What is mental toughness? | Mental Toughness Inc.

What is mental toughness?

What is mental toughness? Here is a definition we use:

"Mental toughness is the ability to resist, manage and overcome doubts, worries, concerns and circumstances that prevent you from succeeding, or excelling at a task or towards an objective or a performance outcome that you set out to achieve."

The term “mental toughness” has long been used in Sport Psychology. Here is a definition from the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology

Academic definition for mental toughness:

"Having the natural or developed psychological edge that enables you to: generally, cope better than your opponents with the many demands (competition, training, lifestyle) that sport places on a performer; specifically, be more consistent and better than your opponents in remaining determined, focused, confident, and in control under pressure."

-Jones, Hanton, & Connaughton, 2002, p. 209, "What Is This Thing Called Mental Toughness? An Investigation of Elite Sport Performers" Journal of Applied Sport Psychology

What are the core distinctions of mental toughness?

Mental toughness skills are an asset to have in all areas of life. Those that train and own the quality we call “mental toughness” easily rise to positions of authority and leadership in business, athletics, show business, in addition to excelling in their personal lives.

We’ve outlined what we believe defines the scope of what mental toughness encompasses:

Winners Mindset
The attitude of a performer that they will win or at least execute at a their maximum level consistently. Their belief in themselves and their technical aptitude and training accumen is solid and unwavering.

The ability to execute at a peak level of performance in all situations without getting distracted and with complete mental clarity and ease. Some call this being “in the zone”.

Stress optimization
The ability to manage stress and pressure in the moment a task is performed, without doubt fear or anxiety. Or at very least without being deterred by fear and anxiety and performing regardless. A master of stress optimization knows how to use an extremely stressful environment to focus and better perform.

Failing well
Being able to positively contextualize an inability to create the results that a performer set out to achieve. And to, extract value and learning from the failure to perform, and to funnel it into the next performance so as to continue to rise to the next level.

Maxing out limits
The ability to extract maximum physical effort in the experience of pain, mental and physical stress, and physical discomfort and to perform in spite unpleasant sensory by products. That might include mental duress, physical pain or exertion.

This is a planning distinction and enables the performer to be prepared for any eventuality in the performance (or before the performance) and have a backup plan for any circumstance that is predictable or otherwise not. This allows the performer to be ready for any turn of event and to remain at ease and execute regardless on the situation. This also allows the performer to have a plan in the event that they succumb to a shortfall in performance and to recover fully to complete the task at hand without dialing back performance as a consequence because of disappointment or perceived failure or loss. And most importantly before the failure or loss is declared by external validation.

Who should learn or develop mental toughness?

Mental toughness skills should be learned and honed by anyone who is out to produce high-level results, and specifically in performance-based environments , such as: Business, Competitive Sports, Entertainment and High-Stress Jobs.

Sales personnel and business executives can benefit immensely from managing negative emotions and learning performance enhancing mental toughness skills to lead companies, interact with customers and sell to clients.

Mental toughness was developed for athletes, and used extensively today by elite athletes and increasingly more junior athletes to give them an edge in competition. Figure skaters, gymnasts, triathletes, runners, crossfit competitors, and anyone that considers themselves (or wants to become) a high performing athlete can benefit from mastery in mental toughness.

Staying mentally focused and undistracted can be a matter of life and death for  military personnel and combat soldiers from any branch of the armed forces – including Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and National Guard. Increasingly mental toughness is used by these professionals to execute the tasks and perform well in their roles.

Entrepreneurs can experience extreme duress and challenges as they build businesses from scratch and so mental toughness skills can be critical to their success.

Stage, film and television performers, including musicians, actors, dancers, and other creative talent, can develop an edge over a highly competitive field by  using the distinctions of mental toughness in their art. Mental toughness skills let them audition with great focus and calmness; believe in themselves; recover when they fail; perform in the zone when needed; prepare for any eventuality and still deliver the performance they know they are capable of.

Police officers, firemen and paramedics and other first responders benefit immensely from mental toughness training given their professions can put them in life and death situations  and force them into highly stressful environments. Mental toughness skills can help these workers  conduct the jobs at a high level of performance and product miraculous results.

Any medical worker who is exposed to stressful environments where life and death is at stake, including doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel  – including operating room personnel, emergency room staff, and beyond, can greatly benefit from mental toughness training to help them perform at an extremely effective high level to create outcomes that benefit themselves and others.

Any worker who is exposed to stressful environments, including doctors, nurses, air traffic controllers, security personnel, and beyond. If you deal with stress and have to perform anyway, then mental toughness will give you the skills you need to do what you need to do to deliver.

Parenting children of any age is not easy and can put mothers and fathers under huge stress and lead them to doubt their choices in raising their children. Mental Toughness skills can be used by ANYONE, and they are ideal for parents are are looking to not only pass on the training to their children to make them more resilient as they grow up, but to deal with the pressures, challenges and stresses of parenting itself.


What is the history of mental toughness?

Mental toughness is core to the study of performance psychology, It was initially used to help elite athletes perform better. It emerged as an area of study in the mid 1980s and research continues to this day, developing mental toughness techniques and tactics to train athletes, business people and all performers to produce breakthrough results.

Who is the “father of mental toughness”?

Two names come up when you explore this the title of father of mental toughness. The first is Dr. Jim Loehr, a world-renowned performance psychologist and author of 16 books including  The Only Way to Win. He also co-authored the national bestseller The Power of Full Engagement.

Coach Vince Lombardi (left) and Green Bay Packers player Bart Starr
Coach Vince Lombardi (left) and Green Bay Packers quarterback Bart Starr Public Domain, Link

The other luminary that sometimes gets given that vaunted title is famed football coach Vince Lombardi (pictured), an American football player, coach, and executive in the National Football League (in the U.S.).

How can I learn mental toughness?

There are a variety of ways to learn mental toughness. At Mental Toughness Inc. we provide:

  • Online mental toughness training programs
  • Live training sessions, workshops and keynote speeches with elite MTI trainers
  • Mental toughness certification for leaders of all fields that want to become coaches and train others in the skills of mental toughness
  • One-on-one coaching

Want to learn more about mental toughness training and explore your options? Book a free mental toughness call.

Would you like to train yourself using an audio course in mental toughness? We offer a three-level program that trains you in mental toughness in a self-study course delivered via audio that you can load onto your phone, tablet or computer. Learn more here. Or just take our mind blowing, results producing Level 1 mental toughness course.

We call The Mental Toughness Training Program for Champion Athletes…Click here

What books should I read to further study  learn mental toughness?

A great primer that will teach you core skills is our book called 10 Massive Mistakes Elite Athletes Make That Keep Them from Their Dreams: And how to avoid these mistakes once and for all.
>> Buy it here and get it via instant download.
It is also available at Amazon. Click here.

Below are our top 5 picks for the best mental toughness books every written.

Or see our picks for the top 10 best mental toughness books ever written.

What are some examples athletes exhibiting mental toughness:

Mental toughness skills are an internal process so it’s not always easy to show them in action. However you can see the results in these two examples:

In this video mTigers Woods hits what is considered a nearly impossible chip shot and drops the ball in the hole.

In this video you see Olympic cross country skier Petra Majdic create a miracle outcome after a devastating crash early in the competition:

Are there any free mental toughness tools available?

There are plenty of great free mental toughness tools available on the Web. Here are three that we offer anyone that wants to start to learn the skills: free Mental Toughness tools.


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