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Surviving to Thriving – Mental Toughness (Steve Harris)
Chapter 3. MENTAL TOUGHNESS DEFINED
Mental toughness prepares you for consistent performance
Mental toughness can provide you with a unique and sustainable competitive advantage. Neuropsychologists claim that we contend with challenges by being instinctively competitive. However, instinct alone does not give us a unique and sustainable benefit in this modern era.
If you adopt the strategies of the mental toughness model presented in this book and use them in your life, you will have the opportunity to progress from surviving to thriving. If you are already thriving, you could use these methods to fast track and get even further ahead.
On the other hand, if you do nothing about developing mental toughness, your chances of improvement in sport, work or relationships are slim, because you will rely mostly on your natural abilities, or luck.
It is important to note that the benefits of mental toughness are seldom accrued in isolation of other competencies. Part of the process of developing mental toughness involves assessing your overall competency needs and advancing holistically. Once you have these competencies, your confidence rises and the potential for mental toughness benefits is enhanced.
I recall a junior tug-of-war team from my son’s school days. The team was extremely motivated to do well at an inter-house tournament. However, the opposition teams were bigger and stronger. This made it difficult for the participants to conjure the level of mental toughness in the form of determination or spirit against the physical odds they faced. Of course, if you have tried tug-of-war, you will know that winning is not always about size and physical strength; it also requires an enormous amount of mental strength. However, in the absence of physical girth, you are unlikely to dominate on mental strength alone. You need the entire range of skills. Despite being highly motivated and initially determined, they lost because they lacked the basic tug-of-war physical requirements.
A useful analogy for developing mental toughness is that of a fitness regime. In a fitness regime, your aim is to develop physical muscle and become physically fitter. In a mental toughness regime, your aim is to develop mental muscle and become mentally tougher. You may want to consider the process of developing mental toughness as a fitness regime for your mind. In fact, mental and physical fitness may be closer than a mere analogy – they may overlap. Developing physical strength can be a building block for enhanced mental strength. In other words, if you fix your outside, it can go a long way towards fixing your inside. Of course, the converse is also true: If you develop your mental strength it will, likely, encourage you to build physical strength as well. Thus, the two regimes can be complementary.
You may know from past fitness training regimes that you lost fitness when you stopped training. Well, I’m afraid the same is true of your mental conditioning programme: When you stop practising mental toughness, you lose mental muscle. Thinking about mental toughness in the same way as physical fitness provides a helpful framework for getting started.
I want to distance myself from the pop psychology approach of promoting mental toughness as willpower. My research indicates that willpower is a factor, but it is only part of mental toughness. My research indicates that willpower is a factor, but it is only part of mental toughness and it too has its conditions.