Mental toughness makes all the difference
By Joe Soto
After the New England Patriots defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers to advance to the Super Bowl, star Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady was asked what makes his team so special. His answer was short and succinct, “Mental toughness.”
Not exceptional physical strength, not training, not even superior talent.
Graham Jones, Sheldon Hanton, and Declan Connaughton used personal construct pyshoclogy in interviews with elite athletes, as well as elite-level coaches and sport psychologists, to arrive at the following definition of mental toughness:
Mental toughness is “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.”
Note a trend here. Most people attribute mental toughness to elite athletes. I disagree. Being mentally tough can apply to anyone in any profession. Wikipedia defines it as a measure of individual resilience and confidence that may predict success in sport, education and the workplace.
There are many characteristics that contribute to mental toughness. You have to start with training and preparation. If you aren’t prepared to do your job, you have no chance. The will to succeed is preceded by the will to prepare.
Consistency goes hand in hand with preparation. Getting started is hard enough, but consistently carrying out your plan is more difficult. Even the best business plans will fail without a dedication to consistency.
Other important traits are concentration and focus. It’s a topic I hear about frequently in business. The most common complaints? Too many irons in the fire. Too many projects spinning at one time. Too many interruptions. Too many phone calls. Too many emails. Too many things to do. Too little time. Stay focused as best you can, and don’t let things happen to you – not when you can make things happen.
Poise under pressure is another important attribute. It’s easy to show poise when everything is going well. It’s a lot tougher to maintain your poise when things are not going well. But the minute you lose your composure, the chances of defeat increase. Focus on what you can do or control. Forget the past.
Next, everyone has to have goals. What is it you want to achieve? Truly dedicated individuals won’t let anything interfere with attaining their goals. That’s why so few people become champions in their fields.
Determination almost goes without saying. If you don’t have a deep-down burning desire to achieve something, you won’t accomplish it. Sometimes desire is more important than talent. Determination can turn the ordinary into extraordinary.