How to measure and develop Mental Toughness

How to measure and develop Mental Toughness
October 7, 2016 Niels van Hove

Mental Toughness is a set of attributes that make people perform at their best under any circumstances. It is a personal capability that can effectively deal with today’s continuous changes and pressures. This article explains the mindset and attributes that make up Mental Toughness, how Mental Toughness can be measured and how it can be improved.

Practice makes perfect! The 10,000 hour rule, made famous in Malcolm Gladwell’s 2008 Outliers’ states that at least 10,000 hours of practice is required for exceptional expertise. It almost concludes that greatness is available for everybody who was willing to put in the hours in the skill of their choice.

However, research published in 2014 found that practice only explains on average 12% of skill mastery and subsequent success. Although the 10,000 hours rule might be a myth according to this research, there is a deeper truth behind it. This truth is that for a person to practice a skill for 3 hours a day, every day for almost 10 years, you need will, commitment and dedication. This requires a specific mindset.

The growth mindset

In the book Mindset, Carol Dweck discusses the fixed mindset versus the growth mindset. People with a fixed mindset believe their talent and capabilities in life are a given and not a lot of things can be done about them. People with a growth mindset believe that every skill can be trained and feel they are the master of their destiny.

Her decades of research and many experiments show two important things. First of all, people can be influenced to take on a fixed or growth mindset before they take on a task. Secondly, individuals or groups with a growth mindset almost always outperform the ones with a fixed mindset. She also explains some of the growth mindset attributes of arguably one of the biggest stars in sport history; basketballer Michael Jordan. If it was all about talent and capability it must have been obvious in the early days for experienced basketball recruiters to see this superstar in the making right? Wrong!

Michael Jordan was cut from the high school varsity team, he wasn’t recruited by the college he wanted to play for and he wasn’t drafted by the first two NBA teams that could have chosen him. As Dweck states; ‘Michael Jordan wasn’t a natural either. He was the hardest-working athlete, perhaps in the history of sports’.


Top athletes have often behavioural and mental attributes, a mindset, that sets them apart from other people. Jordan himself believes that success stems from the mind;

The mental toughness and the heart are a lot stronger than some of the physical advantages you might have. I’ve always said that and I’ve always believed that’.

Where the admiring audience saw the mind-blowing physical versatility and perfection of the execution on the basketball field, Jordan always knew that mental toughness got him there.

What is Mental Toughness

Mental toughness has been used in elite sport psychology for over 30 years to increase performance. It was first defined in 1995 by performance psychologist Dr. Jim Loehr as ‘the ability to consistently perform towards the upper range of your talent regardless of competitive circumstances’.

In their book ‘Developing Mental Toughness’, Peter Clough and Dough Strycharczyk discuss the history of mental toughness. They build on concepts like resilience and hardiness to scientifically define and test a model for mental toughness, which they applied not only on elite sportsmen, but also on businesses. Their research shows that Mental Toughness explains up to 25% of the variation in performance. Through their research they find four attributes that make up mental toughness:

  1. Commitment: this attribute is a measures how and why we set goals and also how we respond to them. At the high end of the scale, we find individuals who are able to handle and achieve things when faced with tough and unyielding deadlines. An individual at the other end will need to be free from those types of demand to handle work.
  2. Challenge: this attribute addresses how we, as individuals, respond to change. At one end of the scale we find those who thrive in continually changing environments. At the other end , we find those who prefer to minimize exposure to change and the problems that come with that — and will strongly prefer to work inn stable environments
  3. Confidence: this attribute measures the extent to which we have self-belief to see through to a conclusion a difficult task that can be beset with setbacks. Individuals high in confidence have the self-belief to complete successfully tasks that may be considered too difficult by individuals with similar abilities but lower confidence.
  4. Control: the extent to which a person thinks they are in control of their life. There are two sub attributes to control. Emotional control, where the high scoring individual keep their anxiety in check and life control, where the high scoring individual feel their plans will not be thwarted and that they can make a difference.




How to develop Mental Toughness

Clough developed the worlds first valid and reliable survey to measure mental toughness, the MTQ48. This is an on-line, 48 questions psychometric survey that measures an individuals Mental Toughness across the four component. The results of an individual are then compared against a norm group of 8000.

The MTQ48 is now available for individuals and businesses that want to measure their mental toughness. Once measured and results on the four attributes are known, individuals and teams can be coached to improve their mental toughness. It only costs AU$90 to take this IP-protected survey and participants receive a 12-page personalized development report. If you’re interested to measure your Mental Toughness you can send an email to

Mentally Tough individual are mentally and physically healthier and perform better. Mentally Tough individuals look forward to challenges, take chances and acceptable risk. They have self-worth, stay confident and focused on their tasks and deal positively with setbacks to deliver on their commitments. They understand other’s emotions and keep their own emotions in check.

But most important; Mental Toughness can be developed! In my e-book, I provide many self interventions to improve 15 Mentally Tough habits. In our volatile and uncertain world, with many day to day changes, challenges and pressures, Mental Toughness provides every individual an opportunity to be themselves at their best under any circumstances.

If you want to measure your Mental Toughness using the only valid survey in the world and receive a 12 page personalized improvement report, drop us an email at