I hear coaches and athletes talk a lot about being “mentally tough,” but what are the characteristics needed to be or become mentally tough? According to sport psychology author Ellis Cashmore, mental toughness qualities are described as the following:
“Mental toughness describes a bundles of qualities that include an unusually high level of resolution, a refusal to be intimidated, and ability to stay focused in high-pressure situations, a capacity for retaining an optimum level of arousal through a competition...an unyielding attitude when being beaten, a propensity to take risks when rivals show caution and inflexibly, perhaps obstinate insistence on finishing a contest rather than conceding defeat.”
Certainly athletes and coaches need to have mental toughness to compete at the highest level, but what about everyone else? In an article by Forbes magazine author Christine M. Riordan, she takes sport psychology mental skills training and applies them to the business world and boardrooms. In her article she explains business leaders, or game-ready leaders as she calls them, need to be able to apply the same mental toughness in their jobs in order to go to the next level and to manage the blows that sometimes come in the business world.
Authors Ellis Cashmore and Christine Riordan explain the following steps for developing mental toughness.
- Change your training routine and challenge yourself in new types of environments and stressful situations. In other words, “Get out of your comfort zone.”
- Develop a positive attitude about competition and stress. It’s how you look at the situation that determines the outcome.
- Be flexible and responsive. When stressful situations come your way be flexible with how you approach them and respond in a manner that’s appropriate to the situation. Developing new ideas and strategies may just be the best way to fix a recurring problem.
- Strength and resiliency are two key characteristics in developing mental toughness. There needs to be an unwavering desire to succeed and a drive to get back up if you get knocked down. This particularly applies in the business world because there are daily challenges with running a business that can seem relentless and the spirit of determination can get you through it.
- Mental rehearsal is also a step in developing mental toughness. When you can see yourself being successful and plan out your moves ahead of time, you will be ready when the tough times come your way.
Mental toughness is a learned, practiced skill. You can read about, talk about it, but until you put into “practice” the key elements it won’t be a tool in your performance toolbox. So whether you are on the playing field, in the boardroom or starting your new business, it’s time to get mentally tough.