Mental Toughness = Resilience + Confidence
It is no longer sufficient to simply build resilience and ‘bounce back” from adversity. You also need to have the ability to build your self-confidence, emotional management, commitment and self-control to thrive and not just survive. You need this additional momentum to take advantage of your current turbulent landscape.
Resilience or hardiness versus Mental Toughness
Mental Toughness is a wider concept than resilience.
Resilience or hardiness is usually described in terms of control, commitment and challenge, comprising three of the four components mentioned above. The concept of Mental Toughness adds confidence to the mix as well. Research shows that, although an independent scale, the level of confidence can have a significant impact on resilience and it is therefore worth considering both together.
Toughness in our times
It is certainly true that there are stressors around today, at the beginning of the 21st century, which didn’t exist in times gone by. The mobile phone, for instance, means that many can’t truly ‘get away from it all’ when they need to. People are also encouraged to speak about being stressed more openly than ever before.
However, if stress is the big killer, then our growing life expectancy suggests that life is becoming less stressful, even though it seems that we generally consider ourselves to be more stressed than ever before.
In reality, it is very unlikely that the average person is living in a more stressful world than people did in our grandparents’ time, only 50 years ago, when many worked very long hours for low pay, lived in poor housing and generally had a poorer diet and range of eating options.
Go back a 100 years and life was tougher still.
What is more likely to be the case is that, in the past, people simply got on with it and were, in general, mentally more tough. What is likely to have happened is that, overall, we have reduced our levels of Mental Toughness and we tend to allow ourselves to feel more stressed than people would have done in the past.
Dealing with Mental Toughness is an important aspect of restoring our ability to deal with stressors and perform effectively in most circumstances.
Is More Better?
Where there is a lot of pressure or challenge, then a high level of Mental Toughness may be desirable. However, many people operate in less stressful circumstances than these and a high degree of Mental Toughness may not always be required.
In fact, people who have very high levels of Mental Toughness can also be mentally insensitive, which may in part explain their Mental Toughness. However, this can give rise to specific personal development needs, particularly when such people have to work directly with others.
Like most individual strengths, when taken to excess or wielded unwisely, Mental Toughness can also emerge as a weakness. Someone who has developed a high level of Mental Toughness may have done so at the expense of other skills that can contribute to good business performance. An example could be a person who has a low sensitivity and empathy with other people. This may assist them to be mentally tough, but will hinder their ability to handle interpersonal relationships well.
Level of Seniority or Status
A major study (2007) has shown that there is a strong positive relationship between Mental Toughness and seniority. The more senior you are, the higher your Mental Toughness score is likely to be.
Typically, the more senior you are as a manager, the greater the complexities with which you need to deal, the greater the pressure to perform (particularly through others) and the greater the possibility of setbacks and problems.
Mental Toughness can help in all of these areas, so the more mentally tough will be more likely to succeed and be promoted.
The challenge for leaders is to exhibit a high degree of Mental Toughness without losing personal contact with the people they are leading.
It can be argued that this is where Mental Toughness and areas like interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence, and so on, come together.