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The 4 C's of mental toughness

No, it’s a not a new fad diet or a handful of pills, but it is a new way of getting the most out of my career and my life.

Being mentally tough has immeasurable benefits, and mental toughness comprises four personality characteristics all conveniently beginning with the letter C:

  • Control
  • Commitment
  • Challenge
  • Confidence

Each of these characteristics determine how you feel and act, and each can be coached and developed to improve your overall mental toughness. Professor Peter Clough, professor of applied psychology at Manchester Metropolitan University and a pioneer on research into mental toughness, has identified that mental toughness consists of four components, the 4 C’s of control, commitment, challenge and confidence.

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. Also, importantly it 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.

In recruitment, this control enables consultants to work through the emotions of the highs and lows without seemingly being derailed.

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 taken together 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 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 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.

daily wisdom

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