Mental Toughness – For when the going gets tough…

Suzy Green 04.17.2015 Health

What is Mental Toughness?

Whilst the term is being increasingly used in sporting contexts, it’s also being increasingly used in schools and workplaces to describe a mindset (that leads to a set of behaviours) of individuals that are able to deal with challenging situations without “derailing”, as is commonly referred to in organisational settings.
Alternatively, for those going through significantly stressful circumstances or who have suffered trauma, which may for many people may lead to PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), there is an increasing interest in developing mental toughness to prevent distress and disorder (check out the US Army Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program – to hopefully create a more positive outcome for such individuals. This is being referred to as PTG (post-traumatic growth) (Calhoun & Tedeschi, 1998).
Whilst various definitions, theories and models of mental toughness currently exist, some more scientific than others, and continuing debate in scientific circles, one of the most widely used models, albeit with a strong scientific foundation and ongoing research is the 4C model and associated assessment of mental toughness, the MTQ48, originally developed by Professor Peter Clough. It’s also built on an earlier and much researched model of “cognitive hardiness” by Kobasa (1979).
It’s pretty simple to understand and in our Mental Toughness Training workshops here at PI, we know from experience that people can easily relate to it and find it useful to their everyday lives, professionally and personally.
The 4Cs
In a nutshell, the Mental Toughness model is made up of 4Cs – control (environmental and life), challenge, confidence (abilities and interpersonal) and commitment. (For a good overview of the model, email us for some recommended readings.)

What are the benefits of being mentally tough?

In an increasingly complex and stressful world, the benefits of being mentally tough or at the very least learning strategies to increase your mental toughness are pretty obvious. I’ve had some feedback so far that tells me that people don’t always initially understand the term, with some people responding with “I don’t want to be tough, I like being sensitive”. In fact the opposite of mental toughness is not weakness, it is sensitivity!
Now there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being mentally sensitive and there are associated benefits to sensitivity, however the research is continuing to show us that for those individuals that report higher levels of mental toughness (as assessed by the MTQ48) they do better in stressful occupations and situations, their well-being is better and they engage is a range of positive behaviours that lead to greater levels of overall success in life. This is particularly important for occupations where there is a high risk of trauma such as the armed forces or the police for example. Although as many of you will know, corporate settings and in particular educational & health settings also provide an enormous amount of stress for people that reside within them.

Can we develop Mental Toughness?

The good news is – yes we can! In fact, one of the main attractors to me when I came across the 4C model and associated recommended interventions for mental toughness development was that many of the interventions were ones I’ve used extensively in the past in my clinical psychology practice, such as relaxation training and cognitive behavioural thinking skills. 
However, the Mental Toughness Training program that we’ve been developing here at PI encompasses a comprehensive range of scientifically proven tools and techniques that are easy to learn and apply in a proactive way rather than waiting until things go wrong and seeking out a psychologist to learn these skills reactively! 
Madness isn’t it that we aren’t teaching our kids these skills? Well again – good news! Many schools are now teaching resilience skills although mainly in primary and junior schools, and from my perspective there’s a huge need to get these skills into senior high school in a proactive, engaging way for kids to learn. Oh for the teachers as well!

Want to learn more?

• Register today for our Mental Toughness Breakfast on Friday 8th May 2015 when we have Dough Strycharczyk from AQR (the owner/developer of the MTQ48) here in Sydney to share more about Mental Toughness and the MTQ48 –

• Sign up for Licenced User Training in order to use the MTQ48. We’re holding training on Thursday 7th May 2015 in Sydney – for more information and to register –

• Purchase “Developing Mental Toughness” by Strycharczyk & Clough, 2013) – or “Developing Mental Toughness in Young People” by Strycharczyk & Clough (2014) –

• Email us for an Explanatory Note on the MTQ48 and some key papers –

Lots of love, PI & I (Suzy)

23 thoughts on “Mental Toughness – For when the going gets tough…

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  4. Hi there, this is a original blog by Dr Suzy Green. Thank you for your kind comments.

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  6. Hi there
    Do you still do the 4 Cs training in Sydney and if so when?
    I’ve got Complex PTSD and am eager to build my mind skills.


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