you to decide that similar situations aren’t for you or can’t work for you on the basis of the first experience.
If you are low on Learning Orientation you will generally:
- give up easily without reflecting on your experiences
- see setbacks and failure as terminal often meaning that you won’t try again, which can also switch you off learning
- blame yourself or others for any failure
- have low aspirations and believe ‘enough is enough’
- not have the perspective to see the bigger picture.
If you are high on Learning Orientation you will generally:
- enjoy learning and see the positive in all outcomes both good and bad
- be keen to apply what you learn in a similar way or completely new situation
- be aspirational, motivated and driven.
However, there are potential downsides of too high on Learning Orientation. You might:
- be obsessed with learning for learning’s sake
- become intolerant of those who are less open to learning
- be frustrated by those who do not ‘keep up’ and not “see” what you see
- often draw the wrong conclusions from events.
So, how do you develop your challenge through improving both your Risk and Learning orientation?
With regards to your Risk Orientation you need to work on extending your comfort zone by trying new things and learning to feel comfortable feeling uncomfortable. Take every opportunity, big or small, to try something new and to start feeling confident in new and unfamiliar situations.
In terms of your Learning Orientation this involves you reframing the way you see change and also setbacks and failures. You need to adopt the mentality of ‘being ready for anything’ and learning to read the opportunity that a problem or setback always creates.
We can help you implement and practise the strategies to build your risk and learning orientation.
In the final part of this series we will describe the Confidence C.
You can Test Your Mental Toughness with the MTQ-Plus assessment to see where you sit on the the 4C’s and the learning and risk orientation sub-scales.