Measuring the Core Components of Mental Toughness

Research, initially at the University of Hull and now at Manchester Metropolitan University, under the direction of Professor Peter Clough identified 4 key components of Mental Toughness:

  • Control
  • Commitment
  • Challenge
  • Confidence

These 4 core components provide the basis for the MTQPLUS – a reliable and valid tool to assess mental toughness.


Individuals who score high on this scale feel that they are in control of their work and of the environment in which they work. They are capable of exerting more influence on their working environment and are more confident about working in complex or multi-tasked situations. This means for example that, at one end of the scale individuals are able to handle lots of things at the same time. At the other end they may only be comfortable handling one thing at a time. Ongoing development of the MTQPLUS – has enabled the identification of 2 sub-scales to this area:
Control (Emotion) – Individuals scoring highly on this scale are better able to control their emotions and will manage what they show to others . They are able to keep anxieties in check and, in these circumstances, are less likely to reveal their emotional state to other people.
Control (Life) – Individuals scoring higher on this scale are more likely to believe that they have a significant degree of control over their lives. They feel that their plans will not be thwarted and that they can make a difference.


Sometimes described as “stickability”, this describes the ability for an individual to carry out tasks successfully despite any problems or obstacles that arise whilst achieving the goal. Consequently an individual who scores at the high end of the scale will be able to handle and achieve things to tough unyielding deadlines. Whereas an individual at the other end will need to be free from those kind of demands to achieve their goals.
Experience of usage of the MTQPLUS indicates that there may be two components to this scale:
Goal or target orientation: Individuals scoring high appear to translate what they need to do into SMART-ish goals and targets which enable them to prioritise, plan and monitor several tasks at the same time.
Delivery (Completion): Individuals scoring high appear to be prepared to do what it takes to deliver what has been promised (to themselves and to others) including working hard where needed.

Challenge (Sometimes Called Change Orientation)

Describes the extent to which individuals see change, setbacks and challenges as opportunities. Individuals who see them as opportunities will actively seek them out and will identify problems as ways for self-development. At the other end challenges are perceived as problems and threats. So, for example, at one end of the scale we find those who thrive in continually changing environments. At the other end we find those who prefer to minimise their exposure to change and the problems that come with that – and will strongly prefer to work in stable environments.

Experience of usage of the MTQPLUS indicates that there may be two components to this scale:

Preparedness to stretch oneself and push back boundaries:This includes being prepared to take risks and seek out new experiences and challenges. In some cases, it will include creating those opportunities.

Openness to learning: Being prepared to see all outcomes as learning opportunities – whatever the outcome, good or bad. Includes being minded to repeat an experience even it was originally a failure to apply what has been learned.


Individuals who are high in confidence have the self-belief to successfully complete tasks, which may be considered too difficult by individuals with similar abilities but with lower confidence. Less confident individuals are also likely to be less persistent and may make more errors.

For example, individuals at one end of the scale will be able to take setbacks (externally and self generated) in their stride. They keep their heads when things go wrong and it may even strengthen their resolve to do something. At the other end individuals will be unsettled by setbacks and will feel undermined by these. Their heads are said to “drop”.

Ongoing development of MTQPLUS has enabled the identification of 2 subscales to this scale:

Confidence (Abilities): Individuals scoring highly on this scale are more likely to believe that they are a truly worthwhile person. They are less dependent on external validation and tend to be more optimistic about life in general.

Confidence (Interpersonal): Individuals scoring highly on this scale tend to be more assertive. They are less likely to be intimidated in social settings and are more likely to push themselves forward in groups. They are also better able to cope with difficult or awkward people.