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Are you comfortable in your own skin?

Look at your old school photograph and, invariably, it is not the most talented of your classmates who have achieved career and life success but those who have been the most determined, resilient and confident.

They have possessed the mental toughness to respond positively to life’s setbacks and have likely succeeded against the odds by creating opportunity from adversity.

Mental toughness is a mindset that describes your default response when faced with stress, pressures or challenges, irrespective of the prevailing circumstances.

Professor Peter Clough, professor of applied psychology at Manchester Metropolitan University and a pioneer on research into mental toughness, further describes a mentally tough person as “someone who is comfortable in their own skin, can take whatever comes along in their stride and mostly enjoy the challenge”.

Mental toughness isn’t being macho or uncaring or self-centered; it is about being tough in the sense of not giving up and being confident that you can prevail even if the odds are stacked against you.

This mentally tough mindset makes a significant impact on your performance, positive behaviour and personal wellbeing in that you will:

  • believe that you can make a difference and keep your emotions in check when doing it
  • set goals and then do whatever it takes to achieve those goals
  • be motivated to tackle any challenges and understand that setbacks make you stronger
  • have increased self-belief in your ability to deliver and to stand your ground if you need to

The research by Professor Clough and others has identified that mental toughness consists of four components – the 4 Cs: control, commitment, challenge and confidence.

Control

Control means having a sense of self-worth and describes the extent to which a person feels in control of their life and their circumstances. Importantly, it also describes the extent to which they can control the display of their emotions. A mentally tough person will usually just “get on with it” irrespective of how they feel, and their positive approach can often lift the spirits of those around them.

Commitment

Commitment is about goal orientation and “stickability” and describes the extent to which someone is prepared to set goals for what they need to do and make measurable promises that, once made, they will work hard to deliver on.

Control and commitment combined are what most people mean when they think of resilience, and they are indeed a solid response to adversity. But resilience is largely a passive quality and is only one part of mental toughness.

Challenge

Challenge describes the extent to which the individual will push back their boundaries, embrace change and accept risk. It’s also about how they see all outcomes – good and bad. Mentally tough people view challenges, change and adversity as opportunities rather than threats and will relish the chance to learn and grow in the new and hitherto unknown situation. Someone whose challenge score is high will typically enjoy new places, new people, innovation and creativity. 

Confidence

Confidence completes the picture and describes the self-belief an individual has in their own abilities and the interpersonal confidence they have to influence others and deal with conflict and challenge. When faced with a challenge, mentally tough people scoring high in confidence will possess the self-belief to deal with the situation and the inner strength to stand their ground when needed. Their confidence enables them to represent their view boldly and be comfortable in handling objections.

This combination of traits enables you to feel in control and confident in yourself and believe that you are ready for any of life’s challenges.

You feel comfortable in your own skin.

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“Kindness is the language that the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” – Mark Twain