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Mental Toughness - A Perspective from Doug Strych

At last week’s “Mental Toughness Coaching” Workshop in Melbourne, Doug Strycharczyk presented on the key features of mental toughness and its implication for performance, behaviour and wellbeing. Doug is the CEO of AQR and has been instrumental in both developing the MTQ48 mental toughness questionnaire as well as spearheading its application into every sector.

Mental Toughness describes the mind-set that every person adopts in everything they do. It is closely related to qualities such as character, resilience, grit, etc. Doug defined it as:

“Mental Toughness is a personality trait which determines in large part how people deal with challenge, stressors and pressure .... irrespective of prevailing circumstances”

It consists of 4 factors:

  • Control - the extent to which a person feels in control of their life and their circumstances and the extent to which they can control the display of their emotions.
  • Commitment – the extent to which someone is prepared to set goals for what they need to do and make promises which are measurable and, once made, to what extent they will work hard to deliver them.
  • Challenge - the extent to which the individual will push back their boundaries, embrace change and accept risk. It’s also about how they see all outcomes - good and bad.
  • Confidence – the extent to which people believe in themselves, have confidence in their abilities and are able to influence others and deal with conflict and challenge.

Published research and case studies form around the world show that Mental Toughness is a major factor in:

  • Performance – explaining up to 25% of the variation in performance in individuals
  • Positive Behaviour – more engaged, more positive, more “can do”
  • Wellbeing – more contentment, better stress management , less prone to bullying
  • Aspirations - more ambitious, prepared to manage more risk

What can you do to develop your Mental Toughness? Here are a few tips:

Become more aware of your sources of stress pressure and their impact

  • If you find yourself thinking about a situation negatively, replace your negative thought with a positive one
  • If you feel anxious from your thoughts, think of positive statements that you can focus on and that work for you. E.g. “I know how to control these feelings. I will concentrate on relaxing myself”

Develop your positive thinking

  • Set aside a few minutes each day and write down 3 things large or small that you are grateful for.
  • Be specific and relive how you felt as you remember each thing.

Learn to sustain your attention

  • When obstacles or distractions occur, practice being mindful and focus only on the task at hand.
  • Breathe in through your nose and notice the sensations of each inhalation and each exhalation

“People at Google aspire to do world-changing things. So wisdom and mindfulness provide some strategies and tools that equip us to be able to sustain that level of performance.” Rich Fernandez, Senior People Development Lead, Google

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