Mental toughness has been used in elite sport psychology for over 30 years to increase performance. It was first defined in by performance psychologist Dr. Jim Loehr as ‘the ability to consistently perform towards the upper range of your talent regardless of competitive circumstances’. As per this definition, the focus of mental toughness was performance.
In 2001, Loehr wrote the HBR article The making of the corporate athlete to and bridge the gap from the sport to the business world. However, mental toughness mainly remained focused on performance and elite athletes and not found its application to every day life.
This has now changed. Professor Peter Clough, who has researched mental toughness for over 25 years, defines mental toughness as ‘the personality trait which determines in large part how people deal effectively with challenges stressors and pressure… irrespective of circumstances’.
As you can see from Clough’s definition, the focus has shifted from pure performance to dealing better with challenges, stress and pressure. Improved performance is a logical result of this, as is better mental health and well-being.
The second important shift Clough established, is to bring mental toughness to every day life. He built on concepts like resilience and hardiness to scientifically define and test a model to measure mental toughness. This measurement is applicable not only to elite sportsmen, but to any child, adult, or corporate environment.
A fast-growing number of research papers show that the mentally tough in every day life are mentally and physically healthier and perform better indeed. And it shows mental toughness can be measured and developed. The latest mental toughness measurement, the MTQ-Plus, measures your mindset across eight valid attributes as shown in below picture.
In our Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous world we all have to be corporate athletes to deal better with challenge, stress and pressures at work. However, the corporate athlete also has a personal life, might have kids, be active in the community, and has to juggle many other balls besides corporate life.
You can take the MTQ-Plus to understand if you are a corporate athlete and know where your strengths and improvement opportunities are. But in today’s world, this is not good enough anymore.
As a corporate leader you have to help others to become more mentally tough. And as mental toughness brings increased health, well-being and performance to your whole life, not just your corporate life, there is a responsibility for the corporate athlete to practice mental toughness at home and bring well-being to your family, children and community.
So, if you’re a corporate athlete, that’s great, but it’s just the start.