What is Mental Toughness?

A useful and commonly used way of defining mental toughness is:

“…a personality trait which determines, in some part, how individuals perform when exposed to stressors, pressure and challenge …. irrespective of the situation.”

Clough & Strycharczyk (2011)

This can be seen as a logical development of an early and in some ways original definition:

“The ability to consistently perform towards the upper range of your capabilities regardless of competitive circumstances.”

Loehr (1982)

Mental Toughness has also been simply described as:

“The ability to “perform under pressure”

Tim Henman (1996)

Mental Toughness refers to an individual’s resilience and an inner drive to succeed – particularly when the environment is challenging. It helps to explain why it is possible to place two individuals into the same working environment and to see that one finds it difficult to cope with pressure and one thrives. It can often be the difference between “flourishing” and “languishing”

The mentally tough individual tends to be:

  • Sociable and comfortable dealing with all types of people
  • Able to remain calm and relaxed in most circumstances – they are competitive or goal orientated in many situations and have lower anxiety levels than other
  • With a high sense of self-belief and an unshakeable faith that they control their own destiny, these individuals can remain relatively unaffected by competition or adversity. They can be enthusiastic about change and change even when the challenge is daunting.

An individual with low levels of mental toughness would best be described as mentally sensitive (not as mentally weak).